November 21st, 2006

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11:29 pm - on not watching tv...

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on not watching tv... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 23rd, 2006 - 02:22 pm (Link)
I thought pop culture referred to what is currently popular?

Not necessarilly. Technically, it refers to the popular media of any given time period. Shakespeare is pop culture. Just not for us. But you're right, I was more specifically referring to a general awareness of the world around us today. Knowing there was a movie called Borat is more useful at this particular moment than knowing there was a movie called Star Wars or a movie called Casablanca, but knowing about Star Wars and a Casablanca still makes you somewaht pop culture aware, and especially given their popularity, likely gives you at least some stake in the ground to converse about movies with others.

I like to know enough about current films and TV shows to follow discussion had by the 100,000 people obssessed with Lost, Grey's Anatomy, or 24. That only requires knowing either character or actor names or what they look like.

That's what I'm mostly looking for. So I'd say you're less unaware than you claim to be. I'm not a fan of Lost or Grey's Anatomy, but if I happen upon two friends talking about Lost I'm not relegated to not knowing what Lost is. I know its a TV show. I know the basic premise. I'm aware of who a couple of the actors are. As opposed to if I happened upon a couple friends talking about semi-conductor physics and I'd understand very little.

I don't bother to know celeb stories or pop music though, because for the stories people are generally happy to fill you in if they mention one, and I just don't LIKE most of the music, so why waste my time?

Because it makes you well rounded and you get a chance to like new stuff. I mean, I like chicken. I know I like chicken. Why should I ever try to eat anything else when I might not like it?
[User Picture]From: marsinthestars Date: November 23rd, 2006 - 05:31 pm (Link)
I'd say you're less unaware than you claim to be.

To be fair, I rarely ever refer to myself as 75 or as pop culture illiterate. More often than not it's other people who refer to me as such when I'm going on about how the hell they have lived to be x age and never seen The Sting/To Have or Have Not/Charade - you actually coined the "75 year old" one on an interview meme, and it amused me, hence referencing it here.

Why should I ever try to eat anything else when I might not like it?

I didn't say I MIGHT not like it. I hear it all over the place in the US, generally on different radio stations, at friend's houses, in clubs. I really dislike the vast majority of it. Every so often I come across a beat I like, but I can't think of a single pop song I'd say I really like. There are very few I can even tell apart.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 29th, 2006 - 04:55 am (Link)
ok, so would you consider your inability to tell things apart a failing on your part? Not saying you can't have preferences. I more mean don't you ever sit around thinking "i wonder what the fascination is with that MC Hammer and those New Kids on the Block all the kids are listening to?"
[User Picture]From: marsinthestars Date: November 30th, 2006 - 03:54 pm (Link)
I don't consider it my failing that I can't tell pieces apart - I consider it a failing on the artists' part.

I can tell any Mozart piece by the music, the specific style. I can tell any Dave Matthews Band song by the same telltale signs. I can tell when it's John Mayer and everyone's like "Dude, his voice is just like DMB" and no, he's not, he sucks, he has no backup melody and nothing interesting going on, just 3 chords over and over. And then there are the 100,000 artists who all DO sound the same, because they ALL use the same 3 chords over and over and either scream or chant or whine into the microphone. A few of them are "popular" and a few others were last year or the year before. I have no idea why, and this brings me back to my point - no, it's not my fault they suck.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 30th, 2006 - 04:19 pm (Link)
You have to be careful there. I don't think its a failing on either part. I think its a lack of familiarity. People who aren't a fan of any particular type of music like to say "all ______ sounds alike" and I've heard blank replaced with heavy metal, hip hop, bubblegum pop and classical. Its not you can tell Matthews from Mayer because the specific inflections of their voices are dramatically different whereas Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson's are too similar. With few exceptions, the entire human vocal range is a pretty small subsection of the audible spectrum (I know you know this, as a voice major, but I'm recording for posterity). It's more that you are (self-)trained to recognize the nuances betwee Mayer and Matthews or different Motzart pieces and not trained to recognize the nuances between, say Lil John and Dem' Franchise Boys. It's the same as how some people can't tell the difference between Chinese people and Japanese people, but anyone from either of those races will tell you that they don't look alike at all. Or the way some people think all black people look alike. It's just exposure.
[User Picture]From: marsinthestars Date: November 30th, 2006 - 04:42 pm (Link)
That's where I disagree. Yes, people say "____ all sounds alike" when they don't know any of them. But I am saying in a literal sense that most pop music uses the same chords, the same inflections - they're all copycatting one another and because of that they all sound alike.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 30th, 2006 - 05:09 pm (Link)
I understand what you meant. And I disagree. The specific chords are not what makes one group sound like another anymore than the specific instruments. If that were the case, it would be your failing as you would only be able to tell music apart by recognizing huge distinctions. I mean, yes, I'm sure you can tell Ozzy Osborne from Jay-Z. But that's not the case. You can tell different Mozart pieces apart because you're listening for specific things. But can you tell two different orchestras apart who play the same Mozart piece? Or two singers who do the same aria? But they're using the same chords and the same inflections. Different pop groups aren't using the same inflections. They're not copying each other. influenced, sure, but not copying. You're just not experienced enough to tell the subtle differences. They're not even subtle. They just feel that way through non-exposure. A life long hip hop fan with no classical exposure wouldn't be able to tell Motzart from Beethoven for the same reason. But with out a doubt, I can guarantee you that no hip hop fan would ever confuse Biggie Smalls with Tupac Shakur (even though they were always thought of as similar and copying from each other). And no pop fan would ever confuse Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.
From: ludimagist Date: November 23rd, 2006 - 08:24 pm (Link)
Technically, it refers to the popular media of any given time period. Shakespeare is pop culture

You have to be careful here. Shakespeare as it was played at the Globe 400 some odd years ago was pop culture. Culture that was popular in a historical context doesn't really qualify as pop culture now. You can't really call cave paintings pop culture in a modern context either.

That said, the debate over what is high and low culture is a big one and neither side has that great an argument.

This thread sort of reminds me of the Great Books debate that was hot when we were undergrads.

What it comes down to is cultural literacty. I've heard it argued pretty well that not to know Shakespeare at some level is to be ignorant of both high and low culture since it is referenced constantly (even in things like kid's cartoons and ads).

I think you're really talking about current mass media content awareness moreso than pop culture.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 29th, 2006 - 05:07 am (Link)
granted on the Shakespear issue but you are are being a million times more technical than I intended in this specific instance.

That said, no I was talking about total cultural awareness. Not just current mass media. I merely used a specific example to illustrate it. My real question in essence is "why do people take delight in being ignorant to what they consider low brow entertainment?" But saying it that way seems insulting, and it isn't meant to be. Point being, if I don't know something when other people are discussing it, I feel stupid and insignificant. No matter what the topic. Especially if everyone else in the room knows about the topic. I'd hate being the only guy in a room full of russian literature scholars who didn't know everything about all the books, or at least know enough to intelligently ask questions and follow the conversation. I'd also hate being at a brain surgery convention where I was the only non brain surgeon and everything was going over my head. And I think American Idol and the Borat movie come up in conversation with the general public far more often than The Brothers Karamazov or treatment for hydrocephalus, and most of us are around the general populace a lot more often than we are around russian scholars and neurosurgeons, so it seems to me that having a working knowledge thereof is only practical.

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