I have always been a fan of live music, and just a couple of nights ago I went to the House of Blues in Los Angeles to see Darren Criss perform as part of Team StarKid, a musical theatre company that mainly parodies big-name musicals and movies, such as Harry Potter. Without a doubt, I enjoyed this performance and I found myself amidst a sea of other fan girls. While I thought my $35 ticket plus tax was worth every penny, I did not feel the same about the free tickets I received a couple of months ago…
For my Woody Allen seminar, which is essentially a whole class dedicated to watching and analyzing a number of Woody Allen films, such as Take the Money and Run, my professor gave us about four free tickets to several on-campus performances. Granted that some of my classmates rocked their head back and forth to the beat of the music, several people, sadly including myself were a little bored. One of the reasons why we received free tickets to these performances was to expose us Berkeley kids to the high culture that Woody Allen so loves; the performances ranged from Jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez to the old and odd silent French films of Jean Cocteau (during the screening of Blood of a Poet, some DJs were spinning records as part of the theater’s “Cinespin” series). So, I found myself asleep ten minutes into the Cocteau film and I only woke up to the automatic applause of the audience.
Honestly I felt ashamed since I was not able to enjoy these cultured performances as much as I wanted to; I felt uncultured. However, the generalization that people who do not enjoy this kind of performances equate to uncivilized kids is a misconception. For instance, perhaps I did not like Cocteau’s film, but I did enjoy the Alvin Ailey dance theater. It’s a matter of taste, yet over the years most of us have pitted high culture against low culture. In an education piece published in 1989 entitled “In Search of Popular Culture,” Lydia Chavez writes about the popular culture department in Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The article essentially discusses the scholarly debate centered on studying popular culture, whether it does not live up to the classical standards or popular culture has its own standards within itself. Chavez writes about scholars who support the study of popular culture:
“A proponent of this new historicism is Stephen Greenblatt, a professor of English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley and a specialist in 16th-century literature, who said the trend assumed that ”there is a much more complicated relationship” between popular culture and what is now known as ”elite culture.” A student would benefit from knowing that Shakespeare had to write for an audience tempted by other entertainments such as public executions and bear-baiting, in which dogs tormented chained bears.”
So what if I enjoy StarKid’s productions over the high-brow abstract films of Cocteau? They are obviously different in terms of time and genre. To pretend I am head over heels for silent French films will not make me any more cultured, and Woody Allen would only call me pretentious like the man talking behind him in the movie line.