“Mankind have always had classics. They always will. That is another way of saying they have always set up ideals and always will. Always the question has been, always the question will be, what are those ideals to be, what are to be the classics?”
-Calvin Coolidge, Thought, the Master of Things.
So what is the answer today? What are the classics today?
First, take the time to read the quote again, and think of your classics: What are the books, the movies, the songs that are your favorite? What are your highest ideals? How are they shown in your favorite works of media?
Is there is a discrepancy? I’m sure you’ve learned by now that -as long as you are moving- you go where you are looking, whether you are driving, skiing, or digging. So, maybe search for media that better reflects your ideals, to help you look at the ideal you most want to reach for. If it matches thoroughly, find more, to stay on target!
If you’ve done that exercise and you accept the challenge, then you’ve done the most important part of this article. But, let us continue and look at the classics of our culture and see what ideals our society stands for today.
First, what are the mainstream classics of today?
A quick search online about which books are the classics will show hundreds of different lists, arguments, and definitions. As we saw earlier, Coolidge expected this, saying “Always the question has been, always the question will be, what are those ideals to be, what are to be the classics?” And that is what the debate about classics boils down to: what ideals are the highest, are the most vital for widespread Americans to know?
Well, if I’m being honest, I think that while using Coolidge’s definition, we should readjust our focus. I believe that movies are more widespread then books. Maybe then, we should look at movies to see what classics there are and ideals they espouse.
Recently I went to a movie that was showing Princess Bride. It’s called a classic. It espouses ideals of revenge and true love -defined as following orders- foremost. Now, this is probably the movie I’ve seen the most, and I’m not alone. Does that make this a classic? Is it really a classic though? Why are movies like this, Napoleon Dynamite, and Monty Python called classics? Is it because our culture’s ideals are focused on things that are funny, or unexpected?
I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me like that could very well be the case.
To end up, let’s consider where most movies come from -where is here things get interesting. The biggest, highest grossing movies largely come from the Walt Disney Company. Who hasn’t heard of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars? Disney just keeps buying more and more, increasing its influence. The movies of Disney are part of our culture. It would be extremely hard to find any time when an author was as prolific, as widespread, as recognized, and as quoted as Disney’s media. This isn’t to say that every Disney production has the same ideals, as there are different people working on each one, but regardless, I see Disney becoming the de facto creator of “classics” under Coolidge’s definition, the de facto ideals that society puts its eyes on. And in my opinion, Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros aren’t drastically different from Disney’s ideals. So as you watch things, or hear things being referenced, think deeper, and ask what ideals are put forth by that, both the good and the bad. Only then can we understand, and decide whether to consciously accept or deny those as our classics, our ideals, instead of just accepting it blindly.