Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Greetings From Kamp

First, an apology. While I have not deluded myself to the extent that I believe you've all be waiting with baited breath for my next piece, I have abandoned this post for far too long and, for that, if it mattered to you at all, I am sorry. Second, the commentary I've been remiss in posting re-entered the cultural consciousness this week and is now timely again. So, thank you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for giving John Hughes the recognition he so richly deserved.

As some of you may recall, some years ago I wrote a book review for The Current on David Kamp's United States of Arugala. Kamp is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair (always my glossy of choice despite Graydon Carter) whose "Arugala" is a gastronomic history of the nation featuring equal parts gossip and grain. Simply put, I loved the book and have since been pleased to learn that Jon Rieder has added it to his Sociology of Culture reading list.
Time passed and I thought little of Kamp until I saw the name Norman Rockwell on the cover of a Fall 2009 issue of VF. It seemed that Kamp had written a piece entitled "Why Norman Rockwell Matters" -- a defense of the famed American illustrator against his high-falutin art world critics. Now, I don't profess to be an art connoisseur. I like Jackson Pollock as much as the next girl, but I don't see why Rockwell incurs so much wrath. The man created a universe inhabited by people that each of us, on some level, encounters on a daily basis. His skill is undeniable and he forced us to examine ourselves as a wartime nation in a way that no other artist of his era could.
I started caring about Rockwell as an academic pursuit in Dr. Stone's 11th grade American History class. For our first assignment, I reviewed a comprehensive biography of Rockwell and became fascinated by his political paintings -- especially "The Four Freedoms" and "Ruby Bridges goes to School." As a junior at Barnard, I chose NR (as I now fondly refer to him) as the focus of my Colloquium in American Studies research. I took on Rockwell as propagandist -- a far less odious Leni Riefenstahl. What I found, is that NR was no more commercial than Andy Warhol -- but he receives a sliver of the love. In response to Kamp's article, VF's mailbag was filled with mixed takes on Rockwell, his contributions, and achievements. Read my take. Read Kamp's take. I'll post excerpts of both. I'm curious to hear what you think.

While I was happy to find that Kamp and I have a common interest, I didn't think he was stealing my ideas until I saw his piece on the late, great John Hughes.

Note: I don't actually think Kamp knows who I am, but, DK, if you do...send a note. I'd love to chat and help you with your inevitable article on the AAGPBL.

Vanity Fair recently featured a loving tribute to Hughes -- that inimitable auteur of teendom and class anxiety. Beyond Kamp's piece, the magazine featured interviews with frequent Hughes collaborators and his undisputed muse, Molly Ringwald. (Oh, how I wish I was her at the end of Sixteen Candles! Jake Ryan, swoon, what a dreamboat!)
On Sunday night, the Oscar broadcast featured a sketch of similar note with Ducky, Ferris, The Nerd, and Kevin McAllister all making appearances. (Kudos to Adam Shankman and the Oscar producing crew for extricating Macauley Culkin from whatever crack den he currently inhabits. Though, in all fairness to Macauley, I could be wrong about the crack den. He is more likely living in a Cryogenics Lab as the man looks exactly like he did twenty years ago. Creepy.)

I know. I know. You're wondering what any of this has to do with me. Well, if you must know, over a year before Hughes passed on, I wrote a paper on his legacy for my Popular Culture at the University of Melbourne. Yes, I took a Pop Culture class. Yes, Clueless was on the cover of the reader. Contain your jealously. In said paper, I called Molly Ringwald's hair the flaming totem of a generation. Too glib? Who asked you?

So, you heard it here first kids. David Kamp is stealing my ideas. Just thought you'd like to know.
Oh, and Oscar fashion this year sucked. More on that later...if I can ever find my way out of Vera Farmiga's ruffles.