Wow, it has been a long time since I have dipped my toes into the cold, polluted waters that is pop culture. Given the slag that is being shoved down our throats, it’s no wonder I want to avoid movies and television like Jenny McCarthy avoids common sense. It does make it harder to write a blog post on pop culture, but it does give me fewer headaches.
Not to sound like a bitter old man, but speaking as someone who remembers Bruce Jenner as a man, I am depressed at the state of mainstream entertainment these days. I must emphasize mainstream, because there is good music, movies and books that can be accessed, if one is willing to hunt it down. Mainstream entertainment, for lack of a better expression, is shit. Where do I begin? Let’s see. Taylor Swift, shit. Justin Bieber, shit. Rap and Hip Hop, shit. Let’s explore the world of television. Duck Dynasty, shit. Big Bang Theory, shit. Reality television, shit. American television has de-evolved. It is a knuckle dragging, club toting Neanderthal. How anyone with any brain cells left can watch this garbage, I will never understand. Are we that far gone as a society that people are entertained by sticking a camera in front of any idiot and watching what happens? Then we have the movies. Ah, the movies, that bastion of escape that has twisted itself so that it’s looking at its own ass now. Do we really need Hot Tub Time Machine 2? Hell, we didn’t need the first one. Just like a Mel Gibson Chanukah party, things have fallen apart in a bad way in Hollywood. I cannot place the blame totally on Hollywood. We as consumers are just as culpable for the garbage that is being spit out. As long as people will wait in line for 50 Shades of Grey premieres or go to the latest Night at the Museum shit show that is out there now, things will not change. Plus, for the love of everything holy, please shut up about the new Star Wars movies that will be coming out. Who gives a rats ass? Didn’t you people learn anything from the last crap fest that were the prequels?
Overall I guess I am bitter and angry. I know all these things I have mentioned are not made for my demographic. I just see the decline of entertainment. I see the decline of people in general. I mean I know the shows and movies I grew up with were not all classics. Hogan Heroes and Gilligan’s Island, I am looking at you. People have always wanted base and simple entertainment. Let me take off my shoes after a long day and just give me entertainment I do not have to think about. We have always had it and we will always will. It just seems worse now that we have much more access to things as ever before. As long as people give a shit about or even talk about Honey Boo Boo, we die a little as a nation. Now excuse me I think I am gonna read a book.
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.