Despite various sins against criticism, and the fact that I am sometimes moved to pity by the wailing and gnashing of teeth of my younger confreres, I've never felt moved to comment on the apprehension-producing output of one Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a really not-so-bright young thing whose staggering smug banalities suggest the witless confidence of the preternaturally attractive, and yet...oh, never mind. However, the gnashing of teeth attending her inaugural column for GQ—I'm not sure if it's both the print and online edition, but if it is, holy crap, copy desk, get on the stick; all that passive voice really tends to stick out on paper—has been sufficiently poignant to stir up sympathy enow to foster a word of commiseration or two.
Ms. Vargas-Cooper's column is dubbed "The New Canon," and therein she proposes to Take Very Seriously, or Kind Of Seriously In Her Ostensibly Sassy Way, the works of what she calls "our generation of filmmakers." That she chooses to first treat a picture by James Cameron brings up a question concerning that "our." James Cameron is older than ME, Natasha. I thought you were supposed to be a Bright YOUNG Thing. Ahem. But that's not important, as Leslie Nielsen (28 years Cameron's senior) said in Airplane!.
What is impor...well, not important, but kind of interesting, in a really irritating way, is how she prattles on as if she's doing something subversive or transgressive by proposing...wait for it...Terminator 2: Judgement Day for her "new canon." Didn't some notion relative to this idea come along with, um, Andy Warhol, or, wait, was it Milton Caniff, and didn't the "bums" WIN that particular argument? I mean, is this individual REALLY rekindling a high/low dispute that doesn't figure in ANYONE'S actual conversation about film or almost any other aspect of culture anymore? I mean, Kingsley Amis dubbed Terminator 2 an "unimpeachable masterpiece." David Foster Wallace disdained it as the first work of "effects porn," and bemoaned that it was a betrayal of its low-budget antecedent. Neither writer, each a certified bonafide highbrow with a fancy college edumication and everything, even hinted that the movie was in any way beneath their notice or consideration. Thinking seriously about a film like Terminator 2 was no more novel to either than, maybe, drinking a glass of water was. And yet here's Natasha Vargas-Cooper, flouncing around like a moron giggling "Look at me! I think Terminator 2 is actually a great movie! Aren't I naughty?"
Sigh. And I'm not even getting into the slack, stupid prose (as I believe I mentioned, that's a big ole passive voice ya got there, Natasha, and I say that as a feller who regularly piles on and abuses the subordinate clauses, if'n ya know what I'm sayin' and I reckon ya do), the unmotivated swipe at a classic film combined with a brag that she hasn't seen it (Rules of the Game, in case you're wondering...) and other such delights. As I said, it's causing a lot of pain for my chums ("Would GQ hire a literary columnist who bragged that she hadn't read Hamlet?" a friend writes, in genuine confusion and anger), but I can't get TOO worked up about it. "Professional" "arts" "writing," particularly on the internets, is becoming something of a zero-sum game conducted AGAINST the reader; the more effin' mad it makes you, the more the desperate-for-relevance-and-page-views editors think it's "hot" and "provocative" and likely to go "viral." And rest assured that Natasha Vargas-Cooper is laughing at you, very loud and very cattily. Include me out.
UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention, relative to a rather inappropriate (to the reading-comprehension and irony-challenged, at least) pastiche-joke I made on Twitter (although, on reflection, pastiche-jokes that call for a lot of contextualizing might not be entirely apt Twitter-fodder, alas), and a few of my phrasings above, that certain of my speculations and opinions concerning Vargas-Cooper were/are on the sexist side. For better or worse I've learned that saying "I am NOT sexist" when someone calls you sexist doesn't really earn you any slack, so my assurances that I would cite "the witless confidence of the preternatually attractive" with respect to a bad male writer who came on as if he looked like Armie Hammer would no doubt be exerted in vain, at least as far as those readers committed to being convinced of my sexism were concerned. Which is a long winded way of saying, "Sorry, but tough."