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Fortieth Sort

Low Brow, Middle Brow, and High Brow Defined

by Dear Jon
April 12, 2001

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Fortieth Sort_Dear Jon-Low Brow, Middle Brow, and High Brow Defined ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

[Editor's Note: This letter was intended to be published earlier to coincide with Dear Jon's bonus article "The Role of Snobbery in American Culture," published on April 9.]

Dear Jon,
Who makes worse movies, Adam Sandler or David Spade?
Fan of Neither

Dear Neither,
My wife thinks I watch too many movies. Your question proves I don't. To answer your question, as a serious writer, I had a number of options. First, I could have determined whether serious movie critics had pondered this question in published articles. Second, I could have consulted websites with posted reviews, and entered chat rooms with your question. Third, I could have rented movies made by each. My fourth lifeline is I phoned a friend. So if the answer you want is "They both suck," well then, I hope you're laughing.

Your question hints at a deeper reality in American popular culture. Sandler and Spade appeal to certain audiences, audiences which, on the whole, would not appreciate The Partial Observor and would not understand half of what Dear Jon is saying. The Sandler and Spade audiences are "low-brow." "High-brow" means, "If this movie is in English, I will only watch it if it is written by Woody Allen." Then there is the "middle-brow."

Welcome to the Middle Brow. We at the Partial Observer are proud to appeal to those who are snooty to the low-brow and who secretly wish we could be high-brow, but we know we are excluded because we think Bertholt Brecht is about as interesting to watch as oatmeal is to eat. Because Middle Brow folks eat oatmeal. Not everyday, but we keep it in the house for chilly mornings when we wake up hungry.

The funniest Middle Brow humor is always when the Middle Brow person makes pretentions at being High Brow, and is humiliated. Ha ha. We always see ourselves in that situation.

In order to gauge yourself on Dear Jon's Brow Continuum, the first answer in the following multiple choice is always "low brow," the second is "middle brow" and the third is "high brow."

Dear Jon's Humor: 1) I don't get it. 2) Edgy. Funny. A real wit. 3) Bourgeois.

Scott Adam's Dilbert: 1) I don't get it. 2) Hilarious. 3) Yes, well, he has issues, I suppose.

The movie "Dumb and Dumber:" 1) !@#$ -Man! That was GREAT! 2) Gross. 3) Jim Who?

Wine with fresh-water fish: 1) Whatever gets me drunk, man! 2) Supermarket White, $6.00. 3) My GOD! Fish are people TOO! The idea!

Home Decor: 1) Whaddya mean I gotta give up the bean-bag chair? I've had it since I was fourteen! 2) The K-Mart "Martha Stewart" line. 3) I trust my decorator. When she was a man she did my ranch home in New Mexico. Would you like her card?

Location, location, location. 1) Goal is to retire to a trailer park in Oklahoma. 2) Goal is to increase mortgage payments once kids are through college, or possibly sell and move into something "cozier" after the nest empties. 3) Park Avenue apartment, or Gold Coast Condo, or Scottsdale ranch-home, or beach-front villa.

Dream Vacation. 1) Branson, Missouri. (Before I get flamed, this is the DREAM vacation. Lots of middle brows go to Branson, so calm down.) 2) Six weeks of Europe and Australia. 3) The Spanish Civil War. Sigh.

Politics: 1) The only alternatives are Pat Buchanan or Jesse Ventura. 2) Realistically, we are a two-party nation. 3) Your naivete would be cute if it weren't so sad.

Magazines: 1) Hustler and T.V. Guide. 2) T.V. Guide, Sports Illustrated, Ladie's Home Journal, Cosmopolitan. 3) The New Yorker, I must confess.

Books: 1) Anything by Steven King 2) Anything by Steven King 3) I tend to be persuaded by the "reviews" in The New Yorker.

Great Art is: 1) Hustler. 2) Norman Rockwell, but please don't tell the high-brow person I think so! 3) My interior decorator has an exhibit down at
Underground Galleries. She calls it "Stages of Severance: Reflections in Razor-wire."

This column is long enough now, but I have more to say about low, middle, and high brows. Perhaps you do too.

Thought for the Day: If you think you are the only person in the world who can drive, please do yourself a favor and stay off the road.

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