Pop Culture = Poison?
American pop culture has reached its absolute nadir in the last few years -- this is something we all know. I don't think anyone would argue that there's ever been a greater proliferation of grade-Z entertainment polluting our lives than right now. You know what I'm talking about: reality TV. Clear Channel radio. Vin Diesel films. Lip-synching teenage girls who sell bazillions of records.
But my question is, are you resisting it or are you accepting it?
The way I deal is simple -- I don't allow the stuff into my life. If I do, it just brings me down. So I don't listen to commercial radio, don't have cable tv, have never watched American Idol. I can't tell you Ashlee Simpson's hair color. Watching MTV or listening to K-Rock isn't just depressing; I feel like it's truly bad for me -- like eating a bucket of KFC. It makes me feel sick and slimy afterwards.
And I need to make a quick note here -- I know that there's some great stuff on cable tv (especially HBO -- Ali G, Six Feet Under, etc) and I know that, while spinning the dial of mainstream radio, you may get lucky enough in your travels to bump into some Queens of the Stone Age or The Mars Volta. But these are exceptions, unfortunately.
Now this is my problem -- it isn't just inbred dummies who lap at the low trough of modern mainstream entertainment. It's smart people, too -- folks who know better. And this bothers me. There are alot of discerning, intelligent people I know who willfully indulge in things like The Swan and Good Charlotte. Of course, they know it's crap, and perhaps they see it as a guilty pleasure, or an exercise in kitsch...
But I really think that, no matter how smart you are, consuming bad art will make you dumber. Once you accept something that is mediocre, you have become ever so slightly more mediocre yourself. You are unwittingly lowering your standards with each hour you spend watching VH-1's latest "We Love the 80's" show or reading Us magazine.
There's a very acceptable level of "okay-ness" in the entertainment world now, and that's because we have gotten used to a lower standard of quality. Okay seems great compared to awful, so nowadays we get excited about stuff that's just average. Britney Spears' music has always been 100% manufactured, soulless, phony baloney junk, but now along comes Ashlee Simpson, who's somehow even more manufactured, more phony and less talented -- and next to her, Britney looks comparatively credible! You see what I mean? We're getting tricked!
My point is, don't let the bastards wear you down. Don't buy something just because the media keeps trying to sell it to you. The next time you find yourself settling down to watch an episode of The Anna Nicole Smith Show, stop. Turn off the tube and read some Mark Twain. Listen to Coltrane, or the B-52's. Feed your mind and soul with good music, sincere art, well-written books and inspiring movies. I'm not talking about being snobbish here -- I'm just saying, rather than eating a Twinkie, eat an apple. Because it's good for you.
You could be running on high-grade fuel but instead you're pouring sugar into your gas tank. Now, why are you doing that to yourself?