Pop culture and being out of the loop

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LordeA 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.

3 responses »

  1. I think you’re comparing two completely disparate things and trying to understand why you don’t like them. While you may be ‘behind the 8 ball’ on many things in pop culture, it isn’t because that is something you ‘must’ do, but perhaps because, as I think I’ve gleaned from FB, you are very, very much into cricket. While cricket is not necessarily ‘pop culture’, I am sure you devour everything related to cricket as I or someone else devours the latest developments and backstories based on Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. I couldn’t even tell you what the stick the use in cricket is called, but I bet you could tell me the percentage makeup of the different ingredients the formulation of the stick is based on.
    Saying you don’t have the intricate knowledge of ‘American pop culture’ is doing your culture a grave disservice, as someone in Britain who is so versed in soccer they know what the players eat. Americans approach sports very religiously, but many of us do not approach them like Britons do soccer and Australians do soccer and cricket.
    I haven’t watched a single film, I mean sat down and paid attention since I found Game of Thrones, the book and the movies. I spend hours…hours reading the backstory and theories and I can tell you what Young Griff was wearing when he sailed for Westeros, and the entire theory behind the idea that the cat’s in King’s Landing are really old Targaryen Queens.
    A lot of it, too, perhaps, is that modern music is terrible. But maybe that’s just because I’m old.

  2. I don’t think music is as good today as it was in the 60s and 70s, but there is a lot of good stuff today (including Lorde). You just have to make an effort to find it, as radio is not the primary source of discovering new music, as it was in my day. I guess most young people watch videos on YouTube and download music from iTunes and other sources–I have satellite radio and listen to the channels that play new music and also read record reviews. I am still a CD buyer, and likely will be to my dying day. Sometimes I buy something I don’t like, but at times I discover something great.

    I have acknowledged before and will again that I don’t get hip-hop. I won’t say that it’s bad, it’s just not my thing, and I think that’s mostly a cultural thing.

  3. I think you’re comparing two completely disparate things and trying to understand why you don’t like them. While you may be ‘behind the 8 ball’ on many things in pop culture, it isn’t because that is something you ‘must’ do, but perhaps because, as I think I’ve gleaned from FB, you are very, very much into cricket. While cricket is not necessarily ‘pop culture’, I am sure you devour everything related to cricket as I or someone else devours the latest developments and backstories based on Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. I couldn’t even tell you what the stick the use in cricket is called, but I bet you could tell me the percentage makeup of the different ingredients the formulation of the stick is based on.
    Saying you don’t have the intricate knowledge of ‘American pop culture’ is doing your culture a grave disservice, as someone in Britain who is so versed in soccer they know what the players eat. Americans approach sports very religiously, but many of us do not approach them like Britons do soccer and Australians do soccer and cricket.

    Yes, that’s very true about cricket. I follow (and write it about it) it avidly and it’s a sport that can be quite lengthy so yes following that means other things fall by the wayside.

    In an interview during the 1970s, Orson Welles said film stars didn’t have the allure they once did because it wasn’t the greatest thing to be in the world; it was to be a pop star. If he was around today, I’d reckon he’d say being a sports star was the greatest thing in the world as culturally in many ways, it’s supplanted those artistic forms in relevance to large segments of the population.

    Re: American pop culture, I wasn’t really talking about a particular national culture, more the art forms. I have as little knowledge of Australian modern music as American.

    Also, soccer isn’t that popular in Australia. It has a following but it isn’t the mass popularity that it is in most countries around the world; it’s probably similar to America in that regard. Australian Rules Football, rugby union and rugby league have greater holds through various sections of the country.

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