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BAKER: From Shakespeare to Snooki: What happened to the Arts?

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Katelyn Baker

And the Oscar for best picture goes to … “From Justin to Kelly.”

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, you’re flashing back to high school … or middle school … remembering exactly where you were when you watched the worst movie to ever hit theaters.

If you were lucky like me, you never actually paid money to see it, but borrowed it from a friend, or a friend of a friend, who was dumb enough to purchase it. And you watched it from the confines of your bedroom, safe from the judging eye of your friends, parents and siblings.

Regardless of where we were, most of us (primarily the female gender) were a little curious about the spring break antics of Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. At the very least, you were minorly captivated by Justin’s hair.

The idea of “From Justin to Kelly” actually winning best picture seems absolutely preposterous. From the cheesy music to the ill thought out dance sequences, the movie is, in every sense of the word, a massive spring break belly flop.

But the proposition sheds light on a topic that has been on my mind with all the Grammy/Oscar hype: Are we trading substance for sensation when it comes to art forms?

I’m not sure if it is our heavy emphasis on visual aesthetics or our desire to turn our brains off that is producing a world of art forms far below the quality they used to be. At least in terms of pop culture.

Yes, this is a generalization; of course there are exceptions to the norm, but my thoughts in this regard come from a general observation of what people consider “good” these days.

Take as an example the “Twilight” series, or even “Harry Potter” for that matter. It literally pains me to hear people bad talk J.K. Rowling’s writing, because like millions of others, I’m obsessed with Hogwarts, Quidditch, the whole nine yards.

But the literary snobs of the world kind of have a point: Rowling’s writing is far less than extraordinary. But we’re so caught up in the sensationalism of the whole thing that we begin to experience Harry Potter tunnel vision. The sensations of butter beer and enchanted spells suck us in and don’t allow us to see that what we’re actually reading hardly challenges our intellect.

Those in the art industry are catching on to our desire to spend the weekend with our brains turned off, engrossed in an easy-to-read a book filled with lots of fantastic concepts, or watching a movie that speaks only to our ability to understand the boy-meets-girl plot line.

And this realization, I believe, is dumbing down traditional art forms. It’s never really been about the musical merit of Lady Gaga; rather, it’s the sensationalism behind what she’s wearing on the red carpet or how risqué her latest video is. Has anyone actually paid attention to what makes her a “singer”? Her voice? It’s not very good.

In their attempt to feed us the questionably talent-filled art forms that they specialize in, the media has turned to voice correction software and pitiful teenage vampires. And it’s not healthy for us or the arts.

So, as you sit down to watch the Oscars this weekend, decide for yourself what it is that you value in the arts. Ask yourself, is it the ability to accurately portray human emotion in an articulately cinematic way, or is it the aesthetically poofy quality of Guarini’s hair? Our ability to make these decisions determines if we are saturated by sensationalism, or if there is some substance buried underneath it.

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