The idea of Kitsch in the unbearable lightness Essay
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“Those of us who live in a society where various political tendencies exist side by side and competing influences cancel or limit one another can manage more or less to escape the kitch inquisition: the individual can preserve his individuality; the artist can create unusual works. But whenever a single political movement corners power, we find ourselves in the realm of totalitarian kitsch. ” (251) A quick dictionary search shows that “kitsch” means “something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste”.
In Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, kitsch is viewed from the perspective of Sabina and her point of view presents it very much as a disease, which wraps the masses in a kind of sentimentality that she considers corny. Sabina feels that this popular idealism forces people into embracing everything as positive, more or less taking away their ability to cope with real problems connected to life on Earth. Kitsch plays a major role in politics as a tool for political parties to improve their reputation and gain support, as the example with kissing babies portrays.
In Sabina’s eyes, actions like this are only a part of the issue she calls “totalitarian kitsch”. It is a type of kitsch meant to brainwash people into acting in a certain manner. When she talks about the opposition between kitsch and shit, she pinpoints that the latter contradicts the beliefs of kitsch not so much because it is ugly and fowl, but because it simply does not fit with the clean image of the world it tries to present.
Therefore, the political image of kitsch is all about the idea of conformity and that nothing except what is widely viewed as beautiful and good can be accepted into society. Sabina detests kitsch exactly because it oppresses individualism. She is a character who stands out because of her different ideals and she does not quite fit in the environment and people around her. Evidence can be found in the part when she talks about her paintings and the ones she shows them to.
“Of couse, I couldn’t show them to anybody. I’d have been kicked out of the Academy. ” (63) She openly declares that her enemy is kitsch and fighting it is the main focus of her life. She does not share the popular opinion of what is beautiful and right and has her own views of the way relationships should be like, without all the sentimentality and melodrama that most deal with. The struggle against kitsch is what defines Sabina because it separates her from the rest as an independent person.