Friday, January 13, 2006

Two thoughts from recent reading

Andrew O'Hagan discussing his time as a film critic in Granta 86. In a nutshell, O'Hagan had been attacking the middle-brow, coffeetable mentality of Miramax; Miramax and its cronies pointed out that the company was essentially propping up the ailing UK film industry and, in Stephen Woolley's words, "our film critics are generally confused, myopically naive and simply ignorant when it comes to matters of film production and finance."

O'Hagan's response:

"I had written as a film critic, not as an economic analyst. It was irrelevant to my case what the Weinsteins had done for British industry... It seemed obvious to me: if somebody doesn't like your book, there's no point in going on the radio to tell everyone what you're doing to keep people in jobs in the publishing industry. You defend your art, if that's what you're entitled to do, otherwise you take it on the chin."

I think a similar point can be applied to the cultural impact of globalisation. A standard defence of the creeping spread of global/US brands into the developing world is that they have a positive economic impact on the host country. But it's quite consistent to accept that point, while still arguing that, for sake of argument, a McSamurai burger is empirically a foul abortion of Eastern cuisine, or that Fantastic Four is an embarrassingly inept movie.

Which leads (...ish) to Anthony Bourdain, in A Cook's Tour :

"If you're a previously unemployable ex-convenience store clerk from Leeds or Tulsa, however, a guy with no consience and no chance of ever knowing the love of an unintoxicated woman, then Cambodia can be a paradise. You can get a job as an English teacher for about seven dollars an hour (which makes you one of the richest people in the country). Weed, smack, whores, guns, and prescription drugs are cheap and easy to find. Shy boys on motorbikes will ferry you from bar to bar, waiting outside while you drink yourself into a stupor. You can eat dinner, then penetrate indentured underage prostitutes, buy a kilo of not very good weed, drink yourself stuttering drunk, and be driven safely home to your spacious apartment - all for under thirty dollars. Cambodia is a dream come true for international losers - a beautiful but badly beaten woman, staked out on an anthill for every predator in the world to do with what he wishes."

No comments: