On this page Ill put my ideas regarding pop-culture. Ill discuss various psychological elements of this facet of civilization and analyze the Music, TV and Movie industries to try to find any implications or generalizations that can be made. So really, Ill be playing make believe. Ill be pretending that I can examine pop-culture objectively; that Im qualified to evaluate it. The truth is, Im as much a product of pop-culture as anything I write about, so Im pretty much just presenting theories and opinions. Dont take it too seriously. Im likely to get a little frank on this page, but dont get offended. Last time I tried this, I sounded very negative, so this time Ill try to keep a pleasant, or at least indifferent disposition. But no promises.
To understand pop-culture, you must first understand its most powerful and influential denomination. That denomination is of course twelve-year-old girls. For many different reasons, the various industries associated with pop-culture cater to them. The following is an updated version of the now famous TYOG theory.
Lets look at the circumstances under which a TYOG exists. She has recently left elementary school, and she now wishes to leave childhood. She realizes that she is almost a teenager, and this seems to have a very intoxicating effect on little girls. Theyve been looking forward to teenhood since the first time they saw Saved by the Bell. They imagine being teenagers with their friends when they play. To a little girl, a teenager is the ideal person, and all she hopes to achieve in life. With the jump to junior high, the dream is suddenly achievable. Maximum attention is put toward becoming a teen, and all that it entails. Heres how they attempt to advance their adolescence.
One of the more obvious practices is a change in style. This probably came even sooner than age twelve, but has suddenly become vitally important. A girl will start dressing like a teenager. They can choose one of two methods. Or both, I suppose. The first and most popular is the cute method. Shell add accessories like glitter and chunky shoes and those hair things to make herself look cuter with respect to the ever changing standard of whats trendy and whats ridiculously tacky. It would seem that these changes are not necessarily to attract guys, because they really dont raise your sex appeal. Perhaps you seem a little more cool, but guys arent really that interested in nail colors, especially at this age. Its more reasonable to think that the accessories are intended to advance their public image with respect to other girls, who, of course, are the sworn guardians of public images as we know it. Theres nothing very wrong with the cute style change, except possibly making the girls a little more vain or superficial. The alternative style change Ill call the sexy method. Girls start wearing clothes designed to show more skin and arouse guys. This I do not like at all. I dont think twelve year olds should be wearing anything that implies shes looking for sex, which is exactly what some clothes do. I dont want to sound like grandpa, but there truly is a time and a place for those clothes, and it is not middle school, or even high school. And hopefully, by college you will have grown out of it. Ive noticed a disturbing trend as risqué clothing keeps sinking to younger and younger children. Hopefully this will be rectified as the human race matures, but dont hold your breath. Bottom line, Id like to ask anyone reading this to limit those clothes to times when youre looking for sex. That goes for you too, Brendon.
But while a girls clothing changes are obvious, the personality change is far more significant and far more destructive. From what I can tell, its based on a central theme of compliancy, creating a nationwide unity among the demographic that would scare Hitler. (But there I go again, relating TYOGs to Nazi party officials) Keeping in mind that twelve year old girls are more conscious of their public image than any other being on this planet, its not nearly enough to dress like the status quo. They must always have their entire way of thinking in agreement with the popular opinion, whether it means calling yourself stupid, being interested in boys, or enjoying pop music. And here is where we find the root of pop culture as we know it. This force that compels girls to band together behind what is hip and profusely express their association is what drives so much of the entertainment industry. Its what I call the law of TYOG support. Lets look at how:
Something that has always mystified me was the popularity of songs that suck. Lets face it, pop music has steadily gone down hill since the sixties. Pop music has gotten to the point where the musical aspects are gone entirely, and were left with songs that are super cool or super hype. Lets look at rap music first.
