I’m Still Not Sure What Reputable Means

I told myself I wouldn’t do this. For the second year in a row, I’ve let Switcheroo Month, the time of year when us Gutterfolk write about reputable art instead of disreputable art, sneak up on me without an idea of what piece of reputable art I’d write about. As a fan of things like pro wrestling and horror movies, the reputable-ness of a particular piece of art is very rarely top of mind when I’m choosing what to watch or listen to or read or gaze at. Which is why, for the second year in a row, I feel more than a little stumped by my Switcheroo assignment. 

My parents (RIP) cared an awful lot about reputable art, or at least they said they did. Though they never really censored or filtered the art or media I consumed, my dad especially felt strongly that I read “the classics” which, to him, amounted to things like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness. Perhaps as a form of rebellion, my tastes tended toward the pulpy and popular, like the airport fiction of Michael Crichton, John Grisham, and Stephen King, or the edgy weirdness of Bret Easton Ellis (shut up, I was 17). I don’t hate either of these particular “classics” by any means, but they certainly hit different when you’re forced to read them. Similarly, very little of my assigned school reading ended up on my bookshelf as an adult, which I have to figure is pretty typical for a lot of us. I do think that some of my school readings like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, A Separate Peace, and The Stone Angel ended up shaping my tastes as I got older, but less in the way that my teachers intended and more in the way that I still choose literary works that are the opposite of these wherever possible. 

Thanks but no thanks, John Knowles.

I have to really think about what I’ve watched or read in the last twelve months that would fall into a category of ‘reputable’. Not just because I gravitate towards disreputability but because I don’t really make those distinctions. I saw all the movies nominated for Best Picture this year besides Avatar: The Second Avatar and All Quiet on the Western Front, but is an industry award which is effectively purchased by a studio marketing team really the standard we’re meant to go by? The wonderful Everything Everywhere All At Once ended up winning many awards that night including the most prestigious available, but not only am I loath to legitimize the Academy that way, I already wrote about that one

There’s Todd Field’s Tár, which is both reputable by the dubious Academy standard, having been nominated for many of those and other awards, but also is about the world of elite Western classical music and few things are as objectively reputable as that, though it certainly introduces some disreputability into that environment. It centres on a performance from Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, a powerful but divisive woman in the top tier of the world of orchestral conducting. Tár is a movie that plays out for me like horror, as we follow Lydia’s fall into darkness and the world begins to close in on her, largely due to her own hubris. 

Surely the story of a world-renowned conductor who experiences a precipitous fall from grace counts as reputable, right?

I have to think that despite being nominated for Best Picture, the sheer amount of vomit and diarrhea depicted in Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle Of Sadness disqualifies it from reputability right from the start. It shouldn’t, though, because it’s got some of my favourite performances of the year and most importantly to me, never feels like it’s going the way you expect. It makes so many hard left turns that, after a while, you give up and just let it take the wheel. Filipino actor Dolly de Leon is one of this year’s breakout stars, and her turn as Abigail is a reminder that survival situations are a reliable way to break through class divides. 

Having seen the other Academy selections, including Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical The Fabelmans (aggressively fine and expertly crafted but safe), Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (darkly wonderful), Canadian hero Sarah Polley’s Women Talking (breathtaking and important), and Top Gun: Maverick (loud and not even my favourite plane movie of 2022, which was JD Dillard’s Devotion), on paper, at least, you could say I saw the most reputable films of 2022. Not all of the ones I saw would make a ‘Best of’ list for me, because I would have to eschew The Fabelmans, Ava2ar, and almost certainly Top Gun Maverick for things like Travis Stevens’ wonderful A Wounded Fawn, which I wrote about, but you should really read Carol’s much-better piece instead).

One of the quieter, more contemplative moments in The Last Of Us where you are not shanking fungally-infected swarms.

I played some critically-acclaimed video games this year, including finally finishing fungal horror The Last of Us Part 2. This one moved to my back burner for a while (okay, years), but I was determined to make it through in time for HBO’s The Last of Us series to kick off, even though I knew that the series would only depict the events of the first game. While I love the series and the original Last of Us, Part 2 did things to me that I didn’t realize games were capable of. Using the idea of forced perspective as a kind of cudgel, Neil Druckmann’s many-hour masterpiece steered me down a pair of rabbit holes with both its protagonists – the tragic, broken Ellie and the powerful but pained Abby and their respective pursuits of revenge. It’s a game that made me do things I actively didn’t want to do but was compelled to by the inertia of narrative progression, and as a result affected me in ways that only the darkest horror movies can. They call into question everything I took for granted in terms of the violence and the idea of revenge that I usually accept in video games. 

HBO’s The Last of Us gave us a side quest with Bill and Frank that tore my world apart.

The (also critically-acclaimed) The Last of Us series does many of the same things. By allowing for perspective shifts away from Ellie (Bella Ramsay) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) in the television format, it produced magic. Episode 3 – ‘Long, Long Time’ is the most obvious example. The episode depicts a few years in the life of rugged survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman), who finds love in a hopeless place from the likes of wasteland wanderer Frank (Murray Bartlett) in what is literally a side quest from the main story of Joel transporting Ellie to the Fireflies. It’s tender and joyful and heartbreaking all at once, and is both one of the most well-crafted episodes of TV I’ve seen this year or ever, it earned near-unanimous critical acclaim. 

I’m still not sure if any of my above examples were reputable or not. They feel like art pieces that affected me deeply enough, whether positively or negatively, that I felt the need to write about them, here and elsewhere. But that also means that they’re works that I’d probably write about in any other month at the Gutter, switcheroo or not. Well, reputable or no, I gave it a shot. There’s always next year.


Sachin Hingoo promises that he will find a dictionary and look up ‘the word reputable’ before next year’s Switcheroo. Probably.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s