Is Pop Culture Still Our Common Language?

Arun Clarke via Unsplash

For years, at the beginning of my journalism workshops for students, as a kind of warm-up, I have been organizing a simple exercise: we choose a well-known film and try to create a dispatch based on its plot. First of all, it helps practice shaping the ability to define the essence of the story or events and arrange subsequent threads in terms of their importance, or what we want to convey.

For some time, however, I have had a fundamental problem – we cannot find a film that all the participants of my workshops would know, and these are not groups consisting of a lot of people.

A few days ago, someone wrote on Twitter that out of a group of thirty of his students, only two people saw Pulp Fiction. So one might think that this is a generational issue. But it is not. The problem is not to find a movie that me and the students watched. It seems to me that my scope is quite wide, and thanks to my daughters I am also able to analyze fairy tales (a dispatch based on Frozen, that would be interesting!).

It is the students who have a problem finding a movie that everyone would know. So two years in a row we used the first part of Harry Potter. This time, I really did not want to do it and, as a result, in a group of several people, we did not find a film that would connect everyone. The Godfather, Star Wars (any part of the series!) And even Sami swoi, a famous 1967 Polish film, do not work anymore.

Over the years, pop culture has been a very important part of communication. It was present in jokes, metaphors, and advertisements. In a way, it created the language with which we communicated. Both the canon and current fashions played an important role here.

Popular culture “has become a common place of contemporary societies, serving as a koine, a common human language of the global era, though not expressing itself in only one dictionary”, wrote Waldemar Kuligowski, an anthropologist from Poznan.

He referred to the thought of Johannes Fabian, who stated that the term popular culture does not define one or another area of ​​contemporary culture (such as high or musical culture), but the entirety of contemporary ways of being. Fabian claimed that it is a term falling into the same category as primitive culture.

The information bubbles seem to have put an end to this. This applies not only to movies, but also to music and other examples of interests that, until recently, were a platform for the exchange of ideas and understanding.

Now, convincing metaphors are missing. It is worth taking this into account when discussing contemporary problems in building understanding within regional, national, and supranational communities.

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz

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