Mere Fidelity: What’s Wrong (and Right) with “Relatability”

To appreciate “King Lear”—or even “The Catcher in the Rye” or “The Fault in Our Stars”—only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience. But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure. It’s a failure that has been dispiritingly sanctioned by the rise of “relatable.” In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities. That’s what sucks, not Shakespeare.

So said Rebecca Mead in her widely-read piece on “relatability.”  We naturally decided that the issue needed further dissection.  Go read her full essay, then return and give our latest podcast a listen.

The iTunes feed is here, if you’d like to subscribe (thanks to everyone who has reviewed us so kindly) and an RSS feed for the show lives here.

Special thanks to MK Creative Arts for the audio editing.

Finally, as always, follow Derek and Alastair for more tweet-sized thoughts.

 

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  • Richard

    Hello, Matthew! Mike Morrell asked me to contact you because he really appreciates your blog and thinks you’d be an excellent candidate for his Speakeasy Blogger Network. Do you like to review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books? Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You only get books when you request them, and it’s free to join. Sign up here, if you’d like: http://thespeakeasy.info

  • David Allred

    Reminds me of the recent attempts to “humanize” Superman in DC Comics (along with most of the superheroes we grew up with in the West) because the “Boy Scout” mentality served as more of a trope than actual character traits with which people could strive toward. So the answer has been to make him and so many of our heroes, anti-heroes loaded with flaws. Thanks for the podcast.