A couple of years ago I read an excellent article by English satirist and media personality Charlie Brooker on how after years of writing about and immersing himself in pop culture, he’d largely dropped out from following or even understanding their appeal.
It lead me to think what parts of pop culture that I am immersed in, and what others I don’t follow at all and largely a mystery.
Probably the strand of pop culture I have least understanding of currently is pop music. I’ve never been someone to follow pop music of the day with major interest – in the late 1980s and early 1990s the cassette tapes I was listening to the most were the Beatles. But I did have a vague knowledge of the top hits and bands of the day.
These days I don’t even have a vague knowledge. When names like Lorde (I was only able to insert her picture by googling her name) and Lana Del Rey get mentioned I have no idea what their singing voices sound like, let alone what their songs are.
But as I’ve never really followed pop music with much passion that’s never really bothered me that much. What’s bothered me more is how it’s been happening with TV; especially the recent proliferation of popular and critically-acclaimed TV series originating on Pay-TV channels like HBO that for one reason or another (usually time) I haven’t got around to watching. Shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones I’ve never seen a minute of and yet they have such a hold on pop culture discussion (and serious debate on them) that new episodes become news stories on their own; being outside the discussion on these shows makes me feel a tad jealous. I have watched the first four series of Mad Men so at least that’s something I can follow in some detail.
My main area of pop culture interest is cinema and while I never get to watch as many films as I’d like (but who does?) I’ve always felt I had a finger on the pulse of Western mainstream cinema. Maybe that’s changed somewhat with the proliferation of comic book superhero films which with the odd exception have never really interested me. This is especially so with The Avengers and the related films which have been so successful that I’ve almost felt like at times I should see some of them to at least understand the universe and why they’re so popular.
What does this all mean? I suppose it’s made me reflect that perhaps I’ve been too narrow in my pop culture interests – I haven’t even touched on fiction writing which I’m woefully lacking in knowledge of. I think having a broad following on modern popular artistic culture and whatever format it’s in is an important part of understanding society in general. So perhaps I should soon record and watch that 6 hour show of music clips and local TV station plays every weekend.