Is snobbery bad?

Jarman Super 8s

In the Observer recently, Michael Collins described Derek Jarman as a snob:

“Snobbery permeates Jarman’s writings, almost as much as sex and travel. In his view, only an artist has the ability to transform debris, found objects and a dilapidated seaside home into a thing of beauty.”

I don’t agree. He’s clearly exacting – demanding as much uncompromising creativity from us, our society and the British film industry as he gave to his life and work. Today I went to The Serpentine’s “Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty”, one of the films on show is a film about Jarman by Isaac Julien. Threaded through the film was a letter written and read by Tilda Swinton. In that there were a couple of wonderful phrases that may hint at what Collins meant by snobbery:

[…] before the Sunday Times educated us that culture means digested opinions about marketable artistic endeavours.

The formula merchants are out in force. They are in the market for guaranteed product.

So is snobbery bad? Snobs clearly run the risk of discounting something that turns out to be worthwhile, but they don’t oppress us – just challenge us to reply with equal rigour, and I guess to meet judgement with acceptance.

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