Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Pop Culture Corner

John P. Marquand, author of both respected literary novels and the popular Mr. Moto thrillers was said to use those lighter adventure stories as a way of, for lack of a better word, subsidizing the research for his more serious works. Blogs are great for that. Not only do they provide an outlet for all those interesting facts and stray observations that come from laying the groundwork for a longer piece or bigger project; they also are an excellent way of starting a conversation and generating interest for those bigger undertakings.

One of these days, I would like to do a serious deep dive into the current rather sad state of criticism and cultural commentary. I've got plenty of bad examples (I could probably do an entire thread of embarrassing examples from the otherwise essential Lawyers Guns and Money), but I also have at least one very good example, Bob Chipman.

Chipman, who also goes by MovieBob, seems at first glance to be almost a performance art parody of a Boston fan boy. I suspect there is at least a small element of affectation here (it's almost impossible to craft a public persona without it), but most of this is clearly sincere, and those pop culture obsessions are a fundamental part of what makes Chipman so valuable. He understands the fan boy dynamics that drive so much of the entertainment industry (and consequently major segments of our economy). At the same time he has the detachment, self-awareness, and broader literacy to see the big picture (perhaps not coincidentally, the name of his original series of video essays).

I know how improbable this sounds, but having slogged through a swamp of bad Pauline Kael impersonators, the critic I've come across who comes the closest to capturing what made her so important and readable is a minor YouTube celebrity in a donkey Kong T-shirt.

Hopefully, I'll be delving into this deeper at some later point, but for now here are some recent pieces that you might want to check out.

This piece on Disney addresses a couple of extraordinarily important topics, starting out with a discussion of fan conspiracy theories (often with an alt right agenda) about Disney's Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe franchises, then segues into the far more important topic of media consolidation.

As a follow-up, these two videos examine Black Panther both as a film and as a cultural phenomenon.

This account of the firing of James Gunn addresses the increasingly dangerous alt right tactic of launching a social media attack on a progressive figure based on feigned offense over some old tweet or video clip.

I initially planned on doing a post comparing this video essay to the somewhat analogous arguments Andrew Gelman made not long ago about the influence of feminism on his work.

[For those of you who like to stick with text, check out Chipman's website.]


  1. I don't understand your analogy between writing thrillers and blogging. Thrillers make money; blogging is something that we do for free.

  2. I think there are lots of great pop culture commentators in YouTube right now. My favourite would be
    Lindsay Ellis.