I always get a chuckle when a prominent cultural figure comments on the “Dumbing Down” of culture. Dustin Hoffman commented on it recently, so did Morrissey, and Alan Moore has been commenting on it for years, but thanks to this summary of Moore’s last interview in 2014 by the Guardian, the criticism he levels regarding the adult love of superheroes gained a lot of attention.
The worlds Hoffman and Morrissey knew are gone, and instead of adapting and perhaps exploring other avenues, they criticize. And with Moore, well, even when he was a young man he was old.
The reason I get such a kick out of reading these broad criticisms is because of one thing and one thing alone: Human culture has always been dumb, and the fact is we’re not making it any dumber, because it was already pretty fucking stupid to begin with.
As an example, I’ll use my favorite period of history, mid-20th century America. I like the period because the country was on the precipice of radical cultural and technological changes; it was a truly awesome time, at least from an historical perspective. But when it comes right down to it, I’m 99.9% certain that the people alive during this period weren’t sitting around discussing the Catcher In The Rye and Jack Kerouac. They weren’t listening to hot jazz music and watching the early films of Jean-Luc Godard.
What they were listening to was Amos ’n’ Andy casually making fun of black people; they were watching Jackie Gleason joke about abusing his wife; they were reading novels about Mike Hammer ruthlessly killing communists. Needless to say, all of that stuff was pretty fucking dumb, and you can go from decade-to-decade and find that all the things that we find culturally important now, well, chances are, nobody was paying attention to them, because people were watching/listening/reading to whatever dumb shit was popular at the time.
The fact is, the reason why Moore, Hoffman, and Morrissey are being so critical of our current culture is because they’re doing what the old do, they’re lamenting about how much better it is to be young and have this great big old world laid out in front of them for the taking.