The cultural news of the last few weeks may be the replacement of ‘Sálvame’ from the “television grid& rdquor; by an extension of the morning debate program hosted by Ana Rosa Quintana. This movement has been interpreted in an electoral key: the replacement of a leftist program by another more akin to the right. In reaction to this diagnosis, it has been recalled that ‘Save me’ was a representative of the so-called “trash TV& rdquor; long before a left-wing program. And these critics have immediately been accused of contempt for “popular art & rdquor; from his elitism, incapable of recognizing anything that is not “cult & rdquor ;. How do you get out of this mess?
It is very tempting to distinguish between “popular art & rdquor; and “cult art & rdquor; according to the social class that consumes it. It is a clear criterion that allows us to place television within the “popular art & rdquor; and the opera, to say the least, outside. But the sharpness of the border is artificial and imposes an unacceptable taste determinism. It is not true that an executive or a rentier cannot spend a good hour contemplating the television display of some gossip, much less that a manual worker cannot enjoy ‘The Barber of Seville’. This conception would indeed be elitist since it turns the postal code into a prophecy about taste.
The mistake is better appreciated if instead of focusing on the public we look at the “author& rdquor; and in the “content & rdquor;. ‘Save me’, beyond some isolated political slogans (as brave and beneficial as one considers) was not about social problems or the life of the working class but rather about troubles, problems, anger, divorces, illnesses and upsets among highly paid artists and journalists, and their mighty lineages. Entertainment carefully thought out and produced by a multinational more interested in amassing money than in reflecting artistic concerns that stem from popular sentiment.
These statements do not turn ‘Save me’ into trash TV, of course, but they do prevent the reproaches against the program from being prejudged as “elitist”, to the extent that it is produced by economic elites, and starring wealthy citizens even though popular topics are dealt with ( weddings and baptisms) in a rowdy, even chicken-coop tone. The program will be better or worse, but it cannot benefit from the protection of “popular culture& rdquor;.
I think we would gain understanding if we distinguished between “popular culture & rdquor; and “mass culture & rdquor ;. ‘Save me’ would be a good example of the latter: directed and conceived by a for-profit company, which tries to get as many viewers as possible. And if “masses” sounds pejorative we can use the word “entertainment”, which has a more neutral sound, after all, what harm does it do and who doesn’t like to be entertained? Thus, the idea of “popular culture & rdquor; for those more or less spontaneous, more or less elaborate manifestations that emanate from the people, without the mediation of a multinational.
We would thus enjoy a territory with less closed, more permeable borders. An artistic genre would no longer be defined a priori as “popular& rdquor; or “mass” or “cult & rdquor ;, it will depend on how it develops. Thus, television is popular if it shoots a documentary on the way of singing in a region, entertainment when it broadcasts ‘Tu cara me suena’ and a cultured space if they interview Álvaro Pombo. And you could judge the “contents & rdquor; of a program due to its execution, following artistic or political criteria or a combination of both, but without protecting them a priori from criticism based on a partial and unsustainable identification with “the popular”.