Pop Culture: Why Care?

Confession: On opening weekend, I went to see The Hunger Games. I dragged my husband, and sat next to a family with two pre-teen daughters. Needless to say, my husband is not the target demographic for this movie. He was entertained, but unimpressed. Fair. The one thing that shocks and surprises him on occasion, is the fact that his wife seems to have a sordid love affair with pop culture. I watch The Voice and listen to pop radio, despite the fact that I deeply appreciate local indie bands and non-commercial art.

What is the pull of pop culture? Is it just entertainment? Or, does it hold a key to deeper truths about the state of our world? I would argue that both can be true. Case in point: The previews at The Hunger Games. Ninety percent of the previews featured some kind of fantasy setting. My husband thinks that this means that people like to escape reality. While true, I also noticed the underlying theme of darkness. Young people growing up in today’s world are faced with fairly dark realities that they don’t know how to solve. Between global warming, the recession, natural catastrophes, and the ongoing violence and fighting that rages in various parts of the world on a daily basis, kids today are growing up with an awareness of enormous and complex problems in the world. The opportunity to escape those realities and yet experience the emotional movement of a film where an unlikely hero overcomes a dark force more powerful and prepared than they are, provides a kind of catharsis for today’s moviegoers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the commercial objectives of Hollywood today, and the security of investing in these types of films, based on the success of box office hits like the Twilight Series and Lord of the Rings.

When it comes to popular music, I love Lorde’s hit song “Royals.” Despite it’s catchy tune, it’s making a timely commentary on pop culture in an intelligent way and has become pop culture in the process. It’s giving voice to a shared experience, a deep truth in today’s society. I love that. Despite the commercial garbage that is out there and sold as a product, rather than art, there are human truths expressed in popular culture that represent a shared experience, as much as that is possible in the growing and culturally diverse population in our country, and our world, today. To me, that is worth something.

Thanks to On Being‘s Trent Gilliss for prompting this blog post. Read his original blog post here. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your voice, Rian! This quote may be of service to you, us…

    “If we don’t learn to mythologize our lives, inevitably we will pathologize them.”
    ― Richard Rohr

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