Recently someone told me there is no middle-brow culture anymore. We either have high or low. Pizza Express is statistically Britain’s favourite restaurant, but no one ever actually names it their favourite. We read Jilly Cooper and Twilight or Frantzen and Hollinghurst. It’s trash or Booker prizewinner, and we admit to nothing in between.
Somehow this feels almost on the mark. What I think is happening in culture is a form of ‘modern irony’ that really isn’t even really irony. We watch and read and consume ‘low brow’ because it’s enjoyable. We genuinely love it, but also feel the need to cover it up under the excuse of irony, or being appalled at what we read, or keeping our finger on the pulse. We feel we need to say that it’s terrible quality, an awful show, the worst written book ever…yet also good fun. It’s in this spirit that I read the Daily Mail (online – I still don’t want to give them any money) and watch The Only Way Is Essex.
Tacky is being reclaimed. There’s a little disclaimer now in some of the products we consume, and some surprising fans. I can read the New Scientist and Love It! in the same train ride. So can you.
Welcome to a culture where middle-brow just means averaging out the high and the low.