Roland Barthes suggests in Mythologies: “What the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself.” This is a fascinating concept. It was written in 1957, and I wonder if this observation is more true today than the day Barthes wrote it.
Does the general public really desire the image of passion more than passion itself? Well, yes and no. I suppose it depends on how you look at it.
In one sense, yes. The West is absolutely preoccupied with images of passion: Netflix binges, shopping malls the size of stadiums, stadiums the size of shopping malls, advertising images left and right and up and down and all around, social media streams clogged and cramped with images of passion to one degree to another; all an exemplification of our culture's fixation on images of passion.
But does this kind of passion really satisfy?
In one sense, no. If it did, then it wouldn’t leave people empty and longing for more.
That’s why I think it’s better to aim for making the purest forms of passion in the art we share, as compared to, the best images of passion.
So perhaps the reason why our art compels less than we had hoped it would is because it’s delivering images of passion, rather than passion itself.