First of all, rap as a genre does not suck. Though it is performed in a monotonous manner, what the songs lack in melodies can be more than made up for in rhythmic lyrics, poetic depth and background complexities. A truly great rap song will contain all of these elements. Suffice to say, I havent heard too many great rap songs. The rhythm part is down for most performers; most rappers have a rhythmic understanding deeper than could be displayed in, say, rock music. Theyve done amazing things with accents and meter. However, the great rappers are losing ground to rappers who just shout stuff. The simplistic shouters have gained popularity in the past few years with their blatant vulgarity and self promotion. Which brings me to the content aspect. I dont know who decided that rap music should only deal with greed and hatred. The only love songs Ive heard are pretty much graphic descriptions of sexual abuse. I dont think its because the songs arent being written. I think its because we decided that rap music should be ultra-cool, and should deal only with ultra-cool people singing about how ultra-cool they are. Rap music does not target TYOGs, but it makes people who think theyre above pop music think that its the REAL cool music. And so an entire musical genre has been effectively pigeon holed into the dark aspects of low life. There are of course exceptions, but not nearly enough. The back ground aspect of rap music has come along. You can get some really nice beats in rap music, which is probably the main source of their popularity. Kids listen to music that makes them bounce these days. However, I think they havent reached their potential. Most of the stuff is synthetic, which is okay except that it kind of scares me to think that so much of our music is being created by machines. Often enough, theyll through some instrumental into the back ground. However, this is almost invariably a one or two measure loop, playing the same 8 beats over and over again. I think the rap industry could be revolutionized by chord progression even where the rapper doesnt change pitches. Rap as a genre has the potential to reach the heights set by classical music and Jazz, if the people would start treating it more like music and less like cool pills.
The boy bands present a similar problem with completely different roots. This is where the TYOG theory comes into effect. Twelve year old girls are trying to prove that theyre older than they really are. What do older girls do? They like boys. Obviously, boys are the key to maturity and therefore hipness. Unfortunately, twelve year old guys are a complete mess. Theyre at the very lowest point of their life, and are generally undateable. So how can girls be boy crazy to prove how cool they are. Enter the Boy Bands, histories first musical performers with zero concern about music. These guys are around for the sole purpose of giving the Twelve year olds a target for their affection. If you say youre nuts about the boy who sits next to you, youre admitting that you are less cool than him and youll eventually have to confront him. But if youre infatuated with a Boy Band member, youre not obligated to follow through and you become cooler by association. And once it becomes general knowledge that a band is cool, nothing can stop it because of the law of TYOG support. They are now competing with each other to prove how much they love the boys, and that equates to big bucks for whoever all that money goes to. Oh yeah, the people who closed Napster. It only makes sense that the music itself has little to do with anything. It is written and released with sales figures in mind. If they ever pump out anything good, its either because somebody decided to give a damn or it was by accident. Or it wasnt really good but you thought it was because they said so on TRL. The boys themselves have talent. Unfortunately its completely untapped, and the fault is the writers. If youve got five guys who can sing well, you dont write everything in unison. And Ooooh yeahhh bay-beee! solos should be used sparingly. Lets get some good tunes going, and cut out some of the synthesized bangs. I always thought Bye Bye Bye would be an awesome song if they sang it a capello except for an extended drum section specializing in toms and basses. Youd think theyd be so popular now that they could try new musical fields without worrying about profits, but the boss says stick with what works. Its good business.
Brittany and Christina are in the same boat, only they became role models instead of sweethearts to appeal to the twelve year olds. Most things in the previous paragraph applies to these divas too.
What about the white guys who dont listen to rap or Brittany and the Boy Bands? Theyve got their Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, assuming Im misspelling that right. This rock is in the same state as rap, and bands like these portray rock as a lesser art form than it truly is. It loses its melody to become like rap, only without the cool rhythm and beats and with unnecessary electric guitar. again, far more popular than it ought to be.
There are of course bands out there who dont fall under these categories and who make really good music. They are the exceptions, and our times will not be remembered by their sounds.
Im done whining about music. Now onto
Fortunately, television comes in many channels and many different times, and so targets many demographics.
Theres MTV for the TYOGs. Its perfect for them, in as much as it is constantly giving them updates on what is cool and what is no longer cool. This is the Wall Street Journal of vapid cool. A lot of teens watch it, and the sooner they grow out of it, the sooner they can be real people.
