Friday, February 7, 2014

to hell in a handbasket we go

I wanted to hate Wrecking Ball. An anti-fan of most things that fall under the umbrella of American pop culture, I didn’t want to see the video, listen to anything about the scandal surrounding Miley, and above all else I flat out didn’t want to hear the song. My avoidance was mainly rooted in a general distaste for the way that many media icons are manufactured in this country. On the whole, I find most of these folks to be talentless puppets that are the result of agents and publicists and producers and not really the product of their own raw passion. That initial inspiration most likely existed at one point, but once the masses get a hold of you, you’re usually destined to become the output of a formula.

At any rate, I managed to avoid the aforementioned song until several weeks ago when a friend of mine (out of the blue) texted me the lyrics, “I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALLLLLL.” Puzzled by this random outburst, I mentioned the text to my boyfriend who was sitting nearby.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me,” he said. “Did you see that Chat Roulette video on YouTube? It’s hilarious.” My dubious look caused him to pull it up on the computer. The clip consisted of a man in minimal to no clothing video-chatting with random strangers while lip-syncing to the song that was playing in the background. I rather quickly disregarded the humorous scenes in the video and instantly paid attention to the music. “Dammit,” I said. “I like this.” The beat was catchy. The chorus stuck in my head for the remainder of the day. I found myself listening to the song at work. I was hooked and consequently forced to acknowledge that I’m not above succumbing to the siren song of generic American pop music.

This, however, supports the point that I intend to make.
Given that daily life often feels difficult, it’s not surprising that the entertainment industry has, in some ways, dumbed itself down. [Pop] music is handed to us in a digestible form that requires no effort to like or understand. It’s the equivalent of junk food; it is processed and injected with fillers to the point where often the artist’s own voice isn’t even recognizable during live performances. Similar things can be said about reality TV. Most of these shows aren’t enriching our lives, but are instead providing entertainment in a simple format that can be passively absorbed. When we sit down and turn on that television, we turn off our brains.

I am of course guilty of the aforementioned offense. I love me a little trash TV and have been known to watch episodes of Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives because I just didn’t want to think about anything. However, my concern with this lies in the latent effects of engaging in this behavior. Much like Miley’s song stayed in my head for the remainder of the day, are these shows having some kind of influence? Don’t we inevitably become a product of the things that surround us? Am I doomed to start caring about the same things that the characters in these vapid shows focus on?

My intent here is not to sound like a self-righteous hipster whose tastes are superior to those of the masses (I swear). I’m also not saying that everything that’s wildly popular is inevitably bad or worthless. However, I do worry that because certain types of media are so accessible and prevalent, people don’t bother to seek out anything else. It’s also a concern that this issue is self-perpetuating: as “x” of a particular type becomes more popular, it is mimicked and reproduced in various forms. The formula is created and the output spreads. And in the case of American media in particular, it all happens virally.

This would normally be the part of the post where I make a predictable call to action. I’m going to avoid that this time around since I’m not sure what words I would use to drum up an army. I merely wanted to comment that hearing Miley Cyrus’s song sent me down a depressing thought spiral regarding the insidious nature of America’s media culture …it’s like a motherfucking wrecking ball.

1 comment:

  1. I feel you Jos. I'm not as concerned about our professionally manufactured culture as I am about what's happening online and on social media. "Meme" culture, viral videos, sensationalism... We make idols out of trite things and I think it's making us all dumber (myself included).