Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chasing Pop Culture

I'm reading more Brummett for the intro to our major class, and thinking about how frustrating the study of more or less current pop culture must be.  There's this constant chase after the newest, coolest (heck, that's probably just another sign of my outdatedness), whateverest pop culture phenomenon, but then, by the time the book's out, and used for a year or two, whatever was new then seems hopelessly outdated, even to me.

And five years, when you're working with an audience of 18-25 year olds, is a long time.   So whatever was cool when this book was published (2011), probably isn't cool now, and certainly won't be in three more years.  Is Lady Gaga still a thing?

In contrast, really old stuff never loses whatever appeal it has/had, because it's hopelessly old anyway.  So students may like it or not, but that liking level doesn't seem to change radically from year to year.

What the hell is with the whole "Sharknado" thing?  Did anyone actually see the movie, or is this just so out there that people pick up on it to laugh at?  (Chaucer doth tweet has it down, naturally.)

And vampires and zombies.  Bored.  Didn't we do vampires endlessly in the '70s?  (And zombies in the '50s?)

I have a colleague who tried to tell me, now some years ago, that rap was so wonderful and blah blah.  And while I certainly enjoy some rap, most of what I heard at that point was misogynistic and violent, and aimed a lot of violence at women.  So I said that, and then my colleague countered that I shouldn't listen to mainstream rap, but to these other artists.  But I don't want to have to go digging through a pile of misogyny to try to find something that's not endorsing violence against women.  Life's too short.

And for some reason, Shakespeare's misogyny bothers me less.  (And here "Shakespeare" stands for all of early modern and medieval lit and culture that I might teach.)  I suppose it's because I think we're more comfortable talking about the misogyny as misogyny?  We're more at ease being critical of that, while finding pleasures in the text(s) as well?

I'm going to have a birthday soon, and I think it's not too early to say I've turned into a fogey.  Now, you kids, get offa my lawn!


  1. A high school AP teacher told me she assigns very recent novels so the students won't rely on SparkNotes or other online summaries. Of course the online-summary business keeps catching up, so she has to change books every year or two. How annoying. Why let the laziest students determine the curriculum?

  2. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Somewhere a news organization charted the number of people who tweeted about Sharknado vs. the number who actually watched it. Not many people watched it, even though it spiked twitter.

    It's interesting that as the hip hop artists are getting older and having their own kids and so on, there's a lot more responsible mainstream rap lyrics. It's kind of nice.