In 2003, on the release of his book The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker gave this awesome TED talk. My favorite bit starts at 10:16, when he talks about the two things in his book that created the most controversy: the arts and parenting.
Pinker: “I would like to suggest that it’s not a coincidence that this supposed decline in the elite arts and criticism occurred in the same point in history in which there was a widespread denial of human nature.…all forms of appreciation of art that were in place for centuries, or millennia, in the 20th century were discarded. The beauty and pleasure in art—probably a human universal…began to be considered saccharine, or kitsch, or commercial. “
That a character in one of my novels cites this talk is not at all coincidental.
Pinker is talking about the appreciation for art—story, melody, beauty—being a universal human tendency. He argues that critics, by deriding these, brought about “…visual art without beauty, literature without narrative and plot, poetry without meter and rhyme…music without melody and rhythm, and criticism without clarity, attention to aesthetics and insight into the human condition.”
To put his thesis in my own words: “Is pop culture still art?”