Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is art too tiring?

So we got the first disk of Beckett on Film from Netflix (hooray, not Qwikster!) about two weeks ago. Today I sent it back unwatched. Instead of Waiting for Godot, we spent the last two weeks on a steady diet of Friday Night Lights alternating with Arrested Development.

Now, as middlebrow entertainments go, these two shows are near the top, critical-acclaim-wise. No Celebrity Liposuction for us!* And yet, compared to Beckett, neither can be called challenging. FNL has plenty of emotional drama, and often crosses the line into melodrama; I care about the characters and events, and am even strongly moved on occasion. So there's an emotional challenge, I guess--but I can't say the show makes me think or wonder, beyond "What's Tim Riggins going to do now?" And AD...well, it's just funny.

The thing is, I've always loved Beckett, or thought I did, so why didn't I want to watch the DVD? The answer seems to be that after a full day of writing and/or editing, I just didn't have the energy. I knew the Beckett was going to require something from me--even Godot would, and it's the least challenging of all his work. I want to be done working in the evening. Not that I want to turn my brain off, or have it bludgeoned into irredeemable stupidity by some reality show. I want to be engaged, but not asked to do too much; I'll row, but I don't want to be the one in front (or back, or whichever one does the most work).

But this is a worrisome realization. I think of myself as an advocate for high art--you know, literature and its ilk, the stuff you're supposed to need some sort of college-level training to enjoy. If I can't bring myself to pop in that Beckett DVD after a work day, what hope is there for people who have no stake in supporting the arts? What if most people just have too much going on mentally to devote any extra brainpower to the finer creations of humanity? Can we blame our overworked, overstressed populace if they pick their mental and emotional battles, and they don't pick art?

Maybe watching the Beckett would have refreshed and invigorated me with its greatness, whereas FNL and AD mostly soothed me. But at a certain point, soothing is what I want.

*I don't think this show actually exists.

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