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Out of the Loop: Do We "Have To" Watch This Show or Read That Book, A Commentary On Pop Culture

Unless you have been stranded in the wilderness with no form of connection or communication with the rest of the world, some people would find it an offense for one not to know "common knowledge" about pop culture.

By this, of course, we refer to events, people, or trends that have risen to a certain level of widespread collective consciousness in the context of mainstream pop culture such that it would be improbable for one not to know or even to have heard of them.

But there comes a point when it becomes too much of a chore as people around you constantly tell you that you "must" or "should" watch this or that, otherwise you would be left out. This puts on too much pressure on you, something we now call FOMO, and defeats the purpose of watching, reading, or listening something: for one's enjoyment of it.

Essentializing any form of art limits it, setting parameters on not only what we are supposed to receive, but how. As Wesley Morris wrote of our increasingly moralistic approach to culture, this “robs us of what is messy and tense and chaotic and extrajudicial about art.” Now, instead of approaching everything with a sense of curiosity, we approach with a set of guidelines.

Our response to pop culture has turned from appreciation and personal enjoyment into avoiding being out of the loop and the silent judgment from our friends and colleagues out of our ignorance. And so this elicits a more negative response to pop culture as opposed to a general, neutral stance on any form of art.

Creating art to dominate this discursive landscape turns that art into a chore — in other words, cultural homework. This kind of coercion has been known to cause an extreme side effect — reactance, a psychological phenomenon in which a person who feels their freedom being constricted adopts a combative stance, turning a piece of art we might otherwise be neutral about into an object of derision.

(Image credit: Huntley Patton/Flickr; C. Jonel/Wikimedia Commons)


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I think the author is reading WAY too much into it. It's called "pop" because it means "popular". Stuff can be popular without needing to shoehorn into some kind of social disorder diagnoses. If someone enjoys something, it stands to reason that they would want others to enjoy it, too. Frankly, if someone is having the "reactance, a psychological phenomenon in which a person who feels their freedom being constricted adopts a combative stance, turning a piece of art we might otherwise be neutral about into an object of derision", that's their problem, and really nothing more than the form of an infantile temper tantrum.
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I do my best to stay out of the pop culture loop as much as possible. I don't feel a compelling need to know who killed whom on "Game of Thrones," or who the latest Grammy winners are, or any of that crap. I'm happy to stay in my own world with my own likes.
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It's possible to absorb pop culture through social interaction - to wit: my children. Even before they watched Star Wars, they recognized all the characters and understood the main pop culture references, as well as the general plot line.
When I asked how they knew all those without actually watching the movie, their answer made me realize that they learned it just like learning a new language: they observed its use in real life and their brains made the connections.
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