Beer and Pavement

Revisiting Sentimentality

Posted in Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on April 10, 2012

Is it redundant to keep coming back to sentimentality?

The above video works because it taps into the sentimentality of the photo series by artist Irina Werning better known as “Back to the Future.” Feist has always had a warm, inviting voice and her songs are comforting remembrances to which we all can relate. The combination of the song and the images should make you smile as you remember your own childhood pictures, stashed away in some cardboard box.

This idea of sentimentality is an important one, contributing to the success of indie-craft markets. Connecting to these feelings and memories are what give a glass of beer or record a soul. This is something corporate entities try to manufacture in an effort to separate you from your money, but the personal approach of indie-craft producers makes such an approach more authentic.

I keep going back to it, but the Deschutes promo from earlier this year has a similar effect on me. Sure, it’s advertising and marketing at its finest. However, there’s something about these small businesses tapping into our collective experiences that sets them apart from their corporate overlords.

Does the Feist video speak to you? Is sentimentality important to you when choosing music, beer, etc?

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4 Responses

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  1. Mike said, on April 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Welcome back! Slow morning, so you get a long response!

    Sentimentality is fine and all but you have to be careful around it, since it’s definitionally an emotional reaction. Like for instance, the Republican Party is nostalgic/sentimental about the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Which seems to suit a large part of country just fine, but the rest of us see that this sentimentality has become the basis for a rather unpleasant political movement. It’s hard to get any serious decisions made without first viewing it through that lens. (You could say the same thing about progressive boomers and the 1960s.)

    But anyway, that’s politics: sentimentality is fine for music as long as you’re willing to accept that some people might be sentimental for some really terrible music and that they might, say, dance their first dance as a married couple to a Celine Dion song; that the sentimentality is crucial to some unsavory parts of the music industry (county fair/performing arts center tours for past-their-prime acts; the cycle of “rock’s old guard is kind of stale and we need a new savior” that comes along every decade or so which mostly serves to reassert the industry’s relevance and which leads even more of the aforementioned county fair/performing arts center tours); the Who’s awful Super Bowl halftime show; etc.

    Re sentimentality (or any emotion, really) in beer marketing: beer is already a mind-altering substance, and do we really need one more thing that tells us how others have responded to a particular brewery?

    • Zac said, on April 11, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Agreed. I don’t mean to exclude “non-worthy” forms of beer, music, whatever. However, your point about political sentimentality is an interesting one. What I find particularly telling about that sort of sentimentality is that it is wrought with inaccuracies and myth. Similarly, we often feel nostalgia for things that in retrospect aren’t really that great. Still, the sentimentality lives on. I still feel a bit of sentimentality for my Madonna records or all the Rolling Rock I used to drink in college.

      Now, I still feel there is a difference between craft/indie sentimentality compared to corporate sentimentality. Sure, they both depend on marketing to achieve nostalgic revelry. (Is that redundant? I like how it sounds anyway.) However, more corporate fair depends more on said marketing. Music or beer of a higher quality are not only remembered for those meaningful moments, but they are also remembered because they’re good.

      I have a post on differentiating between what’s good and what’s popular. Sure, the line moves and is rather thin, but even the most subjective things can differentiate in quality. (Don’t address this final point just yet. What do you think about the above?)

      • Mike said, on April 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

        I know I have a tendency to defend my personal taste in music, movie, book, etc., because I’ve thought a lot about them. And it can be hard to un-think what they’ve taught me, to take a step back and realize that even though maybe I spent a lot of time in David Foster Wallace’s head, maybe other people have been doing the same thing with Paul Auster or (God forbid) Chuck Palahniuk. And sometimes I can step back from it and sometimes I can’t, regardless of whether an entertainment has made its way into the pop culture canon—I’ll get into a fist fight with anyone who won’t concede that the Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy” is one of the five or ten greatest pop songs of all time.

        As much as I like well-crafted products with the understanding that there’s room in my life for mass-produced and easy products, I think sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that no matter whether it’s something that’s lovingly produced or put together by assembly line robots, at the end of the day, they’re just products. David Foster Wallace (whose work I like) drove himself to despair and suicide over a book. His book is possibly a work of art, but when all’s said and done it’s still just a book, a product that just came out in paperback and is currently 20% off the cover price at Barnes and Noble.

        There are some interesting parallels here between how the publisher pushed The Pale King and how Deschutes markets their beer. Both tend to push their product as something of merit and quality, while hinting at (but not expressly coming out with) the product’s underbelly—madness and suicide in the case of DFW; the mind-altering and chemically depressive nature of beer in the case of Deschutes.So I guess in a nutshell what I’m saying is that it’s fine to be sentimental about a product, as long as we’re aware that it is just a product, and that sometimes our sentimentality has a flip side that we can’t ignore.

      • Zac said, on April 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

        Again, I agree. My struggle over writing a blog about products was part of what almost caused me to stop blogging altogether. It’s fine that people are sentimental about products of poor quality. What I’m arguing for is a thoughtful sentimentality that involves how something is produced. Mass-marketed sentimentality is just as superficial as the products they promote. There’s a clear difference there.

        Still, it should be understood, as you point out that these are just things and not memories themselves. If that’s not understood, folks have come to the wrong blog. We attach memory to the senses. While the things we connect to the memories are not as important as the experiences or people involved, they are integral to sentimentality.

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