In response to yesterday’s entry about the value of discussion my mom (who goes by Barbara to the rest of the world) left a comment with a link to a New York Times article by Kurt Andersen titled Pop Culture in the Age of Obama. The whole thing is well worth a read, but this paragraph is especially relevant for yesterday’s discussion:
But irony of ironies, after literature was evicted from mass culture, pop culture itself began to fragment and lose its heretofore defining quality as the ubiqui tous stuff that everybody consumed. In a typical week nowadays, fewer than 6 percent of Americans see the most popular scripted series on television. So we have arrived at a strange new historical moment. Literature is just another (minor) sector of the culture industry, but now even the mandarins agree that certain pop artifacts — “The Sopranos,” “The Simpsons,” Radiohead — are cultural creations of the first rank. Meanwhile, popular culture and mass media are no longer very popular or mass. By and large, both entertainment and art appeal to niches, cultural tribes that range in size from tiny to smallish.
I like the idea of pop culture being about the ideas, not necessarily the content (which makes sense in a medium is the message sort of way). Whether or not the whole country watches American Idol, everyone knows the premise.