In his essay from the late 1940s entitled “Manners, Morals, and the Novel,” literary theorist Lionel Trilling, a member of the famed New York Intellectuals, stated that “pleasure in cruelty is licensed by moral indignation,” and would go on to claim the middle class as the group of people where such a strange aesthetic relationship often takes hold, designating moral indignation as their “favorite emotion.” Rich Hill exists in this space; detailing the lives of three separate, impoverished teen boys living in Rich Hill, MO, directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos allow their camera to probe and linger in spaces of disorder and grime, but without any discernible purpose other than gaining access to lower-class spaces—another popular pleasure created through middle-class distance. Rich Hill is poverty porn, and this isn’t simply because the film examines poverty, but because it does so with pity as its operative mode, engendering little more than a space for viewers to leave the film acknowledging its sadness.
Joe Paterno (#1–10 of 3)
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