We’re Back… Defending the New

The conflicts of our own Wash U graduation are now behind us and following our commission on the front lines of the political battle for the past few weeks the Foundation will now resume business as usual. The Right Hand of Nixon has many posts in the work and though I have to begin preparing for Teach For America I too have much more time to devote back to this site.

So with that short introduction said and done I will also leave this short post on one of the new and pretty incredible animated films, Ratatouille. First I have found that this particular Pixar film has the potential to fill numerous posts. There is the visual representation of gustation, more generally there is the animation itself (which has moved well beyond trying to imitate reality and has entered into its own abstract version of representation). But for this short post I want to focus on the speech given by the films sinister looking yet ultimately agreeable food critic, Anton Ego. Ego delivers a speech following his proustian moment eating ratatouille.

His speech touched me the first time I saw it and again this past week when watching it. He defends the New. Here is his review in full:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

IMDB: Ratatouille

Though when stepping outside of the world of the story we realize that the new being defended here is a cooking rat, the idea of the challenge in its defense is not outside of our world. The new at times, especially in art, can appear and actually be that outlandish (as a rat cooking better than most humans). But the reality is that though at times the new can fail it truly does need support, it needs friends.

I have nothing to say except Ratatouille and Pixar are heading in the right direction to view art in such a way as to defend the new. I hope that spirit persists in Wall*E this summer.


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