Life in America is a spectator sport

With the dissolving boundaries between performer and audience, politician and public, celebrity and schmuck, we are all eager participants in the ongoing spectacle of the culture.

The idea of the active spectator is nothing new: from the Roman gladiators to the World of Wrestling to the Republican debates, the audience delights in the willingness of performers to destroy one another with cunning and passion. But what is even more frightening, is the idea that anyone can display their talents, run for office, have their moment of celebrity, their time in the hot glare of the lights, because there is more than enough advertising, media, money, and voyeurism to go around to fuel the action.

And so, we might ask, what does this all mean? Isn’t the blurring of artist and viewer, reader and writer, or what Joseph Beuys professed as the democratization of art – everyone an artist – a good thing? Don’t we all have some form of creative energy deep down that needs to come bubbling up? What about all this talk of the democratization of art? What about democracy itself, when a society (ours) can become hijacked by a lunatic fringe simply because they have been elected by the people!!

The problem, my friends, is our strangely, twisted, perverse, and truly American desire to reach out to the lowest common denominator of human taste, wit and intelligence. That’s what we find entertaining, sexy and lucrative, because that’s what makes for good sport, good television, good politics, good radio, good box office.

And yes, sadly, even “good” art.