Popular culture to me consists of the ideas we have that change quickly when compared to the ideas we have that change slowly. The latter I would call our folk culture. The element of our popular culture that I’m here concerned with is our television and film dramas.
This is a personal complaint about them, as currently produced. No one needs to agree with me.
Their ultimate failure in my view is that they don’t attempt any more – they once did – to take us past our animal natures. They concentrate on three themes – fight, mate, or flee. (OK, I watered that down slightly.)
The “fight” dramas feature gunfighters, martial artists, police, the military, organized criminals, and so on. The “mate” dramas feature love relationships, accidental relationships, perverse relationships, forbidden relationships, and all the other variations on that theme. The “flee” dramas feature psychopaths, dictators, ghosts, monsters, aliens, and other sources of fright.
Again and again they recycle the same plots, selling us violence, sex, or terror. I get tired of watching so much killing, mating, and scaring – and nothing else – no redeeming features.
They never seem to try to rise above these themes, any more anyways, to our human or our spiritual nature. An example of a movie that rose above our animal to our human nature might be To Kill a Mockingbird or Partition. An example of a movie that rose above our animal nature to our spiritual nature would be Brother Sun, Sister Moon or Gandhi.
Granted that these movies also featured violence, sex, and terror, the action in the films saw the characters clearly rise above their merely animal natures.
But the run-of-the-mill program on TV or in theaters today concentrates more on offering the viewer the experience of violence, sex, or terror rather than the experience of transcendence. And it offers it in a package which concentrates more and more on the moments of that experience – more of them, at a faster clip, with fewer spaces in between – than previously, jamming more and more sensation into each minute of airtime every year – or so it seems.
I have given up seeking entertainment from the small or large screen. I think it only intended to dumb me down and keep me in the lowest common denominator of our common experience – namely, our bestial side.
Time and again, I retreat into an hour of viewing television, to distract or entertain myself, and come away feeling dragged down. It’s as if the work I’ve done in the other parts of my life is vitiated by that hour of retreat. It wasn’t always this way.
I look forward to the day when the entertainment industry will again be freed from the hands of the mind manipulators and allowed to take flight once more. Until that time, I may have to add it to the addictions from which we’re advised to abstain. There is no relief to be found there; only fresh dulling of the mind and senses.