Pop Goes America
April 5, 2011 by Ben Crystal
Regular visitors to the Personal Liberty Digest™ have likely noted my tendency to reference popular culture. Although I feel like the day was wasted if I missed an opportunity to use “J-Woww” or “Snooki” in a sentence, many of my fellow Bob Livingstonians waver between head-scratching confusion and outright disgust that such pathetic personas garner even mocking attention.
The truth is: I agree wholeheartedly with those of you who find the mere mention of such soft-underbelly-of-society types as those fine ladies demeaning to Mr. Livingston’s august endeavor; if not absolutely nauseating. Nonetheless, personalities created from whole cloth by MTV (or MSNBC, which carries slightly less prestige) not only exist, they’re enormously popular despite lacking talent, intellect or—in the case of the cast of “The Jersey Shore”—a vocabulary of more than about 50 words.
There’s a lesson in the meteoric rise of such marginal individuals; and it’s a lesson which Americans have failed to grasp despite more than a century of instruction: We like to watch stupid people behaving stupidly, strange people behaving strangely and awful people behaving awfully. The only difference between “The Situation” and P.T. Barnum’s sideshow freaks—as an exemplar—is the immediacy of their availability to us.
Hundreds of channels, thousands of websites and an endless number of media outlets great and small saturate our consciousness with images of the obscene, the horrific… and Rachel Maddow. Against that parade of grotesqueries, real knowledge, real information and issues of real import fade into the background; obfuscated by the sound and fury—none of which signifies much. And I, being of sound mind and body, wholeheartedly encourage the transmission and availability of every last bit of it.
Late last week, the Parents Television Council announced an effort to lay siege to Comcast over NBCUniversal’s production of a pilot entitled “The Playboy Club.” Evidently, this latest shlock includes contractual obligations that the actors included therein agree to appear in even less clothing than one of the fine ladies of “The Jersey Shore.” Although “The Playboy Club” is merely a pilot, and may never be seen outside some studio screening room, the PTC is concerned that should it make to the small screen, it will further damage the intellectual progression of the nation.
It may well do precisely that. But I would posit that “The Playboy Club,” like “The Jersey Shore” before it, the “Jerry Springer Show” before that and their progenitors like Mr. Barnum’s gathering of the gauche are merely as impactful as we allow them to be.
I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of limiting the production of even repulsive forms of entertainment in the name of protecting the fragile minds of our fragile children. My discomfort stems not from some misplaced allegiance to lowbrow entertainment, nor the cheap thrills evinced by watching scantily-clad morons do things people used to have pay to see. While I certainly object to most of the programming described herein, I object more stringently to the idea of anyone elevating themselves to the position of cultural policemen.
As much as I agree with the PTC that “The Playboy Club” is undoubtedly offal, I prefer the idea of allowing those who seek a path of righteous intelligence to find it amidst the endless cacophony of crap which is most of what passes for culture.
An old professor of mine used to wax rhapsodic about the “limitless availability of the accumulated wisdom of the tribe.” It’s out there, hiding in plain sight amongst the sitcoms, the webcast-rantings of Charlie Sheen and the mendacious babble of Ed Schultz. Should people allow their children to watch “The Playboy Club,” or Lawrence O’Donnell, then they deserve no better than the ultimate product of their folly. I have no interest in listening to the complaints of people who employ television as an ersatz nanny, and are subsequently appalled by the upbringing television (or music or film) provides.
Sixty years ago, many Americans shuddered at the thought of Elvis Presley swivel-hipping his way into their homes. The nation survived, as it can now. Consider this: As the bulk of our population sinks into the swamp of stupidity, the cream will rise to the top. For every episode of “The Playboy Club”, every fakeumentary vomited up by Michael Moore, every op-ed spewed by The New York Times, there are inspired and intelligent ideas from Mr. Livingston, Chip Wood, Robert Ringer, John Myers and Dr. Mark Wiley, among others.
Despite rumors to contrary, the revolution will NOT be televised.