By Ronald Court
While in North Carolina last week, my son and I saw Ratatouille, a delightful Pixar animated film that really is for all ages. It’s about a rat who becomes a chef. The villian (every film has one, you know) is a food critic aptly named, “Anton Ego.”
Ego’s monologue about being a critic is as ageless as it is priceless:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”
It’s too bad DuBois couldn’t recognize the bitter truth instead of simply being, well, bitter. His literary prowess, such as it was, is nothing when measured against Booker T’s. accomplishments. It had to grate. Consider: Here’s DuBois, the first Negro with a genuine Harvard PhD, barely recognized for his work while this Southern (read “poor and poorly educated”) Negro gets high praise North & South, including an honorary degree from Harvard. So to get attention (why else?) what does he do? He praises Booker T., then seeks to work for him, then takes an opposite tack by criticizing him. Honest historians today would label DuBois a “flip-flopper.”
Continuing Anton Ego’s monologue from the film:
“…only now do I truly understand … Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest…”
Too bad DuBois failed to achieve the epiphany that Anton Ego did.