As we (I) are often prone to dissecting the relationship between corporate AmeriKKKa and popular culture (by way of advertising, “marketing”, etc.) on this site, I figured I’d throw this out there today. It’s something I have thought about a great deal, but it all came to a head while “reading” a copy of Men’s Health (gag, I know) during lunch. Forget why I was looking at such a worthless piece of dreck for a minute though, and concentrate on my point: We have lost the ability to be critical in today’s society.
I think we all realize that much of what we “consume” in our consumer culture, at least where entertainment and media are concerned, is garbage. But how did it get to be this way? I often hear the old dudes proclaim that “It’s always been this way” but I refuse to believe this. It’s gotten worse, for sure, and the biggest reason is that people are afraid to call something crap when it obviously smells, even when it’s stuck to their own shoe.
I was recently guilty of repeating that grandmotherly phrase, “You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” only to be repudiated by a fellow GloNo scribe: “But you get the most flies with shit.” And that’s it in a nutshell.
Take a look at Men’s Health (or any other magazine for that matter) and you find our culture reflected, the price tag still attached. Political Correctness dictates that they can’t really call a spade a spade; advertising revenue and the necessity to guard against ever saying anything that might offend anyone for any reason (for God forbid anyone take issue with something and make anyone’s job any more time consuming or difficult) make the rest of the self-censorship complete. And what are you left with? A bunch of drivel about nothing, with that cheeky (or “cute”, as one ridiculously corporate-brainwashed friend would say) tone that substitutes for voice.
What’s clearly missing from most media today is commentary. Analysis. Opinion, good or bad. Criticism. And it’s no wonder. We as individuals never want to have to defend anything we say or believe, because dammit, that’s hard work: thinking, forming complete sentences, arguing, writing, acting in a manner that inherently accepts responsibility for the outcome. All of these are frowned upon by society today. We’re taught from a very young age to look for the bright side, to view the glass half full, to be happy and content with whatever our situation in life might be. Seek comfort in like others. Work within the system. Do as you’re told. Advocate, but don’t agitate. Most importantly, respect others’ right to have an opinion—no matter how stupid or uninformed that is. “Hey, maybe Brittany Spears does have something to say!” After all, 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong, can they?
Well, the Elvis fans weren’t—but they could have been. The Brittany fans, their opinion and right to hold it respected (of course), are fucking morons. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone needs to say this, out loud and loudly. Speak up and defend the opinion: Sting is an irrelevant and pompous blowhard; George Bush is the dumbest man to ever walk through the Oval Office, let alone sit behind the desk there; Modern R&B sucks so bad, it tarnishes the very term “rhythm and blues” (of which it has neither); Robert DeNiro has forgotten how to act and is but a caricature of himself. And on and on and on.
These are the things that need to be said. These are the ideas that will form a better society, which will allow us to differentiate, choose, and grow. If you’re not comfortable with having your own voice, fine; sit there and shut up. But remember, those who criticize are to be encouraged and appreciated, not vilified.
“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.” –Edgar Allen Poe