04 May 2010
On Pop Culture
I want to take a moment today and examine some of the foundations for this blog, that is some of my rationale and goals for both myself and you guys, the audience. With the Insanity of Summer looming over us sooner than ever, there comes a huge upswing of terrible, terrible pop culture. Everything fast, commercial and temporary about our culture and collective zeitgeist gets a nice big bowl of crack during the Sun Months, so I felt like this was a good time to preface my extended Pop Coverage with a bit of foreword if you will. Or perhaps a forewarning is more apt.
Let's begin by discussing the natures of Observed vs. Observing Consciousness. This appears in Georg Hegel's (1770 - 1831) Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and is applicable to many instances of culture. In essence, this is the idea that many people understand or express an opinion or ideology but lack the capacity to always articulate it as such. "Observed consciousness" refers to a form of consciousness that goes about its affairs in an unreflexive way - that is to say it lacks the perspective or conceptual tools to judge itself. "Observing consciousness" then refers to the philosopher (or blogger) which may therein provide the theoretical framework to explain the "observed consciousness" attitudes and beliefs.
Let's try to explain with a simple example: A little wiener baby wants a hot dog. It knows it wants a hot dog but lacks the ability to express itself adequately to its parents to demonstrate this want. So it cries and bitches till it gets what it wants. The baby is the "observed consciousness," and the parents who can read the kid's tantrum and pointing are the "observing consciousness." Get it? No? Good, let's move on and I'm applying this to Pop Culture.
I believe in an intake of all forms of Pop Culture, critically good, critically poor, shit aimed at tweens, at fogeys, everything. Everything has meaning. Even if that meaning is useless, there is a consciousness and reasoning behind every action, every song, TV show and film that comes out this Summer. Pop Culture is a means to understand the zeitgeist of our time period, the mental mindset of a people and their capacities, dreams, wants, needs and fears. Most of this however, is expressed through a massive amount of observed consciousness.
The subconscious motives of Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber are fascinating if their music is not. Wbereas they may lack the specific capability to express their own personal philosophy, it is possible to extract a philosophy through a careful examination of both their music and persona (that is, examining the differences between GaGa and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and the needs that cause those differences to arise) with a close eye towards both historical context and precedent. Due to Pop Culture's very nature, comprised of cutting edge broad mainstream media, it is a constant beneficial reflection on mass society and attitudes. Art has always been the key to the mental realm of a generation, just lately this Art has been Twilight and Superheroes.
Grand Admiral Thrawn understood this. Timothy Zahn established this as a crucial part of his educated character and brilliant command style in the first chapter of Heir to the Empire (1991), the first volume of the Thrawn Trilogy, probably the best of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (we might agree that it's the best story with a Star Wars label on it post-Jedi ). I digress. Thrawn believed that if you understood a species' art, you understood the species. As art changes, we may observe shifts in consciousness of the species.
You can see this readily in Modern Art, due to rapid shifts in technology that contributed to constant shifts in generational attitudes (developing even more readily in recent years). Around the 19th-Century every generation lived drastically different than the generation before them for the first time in history. Thus instead of Century-long movements or topics as broad as "Greek Art" or "Roman Art," we have different movements every ten to twenty years, the span of which becomes more compressed into the echelons of the 20th-Century.
Impressionism is interesting to me. While it is a sure reaction to the glorified, perfect imagery of Baroque and Romanticism, it is also a testament to different ways of perceiving the universe around the artists. We started seeing the world faster. Trains and steamboats compressed the world, industry created rapid-moving machines and mechanisms, and finally cars and planes sped us up even more. The fast blurred strokes of Impressionist paintings are reminiscent of train rides or at least the idea that people could only see an image for a moment and then it would pass. We could even extrapolate this to the idea that life itself started moving faster, a fact that I already presented with the rapidisation of art movements themselves. As artists captured impressions of their subjects we can also infer to their mindset that was speeding up, taking the world in as only a brief moment or memory rather than a meditative, fantasized ideal.
Our current time period is no different. Pop culture belays this key to understand our own nature. This blog seeks to be "observing consciousness" and analyze the attitudes and beliefs that artists express without knowing it. I will not dismiss Pop Culture even at its most stupid, because it's the truth and we can never deny truth.
Even if truth is stupid.