1. Discussion of works of art without some application of aesthetic theory
is ultimately a waste of time. Everyone has better things to do (like brushing up on aesthetic theory before discussing art), and too little time to do them all. Concepts like "art reflects the artist" and "genres are lineages of art" seem practically foreign to people most of the time. When genuine intellectual depth is paid much lip service, but strikingly relatively little mind or effort, discussing Dragon Ball (the funny comic written and drawn by Akira Toriyama) is only a frustrating waste of time.
I'm not bemoaning this reality. Folks like VegettoEX
, Gaffer Tape
, Derek Padula
, and Kunzait
(just to name a few) have set the academic bar insanely high. And this is also not to put anyone down. Not everyone is interested in, or has the patience for, or the time for, or the financial means necessary for, understanding this sort of stuff with this degree of nuance and sophistication; even if one does, it can often take years of reflection before certain things "click" (I speak from experience).
2. "Fandom", insofar as it is centered
on having a community (constructed around some mutually-emotionally-familiar person or piece of art) rather than on discussing the relevant aesthetic merit, is by this point in time little more than a glorified capitalist cult. If this seems like an incredibly bizarre and out-there hill to die on, look into Edward Bernays
, and what his ideas are
, and how they have been used
, and by whom
. Chew on these well-documented
historical connections until you begin to appreciate how thoroughly surrounded-at-all-times we are by his ideas in action (and then try to speak of a "free" market with reference to any of it).
For added effect, remind yourself what kinds of consequences supporting certain brands can have. Any person or company can do this if they make enough money, obviously, but popular brands which cultivate devoted fandoms have a steady source of money, to do with whatever they please. Supporting a brand you like out of some propaganda-instilled duty to "consume legal product" all-too-easily risks complicity in sweat shops, factory farms, the rape culture that pervades the entertainment industry, and of course genocide
When everyone is focused on the "franchise", or keeping up with all of the "merchandise", on top of paying relatively little mind or effort to matters of genuine intellectual depth, discussing Dragon Ball (the funny comic written and drawn by Akira Toriyama) makes my skin crawl. I'm once again not putting anyone down, here. I was a Power Rangers fiend as a kid, and I didn't realize for a long time what sorts of indirect consequences even seemingly innocent and private actions can have in a social-system as intimately and thoroughly connected as the one we have today.
3. So, I don't think about and discuss Dragon Ball as much as I did when I was a kid. Sharing with others the lived-experience of having enjoyed this specific piece of art doesn't do it for me anymore. I've figured out what I like about it and why I like that about it with reference to my larger worldview as an adult. I'm satisfied. My thirst is quenched. And when something else of merit connects back to Dragon Ball, I can and do appreciate it that much more. But it's both bad for me and bad for everyone else if I dwell on some singular Beautiful piece of art for too long, no matter how much aesthetic merit it possesses, because most people don't care about it for those same reasons, to this same extent, in this manner. And I also have better things to do, especially right now.
That most people don't want to think critically about art is one thing. That people want to support companies that sell good products is one thing. Not thinking critically, however, throws into the trash the primary skill that keeps people able to discern the good products from bad ones in the first place. A piece of art which is also a good product is ostensibly a Beautiful one. However, with little attention given to nurturing critical thought (or to studying aesthetic theory, the thing most concerned with Beauty), people are simply supporting products that make them happy, because they cause happiness. This seems fine, until you realize that the the companies profiting off of the satisfaction of your happiness are simply providing a fix to an addiction they fostered in the first place.
That all of most of the kind of stuff I'm talking about so often gets flippantly dismissed as "cliche" is but one more grotesque layer to everything. The con goes deep enough that the major players probably aren't even aware of it, which is yet another grotesque layer to it. It requires no conspiracy. It is immanent. It runs on auto-pilot.