Sarah Boxer: “But when it comes to the content of Web comics, Mr. Groth was right. The comics that use digital technology to break out of their frozen boxes are really more like animated cartoons. And those that don’t are just like the old, pre-digital ones, without the allure of the printed page and with a few added headaches for reader and creator alike.”
One can make the same case for Sarah Boxer’s columns. A healthy dose of skepticism is one thing. But Ms. Boxer’s columns are, for the most part, large dollops of bitter reactionary bullshit. She’s about as flexible to culture as hardened doss sticks. I’ve yet to see Ms. Boxer crack so much as a smile or let down her guard in any way. I suppose this is because, in the Boxer universe, all forms of DIY or independent culture are essentially bullshit. The people who try something different are no less than crazed dilletantes. Ideally, these upstarts should be mowed down by machine guns, lest they tango with the status quo or, even worse, disrupt Ms. Boxer from the west wing in her seculded estate. Damn these artists! They’ve deigned to force Ms. Boxer to actually think and write a column!
On the whole, Ms. Boxer’s snotty and inert columns are almost completely devoid of joy. One wonders why such a jaded glacier is on the Gray Lady’s payroll. After all, without going all Julavits here or condoning some phony 100% happy approach, if one is writing about culture, shouldn’t one actually enjoy the subject one is writing about?
Let’s take a look at a few choice examples from Ms. Boxer’s oeuvre.
July 11, 2005: “She is so bored by her job that she will even let you take control of one of the security cameras where she works. If this sounds intriguing, you might want to stop reading here and just go visit the site.”
Instead of trying to understand the approach, perhaps contextualizing the art with the heightened number of surveillance security cameras around us, what we have here is instant dismissal without thought.
June 28, 2005: “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time. Which raises the question: what kind of art do you have time for?”
Never mind understanding the concept behind John Simon’s “Every Icon.” It’s either instant or it sucks!
May 12, 2005: “Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of these. It just means that you’re not cool. And now that you’ve learned about them in the mainstream media (known as MSM on the Web), they’re not all that cool, either.”
Why is this paragraph even necessary? And why should hipness even matter in describing messages that disseminate across the Web?
What is the purpose of all this negativity? For the Times reader to pick up the Wednesday newspaper and feel superior to the disheveled upstarts? For a stockbroker to read the Times on the way to his miserable and artless job and say to himself, “Boy, I’m glad I chose the right path. Unlike these foolish urchins, I’m rolling in the dough. The never of these nincompoops!”
It seems to me that if a critic is writing about culture for a major newspaper, the effort expended should not be made mocking it, but analyzing it, using primary and secondary quotes, to put the cultural effort into perspective. While Ms. Boxer is certainly offering a “Critic’s Notebook,” one would hope that lead articles from the Arts & Cultural Desk would be composed of something more substantial and less half-baked.
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.