Thursday, March 1, 2007

Pop, Goes the Culture

This post is in response to Virginia’s response (kind of makes me think about that song that they use to teach elementary school children about US geography about taking the Train to different US states and learning about them – VA smokes a pack a day, oh wait, that’s ME but anyway – how fitting that the name goes to a teacher!) to Cape Town’s lament (hey how’s the weather in Cape Town, by the way? Do you guys dress like this over there?) about getting older. By the way, I am always going to refer to “anxiety about getting older” as Cape Town’s Lament from now on.

So to recap from those posts, Cape Town feels American pop culture slipping away from him as he becomes a politics and Harold Bloom-loving, shitty-Aerosmith-listening-to old man. He finds himself wondering whether other 24-year-olds feel the same way as he does about his detachment from his own popular culture (evidenced by the fact that he cares more about the 2008 Presidential elections than Britney’s new do, and that he has to feign interest and knowledge when discussing American Idol). Meanwhile Virginia feels that music is worse than it was, concedes that he doesn’t watch American Idol, but takes comfort in the fact that he likes 24 and is kind of curious about how Justin Timberlake feels about Cameron Diaz having coitus with Djimon Honsou from Blood Diamond.

Now I think I’ll take the last part first and tell you what JT is thinking about Cameron Diaz and Djimon Honsou. He is thinking one of two things:

1. A dick in a box is forever: DeBeers
2. Dick in a box: she’ll pretty much have to

Now that I’ve resolved that I’d like to answer Virgina’s question with a question of my own; how many high school history teachers do you see wondering what JT thinks about CD and DH? It’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know. But I can surmise. And what do I surmise? I surmise that any high school teacher that’s thinking about what Justin Timberlake is thinking is probably thinking about it with little kids. Little, history student kids.

This leads (rather seamlessly) into my answer to Cape Town’s lament. So to comfort Cape Town, I say, fear not (lest ye be renamed Cape Fear Town), for you are not that old, yet. Sure, you are older than you once were. Younger than you’ll be. That’s not unusual. But all you are reflecting in your lament is the fact that pop culture means different things for different demographics, especially different age groups. There are different strands of pop culture for different ages, and items of a particular strand are often pretty dull to those in other age groups, while other items straddle or even transcend age groups. Harry Potter transcends age groups, as does sports.

Take me for example, at around age 9 let’s say. I freaking loved video games. Legend of Zelda, Toe Jam & Earl, Streetfighter II - you name it, I became less tan playing it. I remember noting to myself that most adults (like my parents and nearly all of my friends’ parents) did not share my passion for what I saw as the most glorious possible use of my free time, and I swore that I would never get bored of playing video games. Well guess what 9-year-old Boston Dissentator, video games, like American Idol and caring what the lead singer of N*SYNC thinks about Mary Jensen and Solomon Vandy, or caring about Britney’s new do, are for kids. So I propose that as we get older, we leave much of the pop culture of our younger selves behind, and take up the pop culture of older age groups, which is much better-suited to people of our age, like 24, or Arrested Development, or The Office, or Dave Chappelle (better not bring your kids!).

Now the great thing is that we don’t have to discard everything that we liked from our younger self’s pop culture, like Harry Potter or the New York Mets, we can keep the really good stuff forever. Of course, as we hold onto things like music throughout our old age we may at the same time exchange kinds of music, like Aerosmith for the older, shittier Aerosmith, or the Beatles for Oasis, the Shitty Beatles. Cape Town implies that we are getting older and our tastes in music are to blame (we’ve gone soft in our old age, wear Cosby sweaters, read On the Road, and listen to sad bastard music), while Virginia says he certainly feels that music is worse now. Well, which is it?

This is a very difficult question to answer, and I can answer it, but only by invoking the wisdom of the great sage known as Chris Rock. Chris Rock is a perfect example of why we shouldn't fear getting old - both because he is old and awesome, and because we like him. He’s 41 years old, yet he still loves rap music. While he still loves rap, he seems to admit that some of it isn’t as good as it used to be. Is this true? If so, why? I guess I can think of two reasons and you judge whether they make any sense. The first reason is that, for economic and technology reasons, every day it becomes easier for any idiot to make music and to get access to music. The same proportion of people listen to Elvis and Sinatra as they did back then, it’s just that now there’s eleventy billion other people listening to all kinds of stuff that didn’t exist (or we couldn't get as readily) back then and is taking center stage today. The second reason is that the entertainment industry demands that artists (at least those who aren’t already rich and can make whatever they want) produce things that will be a safe bet for instant mass sales, and this means that simplicity and catchiness reign supreme. In the words of Chris Rock, “if the beat’s alright, she will dance all night." (WATCH IT!!!!)


CapeTownDissentator said...

Good stuff, brotha -- iplomatically paving the middle road between my anxiety and VA's JT lovin' self. Sub-comment/question: Just as we can or can't forgive a great artist for their latter-day sins, can we forgive ourselves when our taste for pop culture veers from what is actually popular? In other words, why can't I forgive VA for caring about JT?

BostonDissentator said...

I think before you worry about that you should work out why you are feigning interest in and knowledge about American Idol. Honestly what is the matter with you (these days)?