When Editors hear the Word ‘Culture’…

Todd VanDerWerff, a cultural critic and journalist, says (somewhat unsurprisingly) that we need cultural critics and journalists, a group of writers that have been let go from numerous media outlets over the past few years as all media coverage is gradually sucked into the Trump Singularity.

I’m of two minds on this one: 1. It’s hard to disagree that culture writing is critical to understanding who we are in this time and place. Our problems are, after all, always cultural problems at root. 2. On the other hand, it’s not as if we’re talking about Pauline Kael or Sigfried Kracauer losing their jobs here. A great deal of culture writing really is filler. Drawing comparisons between recent think pieces about pop cultural products and Kracauer’s work on German expressionist cinema and Nazism, might not make the case VanDerWerff intends. So, what do y’all think?

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5 thoughts on “When Editors hear the Word ‘Culture’…

  1. I wonder if Todd VanDerWerff has ever watched any videos of Bob the Movie Guy on YouTube. Or video essays by Lindsay Ellis. Journalism, as opposed to academic study, probably needs to focus on the present or recent past, and probably on cultural stuff that is pretty mainstream. I think there are quite a few people out there doing this, running Patreon and getting some cash for it.

    I can’t see this work ever taking place under a “newspaper”, much less for many of the link-spamming sites that try to pass for this today.


    • Oh, I think he’d probably champion the good stuff that’s out there and hopefully the good stuff finds its way and gets paid. I just imagine if you’re an editor at one of these outlets that’s taking on water and looking for what to jettison first, your opinion would differ from mine.


  2. Most people writing this stuff weren’t Kael or Kracauer back when they were writing, either. So that doesn’t seem like much of a counter-argument.


  3. Yeah, I wasn’t really looking to form a counter-argument, but VanDerWerff invoked Kracauer as an example of how essential cultural criticism can be, so while it’s true that there’s always been plenty of inessential cultural writing, I’m not sure that’s going to help culture writers in the current media environment. Kracauer’s work is still essential nearly a hundred years later. I’m not sure the same will be true of “Ten Reasons that Black Panther is the Movie we need Right Now”.


    • Yeah, and that’s the thing. If we had Kracauers running around, would anybody even be able to find them among the thousands of Buzzfeed Listicles talking about the 22 Democratic Presidential Nominees Explained Using Disney Princess Gifs-level content?


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