Theres FOX for young guys. Definitely a boys station, though it has many programs that are low class unisex. I applaud Fox for its willingness to air shows that are less than mainstream, because theyve turned out some beautiful stuff. However, I chastise them for their pandering, which is ever present in so many of their shows.
Theres Nickelodeon for kids, which has unfortunately taken a bit of an MTV turn lately. Hopefully I wont have to change the theory to eight year old girls. While Nick isnt necessarily as pure as it was when I was little, theyve got some really great shows that are successful because they are really great shows. Not the least example is Sponge bob Square pants, which statistically shouldnt be successful with action-loving boys or action-loving girls. (thats the new stereotype) However, more and more often they start pandering just like the Fox people and brainwashing like the MTV people. The newer Cartoon Network has much less of these.
ABC, CBS and NBC have the right idea. They target where the real money is: uninteresting 30 somethings. Most shows are designed to entertain boring adults. Look at the recent sit-coms, game shows and reality series. Nothing you would bother watching unless you were a boring person, and with out the hip ness thats associated with youth targeted broadcasting. However, a lot of these programs have their merit. Im just saying they seem to target the uninteresting middle aged demographic.
For smart people, theres only news. You cant learn anything on TV unless it happened today and involves famous people. I take that back, there are some good documentaries.
What do I watch? Mostly reruns of good shows. Old sitcom episodes, SNL repeats and such. I tune out during Prime Time and come back in for the late night talk shows. The talk shows are pure because they do whatever they want and dont worry about who theyre targeting.
Which brings me to
Movies also target many different audiences. Unlike TV, it is possible to see a really good movie. Movies typically fall under these categories:
This movie will contain unnecessary special effects and will always have bad acting. Very entertaining though. Pulls in a lot of money. Hype makes people think they need to see the movie instead of making them think its a good movie. Will have commercials that bring you into the picture. Theyll say things like Your last hope Will terrify you Its back instead of Watch these people get scared.
Almost as predictable as Action, slightly better acting. Necessarily has a soft rock sound track. Will find a way to stretch a simple plot into two and a half hours of nothing happening. Commercial will ALWAYS give away the ending, as some one says I love you. You should see one, but seeing two is redundant.
This includes all of the childrens movies. Usually suck but occasionally are golden. Ten times more likely to involve singing than a Marlin Brando flic. If you want to enjoy one, dumb down to their level, lower your standards, and give it a chance; comes in handy while babysitting. At least they have plot variety, though the ending will always be happy. If its not animated, better burn it, because live action Disney movies are theorized as a modern reincarnation of Satan.
Like action, only cheaper.
Like regular life without the boring parts. Can make for a very good movie. Can also make for the most painful three hours of your life. If it doesnt have babes in it, better make for the comedy section.
I cant believe this is even a genre. Probably because the other genres wouldnt accept it. Youll know one when you see it. Whatever you do, do not go into that theatre. Youll come out twice as dumb as when you came in. But thats good business.
Probably the only movies worth seeing or renting. Comedies encompass the widest variety of cinema, from Monty Python to Death Jam. So how do you decide if its a good one or a brendon? (I decided that a brendon is a bad comedy) Is it made by SNL studios? Does it involve anyone whos ever been a cast member on SNL? Anyone whos hosted SNL more than twice? Was it advertised during the commercials on SNL? Has there been a parody of it on SNL? These are all signs of a brendon. They are of course wildly inaccurate, but then again, so is brendon. I just look at the cover. If you wanna find some real good ones E-Mail me.
They say that were the most intelligent generation in history. However, the flaws in today's pop culture are rooted in the tendency for everyone to be a moron. Apparently, the media is getting smarter, because the industries have each twisted our own shallowness and insecurity into large rolls of bills.
While the music industry is the most troubled, TV and Film are feeling the effects of a regressing populace. Heres hoping our kids will realize that the music we listened to sucked. I cant see how they could find a way to make it worse, so logically their independence will come through improvements, and we may reverse the late centuries trend. In the mean time, Im going to go listen to some Beetles.