“Strained Pulp”

Aug 17 2013 @ 5:49pm

A.O. Scott coined the term last year during a review of Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire:

Nowadays everyone must love (or at least pretend to love) pleasures that were supposedly once disdained or taken for granted: dive bars, street food, trashy films. But knowing, sophisticated attempts to replicate those things often traffic in their own kind of snobbery, confusing condescension with authenticity. Movies like ‘The American,’ ‘Drive’ and now ‘Haywire’ offer strained pulp, neither as dumb as we want them to be nor as smart as they think they are and not, in the end, all that much fun.

Scott expands on the definition:

Let me be clear that I’m not talking about what we used to call, back in the ’90s, “irony,” though a better term might have been “insincerity.” There was a time when just about anything — dumb commercial entertainment, ugly clothes, the weird dishes your grandmother used to serve — could be appreciated and appropriated in quotation marks. Strained pulp is not quite that — its celebration of the formerly marginal and disreputable is serious and sincere. The condescension is not overt but is latent in the desire to correct and improve the recipes retrieved from the past, to finish vernacular artifacts with a highbrow glaze. We’re going to make ’em — movies, cocktails, regional dishes, zombie novels, garage-rock anthems — just the way they used to, but a little bit better. This strikes me as a form of snobbery. But then again, maybe I’m the snob.