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Arts coverage: minority rightsComments from Stanley Kauffmann


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#1 dirac

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 11:33 AM

Stanley Kauffmann, in The New Republic, responds to a reader who wanted to know why he reviews so many obscure films. He says:

Why, then, do critics--at least on some magazines and newspapers--continue to review films that will probably not reach wide audiences? For myself, it is partly because, as a democrat, I believe that the rights of the minority must be respected, including the filmgoing minority. It would be an offense to that minority, whether or not they knew it, to omit reviews, positive or otherwise, of films that are part of contemporary culture and of value to their cultural conspectus.


http://www.tnr.com/d...kauffmann020705


I think the concept of “minority rights” in arts coverage is a good one, and I wish more publications would take this view. (I also wish The New Republic would observe these rights in the area of dance coverage. Sigh.)

#2 kfw

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 01:03 PM

dirac, I'm all for covering art produced by and/or chiefly of interest to minorities of whatever stripe, for their sake and for ours. And everyone certainly has the right to found a magazine or newspaper or other journalistic organ, to apply for a job to existing organs, to pitch stories, to write letters to the editor requesting coverage, etc. I don't understand why anyone has a right to have someone else serve them. But I'm open-minded. :)

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 01:27 PM

The article itself is more interesting to me than that particular thesis, which I find a bit lukewarm [by the way, Kauffman isn't talking about minorities per se, only about movies with a limited possible audience and distribution]. Call me old-fashioned, but doesn't Kauffman have a right to say, "I'm reporting on this because it should interest you, because having knowledge of what's happening in the field, especially in areas you might not ordinarily have access, is part of being culturally literate"?

#4 dido

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 04:17 PM

I don't understand why anyone has a right to have someone else serve them. But I'm open-minded.  :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I love that quote, I'd like to put it on a t-shirt, shall I attribute you as just "kfw"?

But on a more serious note, I would guess that what Mr Kauffmann is saying is that this is his job, and therefore his duty (rather than privilege) to review films that are obscure, easily missed, not mainstream (whatever--and therefore minority). I've been reading a lot of the "Father Brown" stories lately and thinking about the current political/cultural climate. It seems to me we'd all be a lot better off trying to thing of "duty and mercy" not "rights and justice." Sorry if that got a bit
:)

#5 dirac

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 05:44 PM

dido, it's not off topic at all, and I think the word "duty" is perfectly appropriate (although in this case I'm sure that Kauffmann also regards telling the world about small films as a privilege, too) -- in fact, more suitable than the "rights" idea, since it's not so much about the rights of readers to be informed as the obligation of publications that pride themselves on their cultural coverage to inform.

#6 kfw

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 06:43 PM

But on a more serious note, I would guess that what Mr Kauffmann is saying is that this is his job, and therefore his duty (rather than privilege) to review films that are obscure, easily missed, not mainstream (whatever--and therefore minority). I've been reading a lot of the "Father Brown" stories lately and thinking about the current political/cultural climate. It seems to me we'd all be a lot better off trying to thing of "duty and mercy" not "rights and justice." Sorry if that got a bit
:)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Nicely put, dido. I think readers have the right to inform themselves, not the right to have someone inform them. But of course the good critic will feel an obligation to inform.

#7 dirac

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Posted 04 February 2005 - 09:48 AM

Call me old-fashioned, but doesn't Kauffman have a right to say, "I'm reporting on this because it should interest you, because having knowledge of what's happening in the field, especially in areas you might not ordinarily have access, is part of being culturally literate"?


I wish he had made that point. After all, taking his argument further, you could argue that the majority might be able to demand the occasional review of Spider Man 2 or National Treasure, or whatever is currently occupying the most theatres at the local multiplex. (Of course, if Kauffmann were writing for a daily, or a magazine appealing to a broader audience, he would have to.)

#8 Ari

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Posted 04 February 2005 - 10:38 AM

He could also have argued that it's a critic's job to seek out the most interesting and serious work being done in the art form he's covering, and if that happens to occur in non-mainstream movies that don't get widely distributed, so be it. At least they will eventually become available on video.


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