The Quest for Revelancy
July 29, 2008 § Leave a comment
This. Hits. Home.
American Studies is probably the most vague field there is. Some people legitimize or rationalize it by saying they have a “focus” in American History, American Literature, American Foreign Policy, or American Film. But some people in American Studies actually look at pop culture. Even if it isn’t your “focus,” it tends to creep in. Case in point: me.
I wrote a stunning essay on the American family using Home Alone in my senior year. I also wrote an essay on the pornography of violence in Law and Order SVU. I wrote a term paper on the evolutions of American paranoia in all three versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I wrote a paper on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and the glories of televangelism. I studied identity politics in the film Philadelphia. Just this year I wrote an essay on the ethnic status of the “redneck,” and one on representations of Irish American masculinity in Boston-based “Southie” films like The Departed.
Have I ever used the words “heteronormatism,” “problematizing,” “otherizing,” and “homosocial?” Of course I have! “Otherizing” is probably on my list of Top 10 Most Used Words. You think that makes me weird? Don’t otherize me, bro!
Is any of my work “relevant?” Gosh, I don’t know, I guess it depends on your definition of “relevant.”
Aside: It’s a good thing “relevant” has its own noun form, otherwise we would have to invent “relevantness” and end up with sentences like this:
The nonrelevantness of the subject invalidates the heteronormativity of otherized individuals, problematizing the underlying homosocial viability within the construct of nonrelevantism.
Honestly, I think my work has value. I find it enlightening and relevatory to take MY culture and MY surroundings to the next level. I think other people find it interesting too.
And if you think pop culture is too “pedestrian” to be relevant, then I challenge you to have an interesting conversation with someone who never went to college. How relevant is your knowledge of biochemistry, Jane Austen, or eighteenth century religion now?
I believe in the relevance of our cultural atmosphere, today, and ourselves, now. And if you don’t, well… (I’m going to throw a well-known, colloquial phrase at you, hopefully you’ve heard of it.)
Thank you to Mike for the link.