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Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

slot_machine In Adbusters’ last issue titled “A New Aesthetic”, a short exert caught my attention. The exert was from Bruce E. Levine’s “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic” and quite plainly explained America’s hunger for things that help us distance ourselves from “the real”. Levine explains that there is estimated 20 to 25 percent of Americans using psychiatric drugs, 7 to 12 percent with compulsive gambling addictions, and 10 to 15 percent who abuse alcohol and illegal drugs. In his list of unhealthy addictions and problems, Levine then begins to explain that there are millions of Americans who compulsively watch television, play video games, view pornography, shop till they drop, and play the stock market. Why is there a constant need to “get away”. It’s not imaginary, I’m only a second year university student and I feel the need to “get away” as I’m sure my profs feel a greater need. But my idea of “getting away” for some reason includes a sandy beach, with palm trees and rolling waves and a couple of beers.

I think it’s safe to conclude that growing use of drugs and growing rates of gambling can be linked to the increasingly harder to reach ideals that are being established by advertisements and the media.

It’s a funny thing how contradictory everything really is. Dr. Strangelove on multiple occasions made reference to that American writer who drove down highway 66 and wrote a book about America without ever getting out of his car. This reminds me exactly of how society is currently; desperately trying to relate with the real, claiming to be real, but indulging in an obsession with things and drugs that bring us far from the real. Maybe after all watching the marathon of “Laguna Beach” or throwing that quarter into that flashing slot machine is really just driving top up, windows closed, mouth shut, conversation-less, experience-less down a highway across the states. Maybe “getting away” should be redefined. No more bikini babes lathering on your sunscreen while you look out into crystal blue waters and your awaiting yacht, but lets “get away” in our own individual ideals formed and molded by our own thoughts and not by the flashing lights.

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tvI first heard about this at a party clever scheme at a party, some party guest was enthusiastically explaining his genius plan of advertisement for the new bag of chips. The second he finished illustrating his commercial idea conveniently ending on the name “Doritos”, a second random guest joined in the conversation with something like “hey! Are you guys talking about that Doritos contest?! Here’s my idea…”

In chapter 14 of Grossberg’s text, he explains the need to reject the idea of there being a single relationship between capitalism and culture. However, I begin to disagree, and this Doritos contest is the prime example of how capitalism’s relationship with culture is simple; bloodsucking. Having not heard or seen the commercials (mainly because I don’t normally watching television) I logged on the to Doritos website to find the contest rules. The way the contest works is buy a bag of the unnamed chips (like the one shown in the included picture) and not only give it a name but create a commercial for it for a chance to win a prize. What a contest. This is capitalism at its finest; not only do we want you to buy our products, but make our advertising for us to!

The reason why I find this case so interesting is for the reason being that is works! The current culture of the teens in which this Doritos campaign is targeted is a culture of interaction, technology and includes the mentality bigger spotlight on you the better. The contest is done and results and soon coming for the winner, however, one thing is for certain; the contest was affective, the chips were definitely purchased because of our current culture all those home video Doritos advertisements were posted and submitted. It’s needless to say that the marketing team of Doritos recognized the huge success in online participation. Doritos is just one example of a company sinking their teeth on the pockets of the youth, and forming a marketing campaign that like a puzzle piece fits with the main aspects of today’s popular culture.

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The first time I heard “Pork and Beans” by Weezer on the radio I was, to be honest, not completely impressed. Sure, it had a catchy melody, but it was simple, ordinary and done by them before. However, the second I saw their music video for this song I fell in love with it. What an incredible idea. The power and meaning of the song were completely re-defined by the music video in my mind, which by popular is it a hard thing to do. As noted in discussion about the textbook “Dancing in the Distraction Factory” in Dr. Strangelove’s lecture, the meaning of the song is usually reproduced by lyric and interoperated by video to some extent, and rarely does a video add anything to the original song. This was not the case, in Weezer’s music video they enhanced the song by creating a powerful meaning, using the genius idea of not hiring B rated actors to give mediocre illustration of half-hearted feelings, but by hiring average YouTube stars. The music video depicts these normal people who once discovered 15 seconds of fame online for their 10 second clips of humility or comedy as “some-bodies”. After showing my younger sister this video even she could spot the majority of the references to popular culture. “Pork and Beans” explains what Dr. Strangelove has been demonstrating through his show and tell of YouTube newscasts such as Phil Defranco, this being not only the way in which we gather our media, but where we get it from is certainly changing.

