Column: modern media is destroying the definition of pop culture

Music, movies, even books now are part of a “throw-away” culture.

I’ve been messing around with the idea of pop music and movies, suggesting neither are nearly as important or influential as they were several years ago.

They used to affect our behavior; that is, our dress, drug usage, sexual norms, and even our basic morality. But today, they’re simply throw away commodities, not nearly as valuable as they once were.

The same depreciating worth is true for pop literature.

In the past, there were only a few major authors — Twain, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc. — who were represented and promoted by agents and publishers and everyone involved became relatively rich. Today, there are literally thousands of writers who don’t have agents or publishers; instead, they publish their own work. (I can tell you all about that.)

Very few become wealthy. As with movies and music, their social influence has withered.

That’s also true of television. In the past, there were only four or five channels and, on certain evenings, most of the public were simultaneously watching the same shows; for instance, “All in the Family”. “Gunsmoke”, or “MASH.” Subtle though it may have been, through these shows TV promoted and influenced the behavior and morality of hundreds-of-millions of people.

It’s different today. Today, there are hundreds of TV channels and who-the-hell knows who’s watching what?

The biggest, recent TV hit was “Game of Thrones” and it only attracted less then 15 per cent of the evening’s viewers. In fact, the number of hours the public spends looking at TV has been in a precipitous decline for the last 15 years. On any given evening, 20 percent of the viewing public isn’t even watching the new programing; instead they’re watching old shows or sports.

As with literature and movies, TV’s ability to manipulate our beliefs on a massive scale has greatly diminished.

And speaking of movies and TV, in the relatively near future, kids will start making their own shows. (This is already happening on a small-scale, local level.) And they’ll watch their products on virtual reality headsets, which is vastly superior to viewing movies in a theater.

Indeed, I predict movie theaters won’t be around much longer. (Remember, you read it here first.)

The massive crowds that used to characterize the rock scene are vanishing. Some acts can attract a few thousand, but most of the newer bands perform for a couple hundred fans.

So, what’s happening here? Well, put quite simply, I think pop culture is shot-to-hell. The modern, digital age in all its manifestations — especially the iPhone — is destroying mass entertainment as we once knew it.

If you’re a recent high school grad who’s planning to run off to Hollywood and become a super-star or join that world-famous rock band, you better think again. Fame and super-stardom ain’t what they used to be.

As Andy Warhol observed many years ago: In your generation, everyone will be famous for ten minutes.

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