Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Eaten by the Life Section

I know that newspapers are dead but I still read them.
I’m interested, for instance in seeing what Margaret Wente is going to plagiarize next. (Margaret Wente is one of those columnists who likes to pretend she doesn’t lean one way or the other but is terrifically dumb and right wing. Why doesn’t The Globe and Mail fire her already?! )
What scares me most about newspapers lately is not Margaret Wente but the fact that most Toronto newspapers have decided to combine the ‘arts’ (or as it is sometimes called the ‘entertainment’ section) with the ‘life’ section. What scares me about this is that when I’m looking for the ‘arts’ section I keep reading the ‘life’ section by mistake. (Thankfully The National Post puts their ‘arts’ section in with ‘sports’ and there is no danger of me accidentally reading ‘sports’.)
What’s so scary about ‘life’?
Well, it makes no sense to me that the ‘arts’ should be put together with ‘life.’ I know the justification: a barely hidden, sexist agenda. Newspapers must compete with digital media so they have no choice but to be subtly sexist. Political correctness to the contrary, we all think men and women have vastly different interests. Newspapers think only women (and femmy men like me) read the ‘arts’ section and so ‘the ‘arts’ should be paired up with the ‘life’ section (which is really the‘women’s’ section of the newspaper renamed so it won’t offend anybody). But this makes no sense. I’m sure straight, masculine men read the arts section, as well as the life section, too.
But my objection runs deeper than that.  Philosophically, ‘life’ and ‘art’ have nothing in common.
For one thing the ‘life’ section is family friendly. I opened up the ‘life and arts’ section recently and by mistake began reading an article about a woman who was angry because schools claim to be ‘nut free’ zones, yet have trees around them that drop acorns. Obviously this is of great to concern to family obsessed, nut-obsessed, nuts. But lady…are your children running around eating acorns they find in the road? Then they have problems that go far beyond food sensitivities. Adjacent to this, I was treated to a picture of a pregnant woman lifting weights, and an article exhorting  me to understand that yes, pregnant women do need exercise.
The ‘life’ section is all positive energy; about families and kids.
            The ‘arts,’ on the other hand, has always been anti-family and anti-kids. Ever since Medea killed her children -- and on to Tennessee Williams' play about a mother who pushed her son to a point where he was eaten by cannibals -- art has concerned itself with things that upset families and challenge them.
            Also, the ‘arts’ are also generally unhealthy, and by placing the ‘arts’ section inside the ‘life’ section, there is a very real danger that the ‘arts’ may be eaten by health.
            The point of all the articles about health is not just to keep you healthy, but to convince  us that we can control our lives by, simply, eating good food, exercising, and hanging around with nice families. In contrast, art -- at least all good art -- is about this one fact: death, sex and loneliness are inexorable, inevitable realities of existence. The ‘life’ section of the newspaper fosters the myth that we ultimately can control our own health and therefore our lives, whereas the arts constantly remind us that illness, unpleasantness and promiscuity are inescapable.
            The incredibly paradoxical, contradictory melding of the ‘life’ section and the ‘arts’ section came to a nonsensical climax this week with the news about Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash having sex with a 16 year old boy.  Finally the perfect article for ‘arts and life’! Disapproval of an unhealthy lifestyle! (Of course if an adult male heterosexual puppeteer had sex with a 16 year old girl, his pals -- and most of the patriarchy -- would cheer him on…) And there is the ‘entertainment news’ factor! Kevin Clash has, respectfully, taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street!
            Well let me warn you, the ‘arts’ will ultimately never be healthy enough -- or family friendly enough -- for ‘life.’
So ‘life’ is sure to eat ‘art.'
If it doesn’t eat my brain first.