Jump to 1993.
I remember the first time that I didn’t get a pop culture reference. It was the eighth grade, and I ran into some of the cool kids at the mall.
“Do you like Alice In Chains?” they asked, jeeringly.
“No, I don’t know her” I said, deadpan, oblivious.
Jump to 2010.
What the hell is a Snooki? Honestly, when I first started hearing the name, I thought it was some kind of mascot, not just some dopey loudmouth volunteering to be pilloried and paraded around like the village freak, totally oblivious to the real nature of her “fame”.
If I was unread in the popular culture back in ’93, I must be functionally illiterate in it by now.
Let’s consider Justin Bieber. Even from my cave, I know who this kid is. I think it goes without saying that his music is saccharine pap. But what is really interesting is the vitriol that his name conjures up. If you walked into a high school today, pointed at some random 15 year-old boy, and screamed “FAG!”, people would think you’d gone off your meds. For some reason, it seems that people think that poor little Justin is fair game.
Justin Bieber’s forgettable music isn’t the problem. The problem is that we give a damn.
To say that our culture is driven by celebrity is a tired insight. This isn’t anything new; every age had its revered athletes, actors, musicians, artists. The madness is that today, the very idea of celebrity has been subverted. Celebrity has become a tautological concept. Why is Paris Hilton famous? Because she’s famous! She was the tip of the iceberg in the solipsistic degeneration of celebrity.
Jump to my elevator ride to work.
The 15-second news flash on the little monitor displayed a story about last weekend’s big box office releases. What information was displayed? Ticket sales. How the revenue compared to projections. This is a bit like reading a restaurant review that focused only on the sales figures for Friday night’s rush.
Jump to “The Learning Channel”.
A show about a bakery showcases the snarky and quasi-scripted, pseudo-authentic interactions of a bunch of pastry chefs. A show about little people showcases the snarky and quasi-scripted, pseudo-authentic interactions of a bunch of little people. A show about parking officers showcases the snarky and quasi-scripted, pseudo-authentic interactions of a bunch of parking officers.
Jump to what we have to look forward to.
Art isn’t the work, it is the gallery.
Celebrity isn’t the actor, it is the agent.
History isn’t in the textbooks, it is in the balance sheets.
Jump to the next tab, the next clip, the next meme.
We’re so busy being titillated, we don’t care where the next jump will land us.