The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

MAGNA GRAECIA, MAGNA AMERICA
great greece!
Today I went to The Tampa Museum of Art for an exhibition I've wanted to catch for a while now: Magna Graecia. It consists of unique artifacts from the southern Italian region that typifies the ancient Greek settlements that thrived there for centuries. Tampa is one of only two cities in North America (the other is Cleveland) where this collection is being exhibited.

It was a fascinating experience. Lots of stuff to gawk at. I was most taken by the white-clay pottery, which I thought was stunning. The various bronze and terracotta figures were also great.

What really struck me was the parallels with modern society, and how little we've really changed. Prime example: At a few places, the notes that accompany various pieces make note of the fact that ancient/archaic art overwhelmingly depicts youthful, beautiful figures. In fact, this is the case to such an extent that whenever an elderly person was included in a fresco, piece of pottery, etc., it was a notable exception.

Well, guess what? Our media today--everything from print to TV to paintings--focuses strongly on the young and the beautiful. Is that a coincidence? No. All forms of art are basically involved in commerce, and what sells is whatever is easiest on the eyes. It's supply and demand, all the way. So just as it was 3,000 years ago, so it is now. The youth culture is just as strong today as it was in ancient Greece.

Things like that remind me why all the people who villify the media as some kind of aberrant, evil force that influences people really have no clue. They're working on the assumption that all the beautiful faces, waif-thin models and other non-average people are being force-fed to the media-consuming population. This is a belief founded upon a very, very insular worldview. Fact is, if the stuff wasn't in demand and didn't sell, then we wouldn't be seeing it. As in most cases, media rarely, if ever, dictates to the populace; it's really the other way around. That a lot of people can't accept this doesn't make it any less real.