The most obvious thing about the David controversy is the fact they used a clichéd culture war item. Why the fuck Michelangelo’s David? It is an iconic statue and that is why. There are lots of obscure and far worse examples they could have used. They want something understood by the barely literate masses. It is not an accident the subject of this is the David. They wanted to pick something that did not condescend to the less than educated in art. Every kids show, almost, about a drama class has them do Romeo and Juliet. They could do “Much Ado About Nothing” or “The Tempest” but their parents don’t want to feel stupid. What this is not is a sincere battle between honest and well-intentioned people debating between giving culture to and protecting the innocence of children, something a more obscure statue would suggest, it is a circus designed for public relations.
In my unpublished novel “The Last Days of Western Civilization”, in which the Western canon is run by its constituent fictional characters, the other Shakespeare characters resent Romeo and Juliet because, in their A-list celebrity status, they have become plastic, fantastic, Disnified, sellouts to the mass market although the characters’ counter that, being democratic socialists themselves, their accessibility is a good thing. The Veronese paramours are right when telling Titus Andronicus to go fuck himself because there is something to be said for being pop culture items accessible to the working class. (although they are the only billionaires among Shakespearean characters) There is nothing wrong with being cliché, per se. Yet, it does cast doubt on the sincerity of a culture war precisely because it is accessible to folks outside of an academic setting. It is curious that what is being taught in a class covering art history is something an average truck driver could easily be aware of.
If it were something more obscure, then it would be about what was happening inside the classroom but it is not so it is about what is happening outside the classroom. What disgusts me about this more than anything is the bad faith of the anti side of this. They took a piece of art frequently employed in cartoons (usually with a fig leaf) and fired a teacher over it in hopes it would do what it did, arouse the ire of the masses who knew what it was and were therefore more inclined to pay attention. What it is most akin to is another fake cultural battle from ninety-eight years ago: The Scopes Trial. When a small Southern town came together to get a subsitute biology teacher to claim he taught from a 19th century biology textbook which extolled the virtues of genocide of the inferior races. This was not illegal because of the genocide part but because it also happened to mention evolution. It was made to be a circus for attention. That’s all this is.