If you agree with me that Phineas and Ferb is the smartest thing on television, and further, that SpongeBob Squarepants is directly responsible for the dramatic decline in American . . . well, everything — then you might like my latest Good Letters piece at Patheos. Here’s an excerpt:
“’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ may make no sense whatsoever to average Americans. Some boy’s obsession with a sled named Rosebud may befuddle audiences. And, they may have no patience with the jazz drummer who never cuts loose on the bass.
They will always be able to understand, however, farts and boobs. Or reality TV—marginally pretty people thrown together like cats in a sack, sniping about stolen toothpaste, or blouses borrowed without permission, or girlfriends who sleep around.
The artist’s alternative, in a community whose shared culture dwindles, is to craft worlds from whole cloth. Hence the success of Twilight and Harry Potter—nobody knows Shakespeare or the Bible anymore, but those of us still inclined to read can, rather than catching up on 500 years of Western civilization, simply internalize some rules about vampire mating, and how wizards get promoted to ninth grade.
If you stipulate that all art must either exploit physiological basics or invent alternate realities, you can predict the bulk of pop culture, whether it’s greasy thugs in a Jersey beach house, or a talking yellow rectangle who lives in a pineapple under the ocean.”
You can read the rest here.