Thursday, 17 November 2011

In which I like Leonardo da Vinci more than the X Factor, but so do other people

Over the past few years, it’s become deeply fashionable to whinge and worry about ‘dumbed down’ Britain.

News stories abound about how the internet is making us stupid and that the general public’s general lack of general knowledge is hitting new and extraordinarily low levels. There are even helpful quizzes online to show us just how dumb we are.

My parents’ generation seems infinitely cleverer than my own. Doing the Times’ crossword with Best Mate’s mother is something of a walk in the part, and I know no one on the planet whose geographical knowledge surpasses that of Pa Blonde. I, on the other hand, quake with fear when it comes to the fight for the blue cheese in a hotly-contested game of Trivial Pursuit (let me assure you: there are no other ways to play board games chez Blonde), rarely able to tell you how to get from A to B, let alone the largest city in Asia by surface area.

And daily evidence does seem to suggest that Generation Y, particularly, inhabits a cocoon in which celebrity magazines proliferate and the nation is gripped by television programmes entirely devoid of merit – intellectual, artistic or otherwise. If you need further proof, do check Twitter during scheduled crowd-pullers, when ever so depressingly, people whose opinions you value and enjoy suddenly out themselves as avid fans of the X Factor – or worse, Made in Chelsea.

But sometimes, things come along that remind us we’re not going to Hell in a handcart.

Small things crop up, like the fact that The Writer is currently reading Plato - just for fun, and that a fellow commuter on the 07.29 is currently choosing to teach himself Japanese on the way to work.

There has been massive love shown for not reality television, or talent shows, but a natural history programme during the past few weeks, and both Social Circle Blonde and the wider media have concurred that Frozen Planet might just be the best thing on telly, ever, purely for the number of penguins per frame. And this follows hot on the heels of Wonders of the Universe, and Professor Brian Cox becoming the first celebrity rockstar physicist the country has ever know.

And, perhaps most hearteningly of all, there were whacking great queues last week for the sold-out show of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery. Massive online scrambles and heaps people willing to stand in the London cold on a November morning for tickets to high art exhibitions fill me with a deep, deep joy.

Maybe it’s not all as bleak as we think. If only I were better at Geography.


PerlNumquist said...

Ahh, since the masses can no longer attend public hangings or watch bears being poked with sticks before being set upon, things have certainly gone downhill.
That said, I think a return to the stocks might be called for after seeing that awful Chelsea thing my daughter is fascinated by.
We just had a court ruling that it is in fact illegal to shut our libraries and the public seems very cheered by this. I think there is hope. Also, listening to the lively and startlingly erudite conversation my kids and their friends have, it makes me realise that the internet, trolls aside, can be a force for enlightenment. I mean, look at us, for instance!

misslizsarab said...

Surely though there is something to be said for vacuous, thank goodness that's not my life, nonsense tv? I'm not a lover of reality tv in general and have an abiding love of BBC4 but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes enjoy a giggle at made in chelsea and its ilk. It's naive to pigeonhole society or to assume an intelligence level lower than you consider acceptable based on the popularity of reality television

PerlNumquist said...

Oh, I absolutely agree! There is no problem with reality TV as part of a balanced intellectual diet, which is why it is hopeful that Mr Attenborough's glorious programmes are also popular. If reality TV was all that people watched, then that would imply they are easily entertained and then, I think you would be justified in making a judgment about their intellectual capacity and requirements.
My own small vice is "Strictly.." I think men should wear more sequins.

Brennig said...

I've watched Frozen Planet in my Twitterstream, but not on the television. These days the TV hardly makes it to 'on'. Reading, writing, playing/practising guitar and long phone calls iin the evenings take far greater precedence than just about any square-eyed entertainment.

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