The rise of social media has reinforced what parents have known for the last fifty years: that pop culture is having a greater and greater influence on culture in general, often with disastrous results. From the myspace generation of the 2000s to the facebook generation of the 2010s, social media has integrated pop culture into nearly every facet of life, expanding its influence. Any parent who has seen rap lyrics translated knows where that influence is headed.
Many parents, as well as nearly everybody who works in entertainment, minimizes the real impact of the pop culture influence. But it’s important to bear in mind the nature of that influence, where it comes from, and how it differs from other cultural influences.
Modern cultures were created over thousands of years, through the gradual evolution of two complementary systems – government and religion – which served to create a secular axis and a spiritual axis for social development. Governments exist by virtue of a well-established system of authority, which depends on the complicity of the people. That complicity is organized through social compacts and accepted codes of behavior. Religion exists to answer the spiritual questions of the people, and in most societies the religious authority has managed the very compact and behavioral codes required to allow government to exist.
Over millennia, government and religion evolved to exercise a tremendous amount of authority over people’s lives. These dominant cultural drivers struck a delicate balance, sometimes intentional and sometimes accidental, that in most cases upheld systems of personal behavior that allowed society to operate smoothly.
The arts have always been separate, to some extent, from the authority of religion and government because artists tend to possess a restless and intransigent kind of intelligent. The artistic community has historically challenged authority, purified idealism, and provoked change.
Because of that, the history of the arts is a history of excitement. The greatest and most valued aspects of our modern society derive largely from the imagination and intellect of the artistic community, and when we think of the arts we think of that impetus for change. Artists make up a revered community as a result.
But since the 1960s pop culture has gone on a tangent, driven by marketability over quality. On that tangent, it has left behind its higher calling. Modern pop culture tends to avoid big issues (except in very safe ways) for fear of causing anybody offense, while raking in huge profits by selling sex and violence. For example, the icon of myspace success is Tila Tequila, a nude internet model turned musician, who ultimately got a reality TV show by doing nothing but showing skin.
With the exception of a few groundbreaking hip hop artists such as Tupac, a look at rap lyrics translated reveals the same obsession with the lowest common denominator. This indicates a startling reality: that pop culture is using its massive influence to no positive end. Rather, it is tearing down the structures that allow society to operate while making huge short-term profits by schilling trash.