Enough with the "Relatable"...

article posted Dec 21, 08:39

I was delighted to come across this piece at the New Yorker; it says publicly some of the things I’ve been talking about with friends over the last few years. The notion that a work of art’s “relatability” is a key factor in assessing it has seemed outrageous to me since I first heard someone raise the point. In fact, even the basic idea that “relatability” is a critical criterion with any legitimacy at all seems untenable to me.

Though the article doesn’t deal with all my objections to this troubling notion, it does raise some important points: most notably the extent to which “relatability” as critical concept (not to say bromide) is informed with a kind of intellectual laziness, an expectation that one shouldn’t have to do any work in engaging with art, that everything should simply be given to a reader/viewer/listener. And that makes it well worth the reading.