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From previous blogs you may gather my fascination in music and especially the guitar. Like all guitarists who have any sort of access to the internet, I am guilty of searching in YouTube any simple arrangement of words as; “sick guitarist”, or “guitar god” just to blow myself away with the abundance of talent. While in search of the next Carlos Santana playing behind a cheap webcam, I came across Sungha Jung. He is an incredible guitarist who is incredibly young. His YouTube channel features numerous popular song covers and a growing list of original song.

What particularly strikes me as fascinating about this channel, and the many other channels of this similar nature, is the text written in the blurb on the side of the channel’s main page. It is written by the guitarist’s father and it explains the obvious purpose of the site is to find financial support from a sponsor who is willing to aid in his studies rather than his commercial potential. This particular use of YouTube as a tool for recruiting financial support in a particular venture also illustrates similar conversation discussed in Dr. Strangelove’s lectures in regard to child exploitation. As seen in the YouTube video of David after dentist, a parent has posted video of their child for the world to see. The difference between David at the dentist and Sungha Jung, is that Sungha is using YouTube as means of furthering his education and life experience rather than a quick attempt to break a record of making millions of others laugh. This raises the question of is necessarily right or more justified to post video of your child playing an instrument in attempt to expand their horizons and future than it is for David’s father to post a video for mere public enjoyment?

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764px-delacroix_sardanapalus_1828_950pxIn reading Grossberg’s second chapter of We Gotta Get Out of This Place I came across the passage on page 75 about the corral between “those in power” and “the masses”. Grossberg explains that popular culture is the complete opposite of the “legitimate” culture of the intellectuals of society. It is later then explained, as referenced by Stally-brass and White, that even though those in power may be repulsed by the vulgar tastes of the masses, vulgarity will continue to function as the more “cultured taste”. In reading this I began to get confused as to how in fact the intelligentsia with similar sensibilities as “the masses” can find such opposing views of other formations as vulgar. For example in comparing stereotypical views of what is art and what is not, is a perfect example of how these formations prove similar and hypocritical of each other’s opinions, styles and behaviors. For example the stereotypical idea of art in the eyes of the intelligentsia may include a nude male or female. However, since the context that the piece of art was constructed may signify its beauty and respectfulness. The “vulgar” Grossberg may be referring to may possibly be the promiscuity projected in such music videos, primarily of the rap and hip-hop genre. The promiscuity most often includes female dancers wearing little clothing portraying their bodies as objects. However, promiscuity seen in historical art is protected by some invisible force that grants it respect due to the context in which it was painted in that particular time period. It would appear the time period in which we live grant us no permission to have our own ability to include such suggestive image without the complete label of “vulgarity” to it. However, for the record I am not defending any Britney Spears music video, I am just merely pointing out the similarity in the “legitimate” culture of the intelligentsia and the “popular” culture of the masses.

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Having always been a huge fan of various styles of music, I love to listen to whatever I am in the mood for. From anything from Neil Young to Greenday, I’ll listen to it on depending mood. However, after several lectures in our communications class I have found myself flipping to a certain track that fits my mood. The song is titled “Admit it!” by Say Anything; an indie rock band. The melody of the verses of this track are weak, and depict a voice that is more so talking than singing, however, this style seems suiting for the text expressed. Before I give an example of the lyrics, I want to quickly discuss why and what in particular these lyrics represent to me in connection to our lectures on ‘popular culture’. As Dr. Strangelove pointed out in previous lecture, he explain that Grossberg is stressing throughout his text the idea that in our current society meaning and meaningful content are being evacuated from our media and popular culture. As Dr. Strangelove points out; capitalism is producing individualism, and a society abandoning community where people are becoming self obsessed. This entry further explains a point I earlier mention in a previous blog titled “Losing Meaning”. In reference to a article in Adbusters titled “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization”, Haddow further explains the idea that in today’s world a culture of self-obsession is definitely apparent, whose meaning is virtually inexistent.

