Why Popular Culture No Longer Matters
Most of us grew up watching TV, going to movies, and listening to music and just about all of us are influenced by every bit of what we’ve been exposed to whether we follow it closely or not.
What’s front and center in our lives now 24/7 are updates about the situation of our society.
And that is a great thing.
No matter which way you see things, people of all stripes are paying much more attention to current events and less to traditional forms of entertainment. This is unprecedented in most of our lifetimes.
For those who grew up during WWII I’m sure everyone was riveted to the radio and reading the newspapers, which for most areas came out twice a day in that era.
And yes, I haven’t forgotten 9/11 which was certainly front and center in our collective consciousness for quite a while, but for the most part it wasn’t over as long a period as we’re seeing now.
But here’s what’s different between now and then. Back in 2001 after the Towers went down, we were all looking for answers and unity and for a time we had the latter but certainly not the former.
In fact, people today are much more skeptical as to who was behind the World Trade Center hijackings than there were then.
And this is because more and more of us aren’t being distracted by pop culture.
How is this possible when there are more ways than ever to get music, movies, TV shows? With a dizzying choice of streaming and subscription services, content is more widely available than ever. Add in podcasts, along with even more ways to access and buy books, get news, and opinion, we’re bombarded with information, distractions, and entertainment.
So with literally a firehose of mass information at our fingertips, how does popular culture, which has absolutely shaped our nation with how we speak, dress, act, and yes, believe, not matter any more?
Because everything is so fragmented and niched these days, it’s very difficult to control the narrative as centrally as it was in the past.
Yes, we all hear about the mainstream media and it’s influence and how they control the message.
This AP News article written on December 27th, 2021 cites viewership declining:
Cable news networks were the main form of evening entertainment for millions of Americans last year. In 2021, weekday prime-time viewership dropped 38% at CNN, 34% at Fox News Channel and 25% at MSNBC, according to the Nielsen company.
The decline was less steep but still significant at broadcast television evening newscasts: 12% at ABC’s “World News Tonight” and the “CBS Evening News;” 14% at NBC’s “Nightly News,” Nielsen said
And in the entertainment industry:
From The Federalist February 16th, 2022:
From Wordle To The Super Bowl To The Oscars: American Culture Is Adjusting Amid Mass Media’s Rapid Decline
There are many explanations for the Oscars’ steady ratings decline: a dearth of nominated blockbusters, politics, length. But the most influential factor would seem to be choice.
The ceremony was first broadcast in 1953 on NBC. Bob Hope hosted. Thirty-four million tuned in. As recently as 2014, the Oscars were drawing audiences comparable with broadcasts in the 1980s. The most-watched ceremony of all-time remains 1998’s affair, when 58 million viewers watched “Titanic” win the night. Only nine million people watched last year, continuing the ceremony’s steep and dramatic decline.
What about sports?
An article from boston.com columnist Chad Finn published on February 16th, 2021 talks about the decline across the board in all sports:
Ratings couldn’t have tanked more if we’d all simultaneously lost our remote controls. World Series ratings were down 36 percent over the previous year. NBA Finals ratings were down 51 percent. The Stanley Cup Final was down 61 percent. Individual sports fared no better. The Masters, played in November rather than April, was down 49 percent.
This was last year, but you get the picture, bread and circuses aren’t doing what they used to do.
In case you’re not familiar with what the term bread and circuses means, here’s a definition from The Free Dictionary:
Bread and circuses is a translation of the Latin phrase panem et circenses , which appeared in Juvenal’s Satires, and which alludes to the Roman emperors' organization of grain handouts and gladiatorial games for the populace.
In other words:
With the proliferation of so many sources of information, we are no longer as a whole, beholden to only a few sources. That said, a lot of the many media outlets available are controlled by a very few conglomerates, so there is the danger of propaganda flooding our consciousness as always.
But the alternatives cannot be so easily controlled as in the past. People are getting away from traditional TV networks, social media websites, and news sources.
With this rise of alternative forms of communication and news, more people, especially people in my generation (born in the 1950’s and 60’s) who feel totally displaced and very distrustful of what our parents considered rock solid resources of honest and unbiased reporting are moving farther away.
Fewer and fewer of us (again speaking for my generation) even care what washed up morons like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen have to say about Joe Rogan’s content on Spotify much less care about what any “celebrities” think.
It looks like Americans of all ages are finally through with listening to unpatriotic, ungrateful, and frankly unintelligent famous people have to say about anything.
Listening to tone deaf ultra rich famous people is a complete waste of anyone’s time and more and more people have tuned them all out.
We are awake and paying attention now, and this is an exciting time to be alive.
I firmly believe we are in a renaissance and I can’t wait to see where this goes.