Pop culture forever

Practically the definition of “popular culture” is that it is chronologically site-specific. The songs, movies, TV shows, comic books that wash over us in an endless stream of entertaining ephemera are not meant to last, but only to please in the moment. They are not meant as messages to posterity. They are meant only to be entertaining and hopefully to make somebody a buck.

But wasn’t that what Will Shakespeare was up to? Wasn’t W.A. Mozart just trying to fill the seats at the opera house and hopefully to get in good with Emperor Joseph II? Wasn’t Rembrandt mainly trying to make commissions for his paintings, Aristophanes just going for a laugh, and Dickens selling his stories by the word?

We can’t know what will last beyond our own time. People remember Marlene Dietrich, but not Lily Langtry, Marilyn Monroe but not Mamie van Doren. The golden star of immortality falls where it will, and we cannot predict the path of its long arc through future history.

But we can say, with the authority of knowing it has happened countless times before, that some TV show, some movie we saw last weekend, some pop song playing in the top 40, will indeed last — perhaps for hundreds of years, and perhaps even longer.

Out of the random spewings of any generation trying only to entertain itself, there will indeed be random nuggets of greatness that last through the ages, and the very next popular song you hear on the radio may very well continue to echo through eternity.

3 Responses to “Pop culture forever”

  1. Mari says:

    Indeed, indeed. But one shouldn’t forget that out of so many ‘popular’ music, painting and art which were created “aiming to please”, somehow, for some reason, Mozart, Rembrandt etc. survived, but not others which must been created for the same purpose. There has to be something else, the most important element in arts, that speak to people, and continue to touch people throughout the ages—aside from being created “aiming to please”.

    Oh and there is this other thing, called “chance”. JS Bach’s violin Partitas and Sonatas, as a famous example, wouldn’t have been with us if it wasn’t discovered by chance. It was found in the 18c in St. Petersburg used as a wrapping paper for butter!! Imagine what other of his masterpieces had perished, which weren’t fortunate enough…

  2. sally says:

    the “radio”? lol

  3. admin says:

    Sally, do you really think the radio is going to go away? The novel and the theatre haven’t gone away. I realize other media will become increasingly important, but I don’t see the radio going away.

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