If Pop Popular Art Sucks for the Next Decade, Should We Blame Obama?

(Changed the title for Erik, who is a graphic design major and likes to nitpick.)

Daniel touched on something that’s been on my mind recently. Good, iconic pop art, like the most recent incarnations of Batman, James Bond, and Battlestar Galactica, are all reflections of the world in which we’ve spent the past eight years. And with all three of those examples, the creators have taken a series that used to be inherently ridiculous and, well, really, really bad, and stripped it back to the essentials. All three of these series became leaner, darker, and much more brutal, and the reason for that seems to have had a lot to do with the dark, cynical mood of the Bush years.

Just compare Daniel Craig’s Bond to the Pierce Brosnan’s Clinton-era Bond. The Clinton years, for all of their economic prosperity and relative peacefulness, made for some damn shitty espionage fiction. Without real-world fears to exploit, we instead got thrust into this Saturday morning cartoon-caliber world of ridiculous gadgets, ice palaces, and characters that make Sarah Palin’s foreign policy look nuanced. On the other hand, Craig’s Bond (at least in Casino Royale; I haven’t seen Quantum of Solace yet) lives in a world of moral ambiguity. The protagonists’ rough edges haven’t been sanded away, the gadgets are at least semi-plausible, and the Bond girl is more than just an aesthetically pleasing piece of scenery. It may be an unpardonable act of heresy to say this, but Casino Royale is the only Bond movie I’ve ever seen that, instead of just being a good Bond movie, was a good movie on its own merits.

And now Daniel thinks that this new, darker Bond has already outlasted his relevance. Without having seen Quantum of Solace, I have a hard time arguing otherwise. Of course, Obama isn’t president yet, but it’s impossible for me to imagine an international climate as hostile towards his administration as to the Bush administration. We’re still going to be mired in a pretty bad recession for the next few years no matter what, but the national mood seems to have brightened a little bit. The paranoia and distrust of the Bush years has started to transform into a feeling of … well, to borrow something I saw on a lawn sign, a feeling of Hope (TM).

Which is great and all, but these warm fuzzy feelings don’t make for a particularly good Bond or Batman. I think it’s fair to say that quality, paranoid pop art is going to take a dive for the next decade or so.

It goes without saying that, if forced to choose between some really terrible superhero movies and four more years of Bush, I would pick the former. But I want to have my Hope cake and eat it in a morally ambiguous fashion too, dammit.

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7 Responses

  1. It’s funny how many shows are ending now: Battlestar Galactica, Scrubs, Stargate Atlantis, E.R., (…not that I watch that show…regularly…), I think South Park is ending soon too —and that’s just t.v. shows! Political leanings aside we’re seriously entering a new political and cultural era.

  2. E.R. and South Park are ending? Weird. Those shows have been on forever.

  3. James Bond is not art.

  4. I’m not trying to argue that it’s The Sopranos, but I think it’s far to say that it’s in the lower-to-mid-middlebrow pop art region.

    Which is another way of saying: Just roll with it, dude.

  5. You lost me when you put Battlestar Galactica in the first sentence.
    And James Bond is art.

    -The dude who goes to art school

  6. […] 16, 2008 by Ned Resnikoff Peter points out that I’m not the only one thinking about how an Obama presidency will transform popular fiction. He points to this io9 post about Clinton era sci-fi, and how the trends of that time could make a […]

  7. […] a creature of the Bush era, and wondering about whether or not he’s even relevant anymore is what kicked this whole discussion off–but I think he still might be onto something: I could go on but the point is I think the pop […]

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