Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Film

The Collapse of Artistic Criticism Under Trump

The Trump presidency has been bad for art and the way we evaluate it. Yes, there’s newfound popularity for far right art forms that speak to dark impulses. “Martial industrial” music–often set to images of Nazis marching–is spooky stuff, and in the last few years it’s quietly spread all over YouTube:

But mainstream art critics have mostly ignored the niches of material which are nakedly far right. They prefer to focus on more popular stuff. And here they have done us a number of disservices, aiding the right even as they attempt to resist it.

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Millennials are the Don Quixote Generation

Harry Potter. The Avengers. Batman. Star Wars. Millennials grew up on tales of powerful heroes–transcendent individuals who overcome deep structural obstacles to change the world through sheer virtue and will. We were raised on a kind of modern chivalry. Follow your dreams with a noble heart, and you too can change the world. The two generations before us experienced unprecedented, rapid growth in their living standards. They came to believe the future would be unfathomably better than the present. In the second half of the 20th century, the older generations believed that anything was possible. They prepared us for that world. But it never came.

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Barack Obama’s Role in Giving Us the Trump Presidency

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is remembered as a great philosopher and successful military commander, but he is also remembered for picking his feckless son Commodus as his successor, an emperor who infamously cared more about making showy performances as a gladiator than he did governing the empire. Barack Obama is still a popular president–his favorability rating is +10 and his job approval rating is +8. In recent months many pieces have been written lamenting his imminent departure, and many more will likely be written before January. But no matter how likeable Obama is or how well Obama governed while in office, the fact that he could not ensure the election of a competent successor counts against his legacy. How did Barack Obama end up giving us a Commodus? What, if anything, could Obama have done to avoid this?

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Fun.gov: How to Make Art Free without Starving the Artists

A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out (and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):

Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.

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The Interview: How We Should Respond to Terrorist Nonsense

American funnymen James Franco and Seth Rogen made a comedy called The Interview for Sony in which their characters attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Someone really didn’t like this movie and really didn’t want Sony to release it–a mysterious organization known as “Guardians of Peace” hacked and leaked a series of Sony e-mails and threatened a 9/11 style terrorist attack if the film were released as planned. No one is certain, but the US government suspects that the Kim regime is behind the threats. It is, at the very least, supportive of them. North Korea’s National Defense Commission says:

The hacking into the Sony Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the [North] in response to its appeal.

Amazingly, Sony and the major American movie theater chains capitulated, cancelling the release. Was this the right thing to do?

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