The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Word: Pretentious


On the internet, there exists an opulent number of knuckle-draggers who have a favorite word in their arsenal. When a film, a book, a comic, or any piece of media comes out that receives well-deserved acclaim that these people dislike, they draw this word and fire. This word is "pretentious" and, quite frankly, the internet needs to stop using it.


Urban Dictionary, however, has a far more appropriate definition for the word in this new era:
In the English-speaking world, "pretentious" has become a catch-all phrase to criticize anything or anyone that is vaguely heartfelt, intellectual, earnest, sincere, artistic, unconventional, nonconformist, non-commercial, or not on TV, on Youtube or in the supermarket.
Thanks to Seth MacFarlane, we have people who lob the word at "The Godfather." Because of Kevin Smith, many hurl the word at "The Lord of the Rings" when they're not too busy quoting Randal (who, might I remind you, is into hermaphroditic porn and donkey shows), and both men have made no secret that their characters' opinions reflect their own. Naturally, their fans who simply parrot what they say while throwing the p-word at these movies are actually pretentious themselves. Even my beloved "Gargoyles" has had the word thrown at it a few times; I recall one individual --who had admitted to never watching it-- calling it both "pretentious" and "white elephant art." This same individual did not much care for "Batman the Animated Series," (he also used the word there).

Last night, I re-watched "Django Unchained" with the family, and Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Calvin Candie, is the perfect example of the correct use of the word "pretentious." In Calvin we had a self-declared Francophile who demanded to be addressed as "Monsieur Candie," and even named one of his slaves D'Artagnan. However, just before meeting him, one of our protagonists was advised not to speak French to Candie because "Monsieur" Candie himself did not speak a word of it, and it would embarrass him. "Monsieur" Candie was later shown to have no idea who Alexandre Dumas was, despite naming one of his slaves after the protagonist of Dumas' novel. Candie would present himself as a sophisticated, even aristocratic, southern gentleman but had no idea what the word "panache" meant. This my friends is an example of actual pretentiousness at work.

So, internet, if you must use this word, please use it correctly or not at all. Because ninety-nine out of one-hundred people who use it to sound intelligent clearly aren't, and reveal themselves as ignorant and pretentious in the process.

10 comments:

  1. Thank. You.

    Good lord....

    It's a worrying trend: it's suggesting that only the lowest of the low art was made with conviction and feeling, and everything else is just creators putting on airs. They can't have actually simply *wanted* to create something that might accidentally end up obtuse to others, no. They have to be dishonest.

    The only good thing is that I know what "White Elephant Art" refers to, even though I think it's a completely wrong-headed way of looking at things.

    Regardless of the quality or success of the final product, most art is the product of honest desires, not calculated attacks on public taste. Truly pretentious artists don't get very far.

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  2. Online critic JesuOtaku once mentioned the correct definition of a pretentious work of art: it's one where the creator expresses a big, fancy and important subject that he or she doesn't actually have a clue about OR one where the creator does know their subject but grossly overestimates their ability to express it in art. THAT'S the correct meaning, NOT "a successful work of art that I don't like."

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    1. Yup... and these internet troglodytes continue to butcher the word.

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  3. Yay for Inigo Montoya! And yeah, I get sick of hearing "prentious" used to describe things that are not up to the standards of the people using the word.

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    1. Which is ironic because most of the people who use that word are the type who think Michael Bay is awesome, and think "The Godfather" is boring.

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    2. I love Lord of the Rings (hell I even own the box set of the extended cut on blue ray). Overall I'd say it deserves the praise, but I can see why on a smaller level that some might think it pretentious. There are times when Lord of the Rings is trying to shout "OH EPIC AM I!!! I AM SO TOTALLY EPIC AND AWESOME LOOK AT ME I AM EPIC DID I MENTION I'M EPIC?" Some of the scenes (the ladies/aragorn scene) struck me as filler, Several characters (gollum and aragorn) survive falls that should have killed them, and the multiple endings just drag on and on. Now don't get me wrong, I love the series, and I'd even classify it as among the best I've seen ever. However, some people find it boring, or consider the pacing to drag at points.

      One web contemporary said that while he did think the godfather had a wonderful story (it totally does) there were instances when he felt like checking his watch.

