I’ll comment on yours if you comment on mine

As a concept [relatability] grew valuable, and could be attached to modes of engagement–whether artistic, socio-cultural, or political–that were previously uninterested in relating to their audience in any conscious way. The memoir boom was built on this idea, as is much of chick lit, reality TV and of course the blogoscenti. With the dawn of the internet and its attendant traffic in user-generated, confessional minutiae—and I’ll comment on yours if you comment on mine—an ascendant cultural irregularity found the medium to turn its message into a malignancy. …

The most dangerous thing about relatability is the way it is often presented (and accepted) as a reasonable facsimile of or substitute for truth. This, I worry, may handicap our culture so violently that recovery, if it comes at all, will be generations in the reckoning; if in the meantime we lose our appetite for the real thing we are pretty much doomed. The pursuit of truth is a basic human instinct, and guides our engagement with ourselves, with art, and with other human beings; the scourge of relatability—and its sweetheart deal with another basic instinct, adaptation—puts all three relationships at risk.

Michelle Orange

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