Mark Swed, music reviewer for the LA Times, writes a great piece on the word "elitism" and its use in other fields (athletics, for example) as opposed to the arts.
He opens the article with, "Every now and then, writers at The Times lose a word. Mainly these are adjectives subject to misuse. Some years ago we were advised to let go of legendary. Similarly, don't expect to see iconic, which has become equally cheapened, in the paper much anymore.
The adjectival criminal I'd like to see handed over to the word police is elitist, especially in its relationship to the arts and popular culture. In the "elitist" Oxford English Dictionary, the first definition of "elite" is the "choice part, the best (of society, a group of people, etc.)," none of which sounds so terrible. But that is not what is meant when, say, classical music, my field, is scorned as elitist, as it regularly is."
This has bothered me for a long time. "Elitism" in the arts usually implies "stuck up," "snobbish," or worse. Yet we speak of "elite athletes" with no problem.
The arts are often considered expensive, only available to the "elite," not the ordinary Joe. Yet if you look at the cost of attending professional sporting events, pop/rock concerts, or other parts of pop culture, prices are certainly as high or higher.
Salaries for professional athletes or artists in the entertainment world are far more "elite" than those in the arts.
So why is elite a bad word in the arts, yet not so in other areas?
I say it's time to reclaim the words "elite" and "elitism" for their proper place in popular culture for the arts.