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Posts Tagged ‘pop culture’

This is likely going to cause the wrong kind of controversy.  Let me say up front this is NOT a post which is suggesting anyone has to ‘get over’ anything, or that anyone is wrong in viewing the world the way they do.  This is about sharing my view.

There is a real and justified cry about the lack of “people who look like me” on TV.  “Me” in this case being anyone not white.  What I disagree with, however, is the argument that the television is therefore full of people who look like me; me in this case being actually me.

Just because she’s white doesn’t mean she looks like me.  Especially if you consider the level of make-up and even Photoshop involved in many ads these days, she probably doesn’t even look like herself!

Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I look at the TV or movies and see it filled with representations of me.  I don’t.  I see beautiful, skinny, wealthy women who wear short skirts and high heels who feel incomplete without a man.   They don’t represent me.   They don’t look like me.  They don’t act like me.

The very, very rare time that a woman is depicted as anything other than skinny and beautiful, she is usually heavy and beautiful, and her sole purpose is to prove that the heavy girl can still get the guy.  Which is great, except it’s limited to roles where the story plot *is* the heavy girl can get the guy.  The average woman on TV is still skinny and beautiful as the default.

Because of the difference in how culture views each of us, there is also a difference in how we view the culture, and how we interact with it.  They say giving a white doll to a black girl lowers her self-esteem, but giving a black doll to a white girl raises her empathy.   I think this is sort of the same idea.  Any two groups might have very different interactions and reactions to what is otherwise seen as the same catalyst.

When black people see black people on TV or in the movies or other media, they see themselves – because of the general lack of it.  But when white people see white people on TV or in the movies or other media, we don’t necessarily see ourselves.  We often feel worse about ourselves because of what we see.  It fuels our insecurities rather than building our esteem.  It’s like the opposite of the dolls.

The irony is, both groups look at today’s media and see someone other than us.  So it’s entirely accurate to say that everyone who isn’t white isn’t properly represented in media, but that doesn’t mean everyone who is white is.  It’s an oxymoron, but it’s true.

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Part of what contributes to the general apathy and sense of absent culture in America is that very little of America’s culture actually means anything!

I realized this at last when watching a documentary about the rise of Ghost Dances among Native American/American Indian (please pick your preferred adjective) tribes.  These dances had profound meaning to the tribes who practiced them.

That’s what got me thinking about what anything in American culture means, and realizing it means nothing.  There is no spiritual aspect to our dances, there is no deeper heritage connected to our daily lives, our folk-tales no longer teach or warn but have been watered down and sterilized for the masses by Disney.  Even our holidays have limited historical context and are either highly commercialized or highly alcoholized.

Drive fast, shoot guns, buy shit, get drunk, and live happily ever after!  Fuck Yeah, ‘Merica!

Parts of the country have communities that share more among their neighbors than merely streets of address but there is very little depth to any aspect of uniquely American culture.

Even parts of it that aren’t unique have less depth for us than for others.  We have a pitiful voter turn-out rate.  I remember watching the news a few years back where people in Iraq brave IEDs, suicide bombers, and more just to cast their vote.  In the US, a heavy rain can keep someone from the polls.  Even among those who had to fight hardest to get the right to vote, there is a sad turn-out of voters.

Without any meaning to why we do some things, the things themselves become empty gestures, traditions without foundations.  No wonder so many people seek meaning elsewhere, from other places in the world.  There is nothing that American culture has to offer the spirit.

We have fast food outlets in hospital cafeterias while proposing laws regarding the size of our sodas and whether or not we can have table salt in restaurant dishes.  We are a culture that has embraced a certain level of daily insanity to the point that we can’t even see that it’s insane.

Meanwhile, I curl up in my 58 degree Fahrenheit house eating cold food with my fingers that society tells me should be eaten hot with utensils while discussing the insanity in our politics and social interactions, and am thus informed of how not normal I am (totally complementary, by the way) by those closest and dearest to me, leaving me to wonder what normal is for everyone else because this *is* normal for me, I don’t know any other way of living and thinking.

Sometimes we focus too much on what other people think.  Sometimes we don’t think enough of how other people will feel.  We play a strange balancing act between herd mentality and individuality.

We dress just like everyone else in the latest brands, then get upset if someone else is wearing the same thing we are.
We want to have the same stores available no matter where we go but we want everything packaged in single servings.
We go to the same restaurants but have ten caveats for every meal we order.

It used to be if you visited a different town, you had different stores, because stores were owned by people instead of nation-wide franchises.  If you wanted Bill’s Best Garden Tools you had to either be lucky enough to live near Bill’s town, have a relative in Bill’s town, or you had to travel.

Later we had Bill teaming up with Ted to bring Bill’s goods to Ted’s store in another town, Bill’s goods being popular enough to demand a greater supply and Bill being able to produce enough to supply a greater demand.  This was great, especially if the local Garden Tool guy’s goods weren’t very good quality, or maybe you just really didn’t like him.

Now you can travel not just town to town but state to state and find not only the exact same stores, but the store looks exactly the same, the building is built the same, the inside is laid out the same.

Sure, it’s nice I guess, but we’ve lost so much richness and creativity to this kind of universal conformity.  It means nothing we buy really means anything, either.  Half of it is disposable to begin with, and for all we value individuality we have almost nothing that is truly unique (and then we go to other countries and tell them to be just like us!)

So now we have useless traditions filled with meaningless objects and we can move anywhere and have all the things we’re used to and yet we belong nowhere.  And the more we’re forced to be the same the more we act out to set ourselves apart, the more we look to other cultures to find some sense of meaning and fulfillment because American Culture is rooted in being dissatisfied with what you have and who you are: you don’t make enough, you don’t own enough, you aren’t thin enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, your clothes aren’t new enough, your beat poetry isn’t edgy enough, and no one understands you!

So what?

Maybe the reason no one cares about American Culture is there’s a whole lot that isn’t worth caring about.  But there is some that is.  There are some beautiful, golden threads to be found in this vast American tapestry we have woven.   I think my next entry will be looking at some of those.

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