Thinking Out Loud 016: Is Pop Culture Irrelevant?

THINKING OUT LOUD is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column in which we talk about creative process and what might be holding back that voice of yours – whatever form it might take. Send your questions to:

Dear Drooly Dog:
I write about popular culture for a living, mostly reviews of film and television. But I have this creeping feeling that I might be wasting my time.
I mean, the world has serious problems right now. Politics are downright dangerous, and people who used to count themselves safe in their own country – or even their own neighborhood – now feel menaced every day. We are stumbling toward disaster in my opinion. And here I am reviewing a superhero movie or some new TV series. Seriously? Who needs that stuff? Isn’t that totally frivolous now? Should I consider writing about something else, like politics or civil rights?
Sometimes when I go to write an article I get this totally hopeless feeling. It’s like I’m sitting on the sidelines while the real world moves on without me. And I’m a writer, I’m supposed to put ideas out there and make people’s lives better. I’m supposed to fight the good fight for free speech and rights and a better world. Should I switch careers, or give it up?
– Sincerely, Irrelevant Elephant

Dearest Elephant,
How many of us, in our teens, in the throes of our nineteenth nervous breakdown, retreated into our room (or corner, or tree, or side yard) and listened to the same song over and over and over until the world backed off a little bit? I mean, all of us.
What do we do when there’s a national tragedy? Or a local tragedy? Or any shared difficulty? We sing. Paul Simon gets on Saturday Night Live and sings “The Boxer” on September 15th. That’s what.
I tell you, popular culture is glue holding together what’s left of civil society. It is a source of shared experience, and a well of hope when there is nothing else. We turn to our characters and our songs and our dancers when we can’t quite get out what we are feeling.
AND, those in power are counting on you, and all of us, feeling isolated and irrelevant. They thrive on fear and anxiety and keeping everyone separated. But if you reach one person with one show or movie or song that tells them they are not alone, you have done something very important.
Maybe you should write about that. Tell the stories of how these shows and movies have brought people into the same room, or the same theater, to do something together. Go find people who have nothing else in common except that they love chick flicks or horror movies or anything with Edward Norton in it.
You are performing an important service reminding everyone that there are things we do have in common and that sometime soon, if we’re smart, we’ll turn back toward those things again. Tell that story. And throw in some crazy fan theories while you’re at it.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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