Rabin on Mediocrity, Bear

The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin praising mediocrity:

… As I get older I increasingly realize why people watch movies they know will not be any damned good. Great art generally challenges audiences. It makes demands. It upsets and provokes and confronts injustices we often would rather not contemplate after a long day at work. That is why I sometimes find myself thinking, “You know I’m in the mood for? A mediocre movie. Something’s not too good, not too bad but safely and comfortably somewhere smack dab in the middle.

-“In Praise of Mediocrity

Does this generalize to music?

Nathan doesn’t apply it to television in his experience, but does to books.  “There’s something lulling and soothing about genre mediocrities, movies that immerse us in the comforting, familiar realm of clichés and conventions,” he writes.

It seems to me that some – more than half? – people listen intentionally to mediocre music, either by seeking it out (avoiding challenging music) or by accepting standards that tend reward mediocrity (FM radio play, top sales chart positions, etc.) as their arbiters of music-judgment.

My iPod has taught me that I prefer a higher ratio of weird/awesome to mediocre music than I would have expected.  I’m downgrading artists I thought I really loved when they come up on shuffle (John Vanderslice except “Cellar Door,” nondescript punk music, virtually every singer-songwriter in my catalog) and assigning higher rankings to stuff that has a touch of the avant-garde or quirky about it (Squarepusher, The Mars Volta, Amandala! (soundtrack)).

I’ll cop to enjoying mediocre novels on a regular basis, along with a consistent-but-lower-than-expected amound of mediocre music in my library.  Movies and TV, I’d much rather see something good.  -h

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