Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kitschie, kitschie, ya ya da da...

Bad taste - and not in your mouth.

(Pictured, Corky St. Clair from "Waiting For Guffman" in his kitschy movie memorabilia gift shop.)

Kitsch - yiddish for bad taste, cheap, tacky, gawdy, gimmicky, cheap merchandise - like you'd pick up in a dime store.
Schmaltz - yiddish for too sweet, sentimental - literally, chicken fat.
Glitz - yiddish for lots of gold and shine - tinselly.

Here are some examples. I was speaking about bad art and bad taste in religious/devotional goods the other day. The latest post I did on Marie-Julie Jehenny reminded me of the discussion. There is a passion scapular supposedly inspired by her revelations, available on some Catholic websites. It is supposed to protect a person in these evil times. I never realized it was from her and just assumed someone made it up to make money. In religious retail, someone always seems to be coming up with something new to sell. Like these Jesus with the little female gymnasts figures - kind of creepy, or him as the baseball Jesus - what else for the all-American kid? This stuff falls into the kitsch category, along with Saints chapsticks and holy water key chains, or hologram images of Christ and Mary, that change when you tilt them.

Kids are expected to like this stuff - or at least people who buy the stuff think their kids will like it. (People can educate and elevate their taste if they want to. I've always said some things should never even be made, much less sold, they are so bad.)

Schmaltz is something else. It's a harder one to convince people of because they become emotionally attached to it. (It is a feel good/feel sad type of thing.) Good art should touch the emotions, but bad art can do so as well. (I know, I know - often it is subjective - but not too often.)

Take for example this image of JPII. I think it's schmaltzy - not kitschy - schmaltzy. It is not badly painted, it's rather well painted - but it misses - it's kind of schmaltzy. What would be worse is if it ever ends up on a mug - then it would be schmaltzy and kitschy. (It's like the John XXIII and JFK painting of the two of them walking in Heaven that circulated after their deaths. Schmaltzy.)

Glitz is fine in Hollywood, in Church it's too much. Most priests do not want their vestments glitzy. In addition, not every gilded baroque Church or statue is glitzy. Neither are well designed sacred vessels and the like. However, Mother Angelica's shrine is kind of glitzy - but it's fairly well done glitz. The Polish monstrance they use in the shape of a heart - that's bad glitz. In fact, the term glitz was once associated with what has been referred to as 'Polish taste' or 'Jewish taste' - very politically incorrect terms always say glitz instead - unless you are ever on Letterman or Oprah.

This post was inspired by Ray from Stella Borealis who sent me the link to a blog called "Kinda Kitchy" that specializes in exposing Christian kitsch. (The guy is obviously protestant, with excellent observations on religious art.)


  1. And have you seen the vestments worn by Mother Angelica's clergy? Glitz. And some of it very bad glitz. Oy–veh. And they can't afford amices? What is with those friars' hoods hanging uncovered over the chasuble. Not that this stuff really bothers me, but I have noticed it, and . . . well, I know, you get my point.

  2. Anonymous7:07 PM

    you little freak...get off the internet so much

  3. Hi anonymous - you must be one of my sons...perhaps the puppy? You little bast.......................................................

  4. By the way, the title of the piece is adapted from "Lady Marmalade" by Pattie LaBelle.

  5. I kinda like schmaltz:)

  6. I'm actually very schmaltzie - I actually liked this one painting of Christ holding a guy on the blog I mention - it's in my office - post card size. Oh well - there is no accounting for taste. :)

  7. therese1:16 PM

    I LOVE Patti LaBelle! :))
    If I got to be a black lady I would pick her in a second. Always wanted to sing, have nails like that and have the kind of Supreme perfect DIVA-ness she has. It is never found in a white woman--except Old Hollywood...
    I guess that's why I have to settle for being--odd yet boring.


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