Surviving pop culture explosion
Since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed pop culture. Not everyone can admit that.
Such a revelation could indicate a serious character flaw.
Wikipedia — a form of pop culture in itself — defines it as “the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early-to-mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century.” The definition relates pop culture to the influence of mass media on society, breaking it down into categories including entertainment (movies, music, TV), sports, news (people/places in news), politics, fashion/clothes, technology and slang.
Basically everything found on social media.
I assume growing up in the ’80s, when mainstream pop culture really became all the rage, had its share of influence on my generation of pop culture followers. As a pre-teen, I loved MTV, John Hughes movies and Tiger Beat magazine. Michael Jackson, Prince and John Stamos posters lined the bubblegum pink walls of my bedroom. I begged my mom for parachute pants. I sang along to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” on my Star Studio dual deck cassette recorder.
As if I had any clue what she was really describing.
By high school, pop culture was everywhere I turned. Rock stars, supermodels and comics were celebrities we admired. My friends and I donned the acid-washed jeans, fringed jackets and big perms that hair bands of the era influenced. We listened to Bon Jovi tapes and watched pre-fame Kelly Ripa and other Jersey teens do the Running Man on “Dance Party USA.”
Who knew she would one day become a pop culture icon?
In college, my interest in sports and entertainment — and yes, pop culture — began to mold my career direction. I worked as one of the first few females on the Purdue Exponent student newspaper’s sports desk and later became a features editor, with the nickname Features Diva.
Way before anyone ever associated the word with Beyoncé.
Even in my professional career covering arts and entertainment, blogging and coordinating social media, pop culture has taken precedence. With today’s celebrity-focused society, there’s no way around it. Especially when having a presence on Facebook and Twitter, which a media role practically requires. For the most part, I love it. Then, this week happened.
And I felt completely overwhelmed.
Whether it’s been the highly publicized “19 Kids and Counting” child molestation story or Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender journey making the cover of Vanity Fair, pop culture has dominated mainstream media. The topics are nearly impossible to discuss without polarizing us as a society. Everyone has opinions, especially on social media, and they certainly don’t all mesh. With those two particular headlines, there are both extremely vocal supporters and dissenters.
That’s human nature.
Both stories have connection to reality TV, a form of entertainment I admit to watching. Also a possible character flaw. Not that I don’t believe it has become a major vice for our society. The trend almost borders on obsessive. This form of pop culture is consumed at such extreme rates, most of my non-TV-watching friends’ heads would explode. Seemingly everyday people land reality TV gigs, and suddenly they are celebrities. The farce is that reality TV is often scripted and highly edited to create drama and place people cast in those roles in perplexing situations, causing a stir of emotion.
For those who would rather stay indoors and watch TV than go outside and hike, yes, that is entertainment. And that trickles down to the younger generation, especially through social media. For those who can’t believe anyone would actually pick TV over a hike — my Colorado friends come to mind — a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, reported on parentstv.org, says the average 8-year-old child spends eight hours a day on media; teens typically more than 11 hours of media a day.
Pop culture overload.
The site also reports that reality TV episodes have increased to 57 percent of all shows. And, according to WebMD Medical News, since the boom of reality television in 2000, cases of eating disorders in teenage girls ages 13-19 have nearly tripled. It’s also been reported that reality TV causes anxiety for viewers. I know just thinking about watching an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” makes me uneasy.
I can’t do it.
Of course the solution is to limit our exposure to TV and social media. It’s possible, especially by canceling cable subscriptions or turning off smart phones and electronics during meals and important family time. That may sound easy, but go out to a restaurant or bar and see how much media, mobile and otherwise, surround us on a daily basis. Pop culture is everywhere.
It’s how we handle it that can make all the difference.
April E. Clark can hardly recall life before the smartphone. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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