So here are the lyrics and a link to the song “Admit it!” by Say Anything:
Admit it!


Despite your pseudo-bohemian appearance
And vaguely leftist doctrine of beliefs
You know nothing about art or sex
That you couldn’t read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine
Prototypical non-conformist
You are a vacuous soldier of the thrift store Gestapo
You adhere to a set of standards and tastes
That appear to be determined by an unseen panel of hipster judges (bullshit)
Giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to incoming and outgoing trends and styles of music and art
Go analog baby, you’re so post-modern
You’re diving face forward into a antiquated path
It’s disgusting, its offensive, don’t stick your nose up at me

Yeah, what do you have to say for yourself
Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah
Yeah, what do you have to say for yourself
Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah

You spend your time sitting in circles with your friends
Pontificating to each other
Forever competing for that one moment of self-aggrandizing glory
In which you hog the intellectual spotlight
Holding dominion over the entire shallow pointless conversation
Oh, we’re not worthy
When you walk by a group of quote-unquote normal people
You chuckle to yourself patting yourself on the back as you scoff
It’s the same superiority complex
Shared by the high school jocks who made your life a living hell
And makes you a slave to the competitive capitalist dogma
You spend every moment of your waking life bitching about

Yeah, what do you have to say for yourself
Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah
And I say yeah, what do you have to say for yourself
Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah

Cause I’m proud of my life and the things that I have done
Proud of myself and the loner I’ve become
You’re free to whine, it will not get you far
I do just fine, my car and my guitar

Proud of my life and the things that I have done
Proud of myself and the loner I’ve become
You’re free to whine, it will not get you far
I do just fine, my car and my guitar, yeah

Well let me tell you this, I am shamelessly self-involved
I spend hours in front of the mirror, making my hair elegantly disheveled
I worry about how this album will sell
Because I believe it will determine the amount of sex I will have in the future
I self medicate with drugs and alcohol to treat my extreme social anxiety

You are a faker (admit it)
You are a fraud (admit it)
Yeah, you’re living a lie (hey) living a lie (hey) you’re life is living a lie
You don’t impress me (admit it)
You don’t intimidate me (admit it)
Why don’t you bow down, get on the ground, walk this fucking plank (yeah!)

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29557063_6d8b2639e8At the beginning of the year the professor in my environmental challenges course in attempt to grasp our attention to the awareness of the pollution caused by overconsumption through a couple of startling facts my way that without doubt scared me completely. Apparently if you took every Barbie doll produced since about 1960 and lined them up head to toe you could encircle the Earth about seven times! To me this presents two serious issues. The first being the most obvious what happens to all those Barbies when they are thrown out for the latest toy? After searching various websites I did come across any exact figure of how long it would take a Barbie to decompose, but it was said on most occasion that it would take at least up to a thousand years for the Barbie’s plastic self to decompose. A thousand years! And there are how many of these things laying around?!

This brings forth the second issue, which connects itself more so to our area of focus; how on earth are that many Barbies sold? This brings forth the re-occurring idea expressed by Dr. Strangelove in his class lectures, that the idea of our society to always buy more will never cease to exist. We now live in a world where you the major and prominent form of expression is by the things you own. How sad is this? By this disgustingly large figure of Barbie purchases than even young girls have adopted this ‘buy-more/own-more’ syndrome. Will the common attitude of society ever include sharing? Maybe it’s time to allow Barbie to redeem herself as potential educational-teaching toy and tool and advertise to young girls to share these toys once they are done playing with them, instead of having to produce millions of plastic dolls. And if this upsets the capitalist ideas of toy manufactures, let them over-produce the “Share-a-Barbie” instructional books… at least these will decompose quicker.

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