Popular Does Not = Crap
And actually, unpopular doesn’t, either. Value judgements, when it comes to artistic endeavour, are entirely subjective, and the success of a piece of work doesn’t necessarily correlate with the level of effort expended by, or the talent of, its creator.
There’s a school of thought that suggests any work achieving popular success is by definition appealing to the lowest common denominator, and can therefore never be considered anything other than low art, unworthy of serious consideration. Worse, that opportunities for ‘real’ talent are being blocked by mediocrity.
Apart from the circular nature of the argument, which ends with accusations of ‘selling out’ once commercial (i.e. popular) success is achieved, this creative elitism is self-defeating. Art is a broad church, spanning mass-entertainment at one end and high-end collecting at the other, but in between is a delicate eco-system in which creative worth must be balanced against commercial potential. Without X-Factor and Guitar Hero, fewer young people would develop an interest in music, whether as consumers or performers. Without Dan Brown and Katie Price, publishers couldn’t afford to take a chance on new writers, and ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘The Time-Traveler’s Wife’ would never have been read. The viewing figures for ‘EastEnders’ justify the license fee so the BBC can continue to commission original drama; and if a bright, sentimental Jack Vettriano print cheers up a drab wall, who are any of us to sneer?
Deriding popular culture for being popular is just a form of teenage whining. It smacks of that desperation to be different, to show how special you are not by actually differentiating yourself, but by aligning with a minority whose manifesto is based on disdain for the majority.
I remember, age fourteen, going off The Cure after they released ‘Love Cats;’ but what’s telling is that now it’s the only one of their songs I still like.