We need to rethink how we critique culture: Or why the skyscraper model sucks

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Shakespeare not to praise him!

I imagine that’s what William Shakespeare’s contemporaries would have said after watching his play “Julius Caesar”. In an article published by  The British Council, Laura Estil notes that Shakespeare wasn’t considered a quality playwright in his time. In fact he was known more for his poetry than for his plays.

Today, people see Shakespeare’s work on stages around the globe. So how did he get to be so well regarded? I blame the creator of the skyscraper model for critiquing culture. The model depicts culture as a hierarchy, with “high culture” being represented at the very top and “low culture” at the bottom. In this model, Mozart and Shakespeare would be considered high culture while Beyonce and John Waters might be be ranked as low.

I reject this model and subscribe to the idea of culture as a map. This method isn’t constructed on a binary idea of thought like the aforementioned skyscraper model. Therefore, cultural value becomes more subjective and the map model allows for individual tastes and experiences. Meaning, YOU get to decide what is considered high and low culture.

“Yo, Mozart, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyonce’s “Lemonade” was one of the best albums and videos of all times.”

Sorry, I had to pull a Kanye.

But seriously, The depth and artistry of “Lemonade” was perfection. It was a love letter to black women about their experience. Beyonce exposed the plight of black women and wrote them back into history.

“Lemonade” might not be your cup of tea. But how can Beyonce not be seen on the same level as Mozart? Because I think she absolutely should be.


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