Tag Archives: pop culture

Subcultures in the Mist

As I’ve mentioned before in posts that I don’t feel like digging up, I’ve been getting involved in a new hobby. I’ll spare you the details about what this hobby entails, as I have a whole other blog for that, but I’ve thrown myself completely into the subculture that surrounds this hobby and it’s fascinating.

In every culture, there are heroes and tropes and easily identifiable figures. There are law makers and governments: figures that impose order. There are merchants and moneymakers. There are storytellers and stories to tell.

And as you go down the ladder, going into sub-cultures and sub-subcultures, you start to realize that this is true all the way down, that there are, in fact, turtles all the way down. I find it fascinating that, even in a rapidly expanding global subculture, there are still all these little hidden pockets that mirror the society at large and you can go your whole life and not know they’re there.

At times, since I’m still not fully embedded in this subculture, I feel like an observer, an intruder with a tape recorder, like Alan Lomax. There are leaders and tales of ancient history and eldars and songs and I’m there to witness it all. It’s very strange, like I’m straddling a line.

But now I think I’m making way too much of it and it’s time to move on.

-D-

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Filed under Day-to-Day: What's Going On, Events, Releases and New Things

Culture Defined by Pop

Alan Lomax was a folklorist who spent the majority of his life preserving small, local folklore traditions. He believed that globalization was encroaching on the traditions of countless subcultures and slowly but surely pushing them toward extinction. He was also, potentially, a manipulative, manifest destiny toting jack-ass, but that’s not important here.

The main crux of his beliefs were that the important local traditions and stories and music of Americana would be subsumed by the mass media and rendered meaningless. Instead of the local storyteller, we would listen to radio programmes. Instead of being taught by the local wise-man, we’d be taught by a Federal mandated school curriculum.

Cultural individuality would be gone and we would be left with one, big, happy social identity.

He was, for the most part, correct. Television and the Internet have become one of the primary means that we identify with one another. If I mention Grumpy Cat to an individual who lives on the opposite end of the county, he will know what I am talking about, even if we were born and raised in completely different regions and sub-cultures.

If I talk about Game of Thrones with someone, we will connect. If I mention Downton Abbey, we will bond. Culture is rapidly becoming defined by popular culture; state-wide, country-wide, world-wide. It is steadily and irrevocably moving toward this one, great global culture.

I don’t think this is a scary thing or an arguable thing. It’s just a thing; an inevitable consequence of a communication network that binds together every corner of the globe instantaneously.

What is interesting is the fact that there are still sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures that are forming and blossoming within this new global identity. Even with the ability to unify everybody under one pop culture umbrella, there are still individuals who huddle under their interests and beliefs, separate and isolated from the main culture.

The difference between then and now is that these people have self-determined their own sub-culture. While in the olden days, Appalachian musics and stories were determined by geographic isolation and blues music and the Harlem Renaissance was determined by socio-economic political subjugation, the various sub-pop-culture interests and traditions that are starting to flower are solely determined by the interests and desires of the individual wishing to define themselves.

And that is not nearly as bad as Mr. Lomax feared.

-D-

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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

One Dry, Vodka Martini

 

We expect, in our heroes, the ability to last. They last from generation to generation, fighting the good fight, no matter if that good fight completely changes from now to then. As the times progress, so must our heroes. Their methods grow more modern. Their attitudes fit our own. Their morals reflect what we expect in a good person.

James Bond has been around, in one form or another, since the early 1950’s. The world is an extremely different place since he first stepped onto the stage. The Soviets are no longer around. Communism is not perceived as a threat. And we worry less about nukes and more about religious zealots with some simple explosive and the will to use it.

He has, however, managed to stay relevant for over six decades. His creator has died. The actors who played him at first are beyond the age where they could play him now. Six men have played him (not including the movies made by other studios), numerous authors have written him and who he is as a person has changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic ways.

But, at heart, he remains the same. He is a lover, who will not let any harm come to his woman, but he will also not stay with them very long. He is a killer, but only kills when it is necessary to survive or necessary for the greater good, not for pleasure or sport. He is tough, intelligent and charismatic.

He has money, but not enough too much money. He likes nice things and appreciates good drinks and fine foods. He has a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips and is always interested and invested in learning more. He is curious, brave and determined to see matters through.

If one wanted to see a perfect, masculine ideal, a facet of the ideal, you would do no better than to see the evolution of James Bond. Or, perhaps, you would do no better than to see how James Bond has influenced a perfect masculine ideal.

The movies continually and routinely do well at the box office, even at their low points, it was never enough to kill the series. They keep making the movies and writing the novels, which means he appeals to the popular culture, which means he means something to the popular culture. He is, for a large number of people, an ideal.

This is how our culture defines a hero. He is British in a lot of ways, but also American (independent, takes law into own hands, almost a vigilante, in spite of his government agent status, see the number of times he is at odds with law enforcement and his own agency to see the vigilante aspects of his character).

A society’s heroes (and their villains) define them.

What does James Bond say about us?

What does his appeal say about us?

He has lasted 60 years as a relevant, pop culture icon, while remaining much the same in a majority of ways (assassin, drinker, womanizer, violent, sensitive, charmer, vicious), what does that say about our culture that promotes such a creature as our hero?

If you cast the light in a different way, you could make him a monster; a sociopath who destroys lives, a government robot so heartless that he will have sex and murder within the same hour. He is so controlling that his drink must be the same and made the same way every time.

You look to a culture’s heroes and you learn so much about them.

What does James Bond say about us?

-D-

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

The American Hero

If you want to learn about a society, you look at the people they revere as heroes; the men and women that they hold up on a pedestal.

For example, if you look at the old Greek myths, their heroes were bloody warriors with long lineages that stretched back and far. They were men of honor who bore their burdens with savage ferocity.

With Americans, you have to look to our comic books.

As silly as this might seem to someone who hasn’t been paying attention to the major box office draws of the last decade, comic books reflect who we, as a culture and a people, worship as heroes.

First, there is The Individual. It is always someone who has, by Fate or by choice, who has gone alone. They have shunned (Bruce Wayne) society or been shunned (Peter Parker). They must define themselves by themselves. They cannot allow society to dictate who they are. Even when it’s a team of heroes working together, they’re on the fringes of society (see: X-Men).

Second, The Vigilante; we like the hero who is apart from the Law. This builds off the earlier point: we like someone who doesn’t allow legal red tape to stand in their way. We want someone to stand up and strike a blow against what’s wrong in the world without having to wait for cops and judges and juries. We want speedy justice.

Almost never do we see the legal ramifications of a hero’s actions.

Thirdly, he cannot kill. At least, not willfully. There must be compassion. There must be mercy. The hero must be better than the rest of us. He will not let bloodlust or rage govern his actions. The hero stands apart from us in every, emotional, way. They must make the decisions we would not be capable of making, which is why we trust them in the role of the Vigilante.

Our heroes, the ones we revere in culture on television and movies and pulp fiction, are men and women emotionally unavailable, socially on the edge and disregard the law as beneath them.

In short, Americans revere sociopaths in flashy garb and gaudy dress.

-D-

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts