In late 19th century England, Oscar Wilde popularized aestheticism, also known as art-for-art's-sake - the idea that art, that beauty, should not be a vehicle for morality or truth, but an end in-and-of-itself. Rothko and Jackson Pollock enthroned the idea, creating paintings that are barely graded panels of color or wild splashes. Today, pop culture is aestheticism's true heir, from the perfect charismatic emptiness of Ocean's Eleven to the hyper-choreographed essentially balletic movements in the best martial arts movies. But aestheticism has a dark core, one that Social Justice Activists are now gathering to combat, revealing the damaging ideology reflected in or concealed by our most beloved pop culture icons. Taking Bryan Fuller's television version of Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter as its main text - and taking Zizek-style illustrative detours into Malcolm in the Middle, Dark Knight Rises, Harry Potter, Interview with a Vampire, Dexter and more - this book marshals Walter Pater, Camille Paglia, Nietzsche, the Marquis de Sade, Kant and Plato, as well as Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Baudelaire, Beckett, Wallace Stevens and David Mamet to argue that Fuller's show is a deceptively brilliant advance of aestheticism, both in form and content - one that investigates how deeply art-for-art's-sake, and those of us who consciously or unconsciously worship at its teat, are necessarily entwined with evil.
About the Author
Geoff Klock is associate professor in the English Department at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at the City University of New York.