“I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message,’ and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message,’ whether he admits it or not. … As a rule, an aesthetic preference is either something inexplicable or it is so corrupted by non-aesthetic motives as to make one wonder whether the whole of literary criticism is not a huge network of humbug.”
That’s from an essay on Charles Dickens by George Orwell. Tip of the hat to Katherine Miller for passing it along to me. I hear Ms. Miller is working on a blog post about Orwell, Dickens, and The Dark Knight Rises. That’s the rumor. (No pressure or anything now, Katherine.)
Anyway, I wanted to highlight that quote because I think it’s interesting and true, though less true for film. You can admire a film’s aesthetics while also ignoring non-aesthetic motives; Riefenstahl, for example, has endured despite, not because of, her non-aesthetic motives.
On an entirely* unrelated note: I saw The Dark Knight Rises today. I’ll have a review on Friday. To whet your appetite: My four star review of The Dark Knight back in 2008. Further thoughts on the film’s politics here.
*Note: Possibly not “entirely.”