Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The "Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome:" Thoughts on the Passing of Arthur Miller

Terry Teachout, in today's Wall Street Journal, goes out on a limb by daring to criticize the work of the recently deceased Arthur Miller, an American playwright highly-esteemed by the powers that be. I liked the piece and recommend it. (You can read it by clicking on the title of the post.) Teachout's article also prompts me this morning to mention a cultural condition I find increasingly bothersome.

Let's call it the "Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome"-- the fact that scores of writers, actors, musicians, painters, etc. who are hailed by the Old Guard are, in fact, quite poor in personal talent or the intellectual content of their craft...frequently both. Such artists are hailed more because they adhere to the same notions of political correctness as do their professional critics than because their accomplishments actually deserve praise. At the same time, other artists who do have important things to say and say them very well are dismissed or ignored altogether.

But very few (Teachout's essay is an exception) want to point out the obvious. Very few risk criticizing the plain nakedness of those icons held up for our adulation by the Old Guard for fear of being (or, at least, being called) ignorant, square or...gasp...even religious! Thus, even Christians accept whatever judgments are handed down by the amoral and devoutly secular pundits of academia and media (like Rex Reed, the Hollywood Academies, and Ms. Murgatroyd-Howell of American Lit. 101) instead of letting biblical values and a wider experience of quality art enlighten us.