Tuesday, October 23, 2012

They Should Call It Medio-crappy (mediocrity).

Doesn't that sound like the best thing ever? Nope.
            I happened across a great quote last week, or perhaps it happened upon me. “Everything popular is wrong.” Oscar Wilde. For something that sounds so negative, these words just filled my soul with tiny, prickly bubbles of joy. It was a confirmation of my philosophies about popular culture smashed into four words.
            For quite a while I have been living under the self-imposed manifesto that if a lot of people like something, then it is by no doubt mediocre. I have applied the concept of the Bell curve to modern culture. Nothing is free from condemnation: books, music, movies, politicians, food, whatever. As evidence I present to you Coldplay (Bore me a freakin’ river of tears), Memoirs of a Geisha (The book OR the movie, take your pick. They both sucked), Panera Bread Company, The DaVinci Code (Again, choose your pick with the medium), the movies of M Knight Shyamalan (did you see Unbreakable? I laughed so hard in that movie the person I went with thought I was having a seizure), and Jimmy Carter. Obviously there are plenty more things that could be added to this list, like Ugg boots.
            I find it hard to believe that there are many people out there who would say that any of those things are their favorite. “OH MAN PANERA IS MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT!” Really? You need to get out more. If Coldplay is your favorite band, just stop. We can’t be friends anymore. You see, I just don’t think it’s possible for something that pleases such a wide range of people to really be of amazing quality. It goes with the whole dumbing down of things to reach larger audiences. Bland things are more palatable. They are also less interesting.
            Life is too short for bland. Not only do things that challenge our beliefs or conflict with what we like provide spice, sometimes it’s just fun to be offended. South Park is offensive, and it’s great. Even my Mom likes it - especially the episode where the Native Americans try and infect the townspeople with SARS by giving them blankets they rubbed with naked Chinese men. Joan Rivers is hilarious, and the things she says are absolutely foul. The most offensive thing I’ve ever seen was Clerks 2. There’s a scene involving racial slurs that is by far one of my all time favorite movie moments. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe it does! But definitely not mediocre or average.
            I even take this concern over mediocre things so far as to worry when things I really like start to become more popular. It’s the whole Wal-Mart effect. Someone makes a great product, but it’s expensive. Wal-Mart recognizes that it’s great and wants to be able to sell it to their customers at a lower price tag. They pay the company to make a shittier version of the product at a lower cost that they can then sell at a lower price, and, all of a sudden it is no longer marketable for the company to make the higher end product. Luxury brands cash in on this effect too, except they don’t lower their prices. They just recognize that a lot of people want their product and figure out how to make some of it for less. My example for this would be the Louis Vuitton monogram handbags you see everywhere – that are made in China.  
            Bands sell out too, not just manufacturers. Pink Floyd got awful. I mean, REALLY awful. There may have been some personnel changes, but that aside, A Momentary Lapse of Reason may be one of the worst pop albums I have ever listened to. It wasn't a total flop either. How they got from Careful With That Axe Eugene to Learning To Fly (gag), I will never ever understand.  
            Is there a solution to this problem? Probably not. Most of the things I like don’t risk becoming popular. Sometimes it is comforting to know that you are odd. It would be nice, however, if we could train the population to demand better than mediocre. How? I’m open to suggestions.                         

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