When The Ramones released their first trio of highly influential records in the late ‘70s—their self-titled debut in 1976 and Leave Home and Rocket to Russia in 1977—the consensus was that it was sort of dumb music, and that dumb was good. “Stoopidity [sic], both celebrated and satirized,” wrote The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau—a.k.a. the “dean of American rock critics.” In a retrospective conducted by The Guardian in 2016, Richard Manitoba from The Dictators referred to them as “the smartest dumb band you ever heard.” Rolling Stone put it even more pithily back in 1979: “The Ramones are dumb.”
This is not the way gleefully-lowbrow art is received by critics today. Massive media corporations have thoroughly co-opted the language of social justice; they would like you to believe that all media has a political and social conscience now, whether or not it was conceived in a boardroom and produced on an assembly line. This phenomenon has given us cringe-inducing headlines like “Captain Marvel smashes the box office and the patriarchy,” or articles in exalted publications such as Vanity Fair with straight-faced titles.