I cannot say that my love of pop culture exists free of embarrassment. I often feel ashamed about my daily visits to TMZand Perez Hilton.I often feel ashamed about my in-depth knowledge of the Kardashians. I am ashamed about how starstruck I get when I see the most D-list, reality star celebrity out in the wild. Ironically, I’m judgementaltowards the E! Newspresenters who report on the day-to-day lives of celebrities as if it were the latest out of North Korea. I find myself thinking that I could never do their job, that I would not be able to bring myself to act like such news was significant, or even news at all.
But why do I think like that?
There is a certain level of prejudice associated with caring about pop culture. The proliferation of lists such as ‘100 Movies You Must See Before You Die’ reflect how only certain forms of entertainment are seen as truly worthy of our time and attention. These lists are not only widely subjective, but also illustrate the problematic nature of termssuch as ‘guilty pleasure’. So often, what is deemed ‘trash’ or a ‘guilty pleasure’ is to do with the assumed audience of pop culture. Those TV shows, movies and musiciansthat have a young, female demographic fall into the realm of a ‘guilty pleasure’ while those that appeal toyoung men and boys do not.
An artist can only be ‘cool’ if they are popular with young males. A TV show can only be deemed Emmy-worthy if its popular with older males. So Ariana Grande and Riverdaleare guilty pleasures, while Kendrick Lamar and Game of Thronesare quality forms of entertainment. This does not diminish the quality of Kendrick’s music and I’m definitely not saying Riverdale is in the same league as Thronesbut it is true thatequallevels of prestige are rarely afforded to pop culture phenomenons that are popular and resonate with women, especially with young women.
When the demographics for a piece of popular culture changes, it is then that the perception of the piece is allowed to change. The obvious example, and one that was spouted by Mr. Styles himself, is the parallel between The Beatles and One Direction. Like One Direction, The Beatles’ original fanbase was young, over excited female fans and only when that expanded were they able to be recognised with due prestige and icon status. Young female fans are not seen as worthy critics; the trueauthority to determine goodtaste and good art rests with older men.
By its very nature, pop culture is decided by the masses and while so much of it is superfluous, it cannot be merely swept aside and deemed culturally lightweight. Black Pantheris hugely popular and is teaching kids about colonialism, cultural identity and cultural pride. Queer Eyeis the latest Netflix program to have grabbed the spotlight and is using the standard makeover format to discuss the issues of toxic masculinity and self-acceptance.
Not everything we turn our attention to needs to be of great importance. If we close ourselves off to what may appear as insignificant and lightweight, we may miss the moments when pop culture is at its best. In its truest form, pop culture reflects the position of society, what is seen as important in society and what is due for an update.
So don’t mind me, I’ll just be here watching that TMZ interview with Kanye West because that shit is wild.