Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde
If you feel I'm serenading this book too much, hold on. I must add that there is one thing in it I frankly find surprising and odd. It is no less than its main thesis, as stated by Esther Leslie in her introduction ("Prelude").
She writes: "A generally accepted line declares over and over that high culture and popular culture have been — for so long — enemies." ( ) "Postmodern orthodoxy claims that 'intellectual' interest in popular culture comes into being in the post-war period (after years of modernist elitism), with the inauguration of postmodernism's own discourses." ( ) Therefore "this study was motivated by frustration at the phoney war between high culture and popular or low or mass culture." ( ) Because "modernist theorists and artists were fascinated by cartoons. And those who took cartoons most seriously were political revolutionaries."
Now, in 35 years as a film and animation critic and historian, I never met a serious person who truly believed that high culture and popular culture have been — for so long — enemies. I'm not an expert of postmodern orthodoxy, but if it is based on the grounds that "intellectual" interest in popular culture came into being in the post-war period, well, this is simply a false base; it certainly blossomed in the post-war period, but had always existed and most inhabitants of Animationland have always known it.
In other words, I'm happy that Leslie got so frustrated as to feel the urge to write this masterful book, but I don't share the same starting point. Although, since there aren't any reasons at all for mistrusting her good faith, I have another frustration. There must be many people around that actually have said or written those things at which she got angry. God save us from them!
Hollywood Flatlands — Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde by Esther Leslie. London, U.K. and New York, New York: Verso, 2002. 344 pages. ISBN: 1-85984-612-2 (US$30.00)
Giannalberto Bendazzi is an animation historian whose latest book is Alexeieff - The Itinerary of a Master.