Good vs iconic art

John Ohno
Applaudience
Published in
5 min readOct 3, 2016

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When it comes to narrative forms of art (film, literature, comics), there’s often a great disconnect between works that are highly influential (and thus become ‘classics’) and works that are well-executed. I don’t think this is an accident.

Well-executed works (hereafter, “good”) don’t particularly need to be novel. Whether they are high art or low art doesn’t matter — someone working in a “low” genre (say, harem anime) can be skilled enough to produce a truly shining example of that genre. Like good design, good art disappears: it is a complete and flawless implementation of expectations, and only upon close examination does the skill and effort involved in executing the expected attributes of the genre become visible.

As an example of unambiguously “low” art being extremely well executed, consider Monster Musume — a harem show involving young women who are mythological creatures. It seeks to sate essentially puerile desires: the goal is to have sexually-charged slapstick humor involving attractive women who are part animal. It is not the first show to do this by a long shot, but it may be the best: nearly all elements outside those that add to that goal are invisible, and it reaches its goal admirably, but at the same time it has a good and well-planned justification for nearly everything that happens (by combining the idea of diplomatic relations, corrupt/lazy officials, and a largely hostile population, you get an interesting take on the fantasy harem genre that can be seen as a stealth satire of racial politics and international relations), and…

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John Ohno
Applaudience

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net