      Should a story be heartfelt, intellectual, earnest, sincere, artistic, unconventional, nonconformist, non-commercial, or not on TV, on Youtube or in the supermarket? Oh god yes. However, it shouldn't try to force it down. It should focus on writing a really good story and focus on the story being good, and the characters rocking more than anything else.

      That's why the scenes where fellowship was kicking ass, the battle scenes, faramir's arc, gollum's plight were great while the scenes with Eowyn pining after Aragorn kind of dragged

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    3. "filler"

      Another word I've grown to detest.

      " and the multiple endings just drag on and on."

      You mean the ending drags on and on. There aren't multiple endings and I wish people would stop saying this.

      This is called denouement, and it is an important element of dramatic structure that is non-existent in most American film which just climax and then the audience goes home.

      1. Introduction
      2. Rising Action
      3. Complication
      4. Climax
      5. Denouement

      "One web contemporary said that while he did think the godfather had a wonderful story (it totally does) there were instances when he felt like checking his watch."

      And who was this?

      "However, it shouldn't try to force it down."

      Force it down what? What does this sentence mean?

      "It should focus on writing a really good story and focus on the story being good, and the characters rocking more than anything else."

      They do, and then they get called pretentious because Megan Fox didn't show her ass.

      "That's why the scenes where fellowship was kicking ass, the battle scenes, faramir's arc, gollum's plight were great while the scenes with Eowyn pining after Aragorn kind of dragged"

      The Eowyn scenes were necessary to inform why she put on the armor and went straight on into a battle no one thought they could win. She was committing suicide by cop there... they just happened to win.

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  4. 1.) I get why it happened but it just dragged ON and ON and ON and ON and ON.......the scenes individually worked fine, and as Nostalgia critic pointed out, where actually necessary. But it kept faking out. Doug Walker said that "every other second, it looks like the credits are going to role. Instead they keep the plot coming. It likes like it's going to end but keeps going. after that it looks like it's about to end....than continues." The scenes were necessary, but the constant fade outs and than "nope, still got rap this up" just got annoying

    2.) When I say force it down, I mean that movies shouldn't try and just shove the artistic values and message in your face, or just relentlessly preach at the audience. It's one of the reasons why FernGully is relentlessly annoying.

    3.) I won't go into details, but basically there were times when the movie dragged; I don't wholly agree, but I can undersstand why some people might feel "Oh god hurry the fuck up."



    4.) That certainly happens, but I'm talking about films like Heaven's gate and one from the heart. Films that focus so hard on being artistic and talking about themes that they neglect character development, plot developments, pacing. Characters and logic and pacing sacrificed because they want to show these deep moral themes. I get wanting to be deep, but if you try to hard, you get a laughable mess

    I love Lord of the Rings, but at the same time, there are moments when it's shouting "I'M EPIC GOD DAMN IT LOOK AT ME DAMNIT!!!!!" Gargoyles had themes but interwove them into the story rather than having main characters monologue about them.

    And I still think the Eowyn scenes are pointless.

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    1. 1. I have no problem with this. And I like and respect Nostalgia Critic a lot, but I disagree with him on this one.

      2. Yes, movies like that exist and deserve the negative reviews they get... I don't think anything I cited falls into this category.

      3. Yes, that's a fine criticism for many movies. Not "The Godfather" however, which I maintain to this day is one of the rare perfect movies.

      4. See 2.

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  5. 1.) Thematically they were fine, the pacing and the constant fade outs giving it a false impression that this was the very very end got kind of old. Individually the endings were very good (I've often argued with my family over this)

    2 and 4: I bring this up because there are times when Lord of the Rings is "GOD DAMNIT I'M EPIC EVERYONE NOTICE HOW EPIC DID I MENTION I'M EPIC!!!!" It's a good movie, and certainly the target of a lot of unjust pillioring, but at the same time there are moments when it just feels like it's trying to damn hard.

    3.) I love the godfather. It's easily in my top 20 films I've ever seen. But not everyone thinks that it is perfect. There are plenty of people who overall like the movie, yet are still annoyed by certain elements. All I'm saying is that I can understand why someone might like the film in general, but find certain pacing issues to be irritating and boring

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