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  • Friday, November 03, 2006


    Pop Culture Always Lies

    In the US, we live awash in the effervescent bubbles of popular culture: its references, its images, its music and sounds. Sometimes, even, its words. Usually the words are signature phrases from movies or TV shows, expressive of a dramatic moment or a theme. It might be a configuration of words which astounds us or amuses us.

    In popular culture, phrases can become touchstones, common experiences for many people. Such experiences serve to bind people together and provide a semi-universal pool of cultural memory which people can draw upon. Depending on the group or sub-culture, people draw upon the wide availability of these cultural denominators to speak with each other from common experience. I guess it's called "watercooler culture."

    I have great respect for words and the power of words. Even simple words and phrases can move me to tears or laughter.

    I am a reader. Moreover, I read for pleasure, to acquire information and to gather informed opinions. I like curling up with a book for the afternoon. I like exploring the unknown pleasures of a book new to me. The cynic in me suspects that I am a dying breed in the US. Am I hopelessly out of touch with today's urges for twitch games and txt msgs and blipverts?

    While "teh internets" provide all kinds of sources and information, I still find it limited and surprisingly spotty. Books, for all their faults, often contextualize the information they contain. As much as I love web surfing and the serendipitous discoveries generated by following links hither and yon, the very nature of the medium insures wildly varying levels of quality and accuracy of the information found.

    I think our popular culture (read: TV, movies, and music) has become a sinkhole, swallowing our energy, our thoughts, our visions. We believe this pop culture is fulfilling our dramatic and artistic needs, telling us stories, shaping deep modern mythologies. I think the situation is precisely the opposite: the myriad stories drown us, eat away our souls, and leave us desperately empty.

    Just because I'm writing this screed, that doesn't mean I'm immune from the siren song of US popular culture. I watch TV and movies. I listen to music. I'm not an anchorite. I'm not speaking from an ivory tower where I only read "good" books and never sully my brain with mass entertainment. I partake of pop culture all the time.

    The point? I think there's a reason so many people in the US are gullible and believe the most specious crap our leaders put out for consumption. I think the reason is the populace's unquestioning acceptance of the products of our media. Why do we believe the lies? Because we spend hours each day identifying with false premises on TV. Can we tell fact from fiction? Really, can we? I'm not so sure.

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