The depth of popular culture

 

Some folks see popular culture as inevitably shallow. But is that true? And is it true that shallow is bad?

First, is shallow bad? No. There is nothing inherent in life telling us what we should be into. There are no requirements.

Many have stressful and busy lives and need something undemanding to help them relax and switch gears. Nothing wrong in that. (Although we can question a society that sets us up for such busy and sometimes stressful lives.) At one time or another, easy pop culture serves a helpful function to us.

And for most of us, it’s just one part of a much more varied cultural diet.

Is it true that pop-culture is shallow?

Yes, it’s perhaps true in a conventional and limited sense. There may be less soul and more formulas in much of what we find in pop-culture.

It’s easy to find exceptions. There is often depth to aspects of what we find in pop-culture. Something surprising, moving, or something that gives us an insight into ourselves or the lives of others. And some of what we find in pop-culture obviously has more depth, richness, and complexity to it, for example, stories rich in archetypes like Star Wars (original trilogy) and Pan’s Labyrinth.

It also depends on what we define as popular culture. Bach is quite popular. Is that pop culture? Chopin was a pop-culture superstar in his time.

And it depends on how readily available something is to us. When we have to put more effort and intention into finding something, it can seem more sophisticated, for instance when we are into the pop-culture of another time or culture.

Finally, we bring the depth to it.

When I watch movies, including the most mainstream Hollywood movies, I often look for archetypes and archetypal dynamics.

I take it as I would a dream, see the different parts of the story as parts of me, and find it in me.

I notice what I react to and look for the beliefs or emotional issues it triggered in me.

I notice what I am fascinated by and find what the fascination is about and then see if I can find that in myself.

So when it comes down to it, if we see something as shallow, we can only blame ourselves. We take a shallow approach to it.

We bring the richness or the shallow to it.

A personal note: In my late teens and early twenties, I had judgments about pop culture and went deep into more “high” and “sophisticated” art, music, books and movies. There was nothing wrong with this, and it was very rewarding and I still enjoy that type of culture. But it also came from insecurity. I wanted to be “better” and more sophisticated. I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Now, fortunately, I feel more free to enjoy all of it.

If we have ideas about high or low culture, or one thing being better than the other, it’s a reminder to take a look at ourselves. Where in me does it come from? Do I try to create an identity for myself to feel better about myself? How would it be to enjoy it all independent of labels?

Axe Cop

 
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Pretzel Head was born blind, deaf, dumb, and with no arms or legs. His mind is all that works. That, and he can turn his head into a pretzel. Unfortunately, he uses these powers for evil and very quickly has his head chopped off by Axe Cop after attacking a city in a his giant Psydrozon robot suit.
Since most of what is here is pretty silly anyway, why not share Axe Cop? It is a web-comic where the story is authored by a five year old, and then drawn by his 29-year-old brother. It gave me the best laugh I have had in a long time. If you like the humor of five year old boys, this is something for you.

They don’t care about us

 

Our culture – whether it is pop or fine culture or any other subculture – is abundant with our universal beliefs.

It is a great place to find stories to inquire into, because I have them too. It is all a mirror for myself.

In this case, I can find where I too believe that they don’t really care about us/me, inquire into it, and find what is more honest for me.

I can still appreciate the conventional view and find the validity and value in it. For instance, I can recognize how the majority or those in power directly or indirectly mistreat minorities and those less powerful. I can even find where I am doing the same in my daily life, and how I participate in these dynamics in our local and global society.

The difference is that when I am still caught up in this belief, I tend to come from reactivity, blame, a rigid view, and often a victim role. And when there is more clarity for me around it, when I find what is more honest for me than the initial story, there is more room to find chocies and actions that may be a little more effective, that come a little more from wisdom, kindness and experience.

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Yes, And…

 

I have enjoyed following the Improv Everywhere missions since I first heard about them on This American Life a few years back.

What I especially enjoy is their aim of shaking people out of their everyday routines in a way that is enjoyable for everyone (unless someone is set on not enjoying it), and also their long form improvisation guideline of Yes, And.

Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as “Yes, And…” and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every new piece of information added helps the actors to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene.

This is not a bad guideline for life in general.

Life throws something at us, and we can respond with a Yes, And… We say yes to it, and then add our own, advancing the story from a place of Yes, And. The Yes is an invitation to allow it, and even find peace with and appreciation for whatever is happening. And the And is an invitation for us to bring it something else to it, to take it further.

Or we talk with someone, they say something that has a grain of truth in it, which just about anything has, so we can acknowledge that grain of truth, and add another perspective. The Yes is an invitation to find the truth in their perspective, and the And is an invitation for us to bring something new to it.

The Yes is a wholehearted Yes to whatever is happening, an invitation for receptivity and appreciation. The And an invitation to actively add something to it, bring something new to it, advance the story in a way that may be interesting, entertaining, beautiful and touching.

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Pompel & Pilt

 

An episode of Pompel & Pilt, an anti-pedagogical Norwegian children’s TV series that made a big impression on one or two generations of Norwegian kids. I believe it was meant to get kids familiar with the absurdity of life, and question authority…! Worked for me, at least. Sorry about the lack of English subtitles, but it doesn’t make much more sense even if you understand Norwegian.

Pompel & Pilt are repair men, looking for something to repair, and get into uncomfortable situations with Gorgon The Janitor and some other creatures.

It is inspired by dadaism and absurdist theater.

Laika and more mirrors…

 

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I am still feeling that all of this is life 101 and getting pretty monomaniacal, obvious and predictable… which is partly why nothing new has come up here for some days.

The general maps are pretty predictable, but when I look, I still find that looking at how it all plays out in real life is not so obvious and predictable, so there is still some interest there. And it is always real life that sparks both the looking into what is happening here and now, and also generates the impulse to take it to maps…

For instance, I listened to a story about Laika, the first Earth being to orbit the planet, and how the world reacted with outrage of letting a poor innocent dog die in space.

The irony here is of course that nearly all of these outraged people happily eat meat from animals whose living conditions are often awful and are bred only to be killed and eaten, and use products tested on animals under equally awful conditions.

It is a given that these inconsistencies happen. We easily compartmentalize our lives, and see patterns in one area that we are blind for in other areas.

But what gets more interesting is to take a closer look at how, specifically, it happens in my own life, and in my own culture. Where do I find patterns that are OK for me in one area, and are an outrage to me in other areas?

And how does this happen right here and now?

Well, I judge those folks for being inconsistent, while doing the exact same thing myself. I judge them and don’t see my own inconsistency, in that moment. I see myself as right and them as wrong, just as they do, and I do exactly what I only see in others, just as they do. We are all in the same boat here.