Different Types of Kitsch

While this blog started out believing, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and embrace our quirks, one cannot look at kitsch without ideology. So here is a distinction between three different types of kitsch.

We may thus distinguish between different types of kitsch of varying degrees of universality. Christian kitsch—exemplified by plastic Jesus babies, pictures of the Virgin Mary, or scenes of the Crucifixion—combines the universal elements of kitsch, with symbolism relating to the articles of Christian faith. Communist kitsch—depicting smiling workers in factories, young couples on tractors cultivation a collective farm or building a hydroelectric power station—played on the mythical values of the joy of work and enthusiasm for building a classless society. Capitalist kitsch, exemplified by advertising, on the other hand, uses class distinctions and status symbols to create artificial needs, and illusions to foster the ideology of the consumer society. There can also be even more specific national kitsch that exploits the sentiments associated with national symbols and leaders: Mao Tse-tung leading the Great March, Lenin speaking to the workers, or good-hearted Hitler holding a child in his arms. The subject matter of kitsch may vary considerably in accordance with beliefs and traditions. What remains constant is that the consumer of kitsch is never emotionally indifferent to what the picture represents.

Tomáš Kulka

From Kitsch and Art

the consumer of kitsch is never emotionally indifferent to what the picture represents.

Mind you, Tomáš Kulka published Kitsch and Art in 1994, a time before food photos, Instagram filters and Kim Kardashian.

What is the new kitsch?

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10 thoughts on “Different Types of Kitsch

  1. A very interesting point of view but just because someone made a statement about something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. They can ‘believe’ it’s true and others can choose to believe it also. Mind you, not everyone is as skeptical as me. We get lied to all the time – the media / politicians / advertisers / sales people etc. etc. I assume that a very high percentage of what I see / hear n the media is pure bull-shit anyway so yes, I can be emotionally indifferent. Bull-shit baffles brain (you other half will understand that expression).

    1. 🙂 They have a rather distinct way of talking in the arts… Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it true automatically. Communism or Capitalism, the aesthetics are really not that different. Or just BS …

  2. This blushing bride, circa 50s maybe? I watched the TV series “Mad Men” this year … it looks like the ads they created in the late 50s/early 60s.

    1. That one was odd. As in, it did not want to come out. Some quotes take a stupid amount of time! I would’ve been happy with Mr T style gold jewelry or some Communist looking potato picking … the picks just didn’t lend themselves for that. When I saw the bride, it reminded me of diamonts & De Beers and the crazy expenses people pay these days just to get married! Don’t get me wrong, if you have the funds, go for it! It’s only gonna happen once (ideally). The whole idea of havign to pay three months of salary for a ring though, just does not grab me …

      1. I’m right with you on that Jeanine … I’d even forego the traditional big wedding and go on a trip of a lifetime instead. A plain band works just as well in my opinion.

  3. INteresting definitions. Not sure I “buy” the capitalistic kitsch. I did work in an Ad agency for a while, and did lots of research on advertising. But that’s all right.
    All well?
    Tschüß

    1. Yes, thank you, Brian! This fall is one crazy ride but improving 🙂 How are you?
      I like the quotes about kitsch because some hate it completely, others go for it. This is one hell of a book here and he has a very academic approach to his topic of choice 🙂

      1. The approach is very good. Now one might argue or not but it’s all right. My advertising background does give me a different perspective. Having said that, current advertising is appalling. I’m glad I’m retired and don’t have to stand in front of my Coca-Cola or Procter clients and tell them: “We have tested your new Ad campaign and we’re sorry to say it sucks!” 😉

      2. Ha ha, welcome to my life! Make it elegant and bold, really colorful with lots of beige, fluffy but serious. — I also just googled Lead with love campaign by P&G and uhhrg, it sucks hard! Happy retirement, Sir! 🙂

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