Monday, January 14, 2008

New Slang


A modest proposal to ban the following words/terms from the film studies lexicon (or at least to impose a moritorium), based on some recent student papers:

--"capitalistic"

-- "bourgeois"

--"the Hollywood machine"

-- "sell-out"

-- "relatable"

--"realistic"

--"commercialized"

--"palatable"

In the 30s or 40s (or in academia, as late as the 70s or 80s), these words could truly be rhetorical weapons, breaks from the norm, whether you agreed with the politics behind them or not: they re-envisioned the space, taught us something new. But now...What do these terms do, at this point? Where do they get us? I would argue, not very far, but they've become pre-approved rhetorical postures, escape valves from engagement-- or, in Star Trek terms, cloaking devices, because their supposed critical or ideological resonance allows us to slip by the critical moment without being noticed. And its proven precisely by the ease with which they've been Borged into the lexicon of bright, savvy undergrads (this is not an attack on students, by the way, but on the ways they are taught to replicate, a frustration with watching smart, talented students get assimilated into the collective). In political terms, they are "talking points," easily memorized shibboleths that become hard to overcome precisely because of their portability, their ahistoricity, their anti-aesthetic, and the strangely lingering appeal it still has for the discipline. To go back to an earlier post and discussion, it seems political, but it's not, because it has nothing to do with anything specific, and everything to do, as Jeff said, with screens, images, and catch phrases (these are academic versions of the repeated use of "change" that Jeff notes in the earlier post's comments section). As Barthes said, "What happens when the stereotype goes left?"

2 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

You may enjoy this. It's done every year and I always enjoy reading it. You can even submit entries throughout the year.


2008s Banished Words

Cinephile said...

Hey, Jonathan, thanks for the great link! The oblique connection it makes to the writers' strike is interesting, too, as that whole situation raises interesting questions about how much we do or don't value language, and beliefs about its easy reproducibility.