To start off with, let’s define culture. According to Merriam-Webster culture is : “the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education” or “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” I use these two specifically to address the question raised on my header. Does the current state of Pop Culture lend itself to these definitions? Do you get any sense of fulfillment by watching an Episode of “Honey Boo-Boo”? Do you think that generations down the road will be enthralled by the works of Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber? Will future archaeologist be filled with wonder at viewing old episodes of “Duck Dynasty”? I think and hope we all know the answer to these questions. Granted, these are not serious programs or really anything of lasting value, but to a lot of people they are. In the days of Da Vinci, Bach, Mozart and Debussy they were the pop culture “stars” of their age. The culture and works they have produced has lasted all these generations. We still know their names. Who is going to be able to name any of the modern pop stars or actors in the next 30 years? Heck the way things move so fast, let’s narrow that down to the next 30 seconds. I mean really, will Vince Vaughn or Matthew McConaughey be remembered? I really hope not.
So what does this mean? As a society, do we not produce anything of worth as far as popular culture goes? Are we as a nation so “dumbed down” that we can fool ourselves in saying that we watch “TLC” and still think it is “The Learning Channel”? As I flip the channels, I see more and more of vapid, soulless and meaningless shows. Even some of the cooking shows I enjoy are filmed like a stupid reality show. I don’t need to see some scripted emotions and fake personality telling me what they personally go through to try and cook bacon. I don’t understand the mindset of Americans. Television can be a worthwhile, entertaining AND educational endeavor. Instead we get cookie cutter reality shows, comedies that are just a bunch of stupid one-liners and music that is no longer music. I mean a “singer” today doesn’t even need to be able to sing. With the auto-tune program that is out there anyone can be a hit as long as they are pretty. What kind of legacy are we leaving? Will it only get worse? Why do we insist of more of the same thing. I used to fault the networks, but they only provide the garbage that the American viewers are demanding. Harlan Ellison described television as “The Glass Teat” and he is right. We suckle at it while it pours poison down our throats. I can’t imagine what will be happening next.
Pop Culture is not culture. Not in any real, binding sense. Not anymore. It is too disposable. One reality show is replaced by another, the lines get blurred. No one can tell one pop start from another. One blockbuster movie blends into the next blockbuster movie until you get the sense that we are just watching a rehashing of the same idea just in a different shiny, brightly colored package. I just want a little substance here and there. Not everything we watch or listen too has to be a life changing event, but it does need to have some components that are memorable and add some value to our experience with it. I understand people just wanting to be entertained and maybe because of my age, I don’t see the appeal. I do understand though that eventually there has to be a limit. Saturation has to start to take effect and American will revolt again this plastic and heartless dribble that is current pop culture. I do hope one day people will take off their headphone and have this sudden realization that : “Hey maybe listening to Justin Bieber is not a good use of my time” or maybe while channel surfing, they have this epiphany that “hey maybe I should read a book”.
Only time will tell.