I read The Atlantic a good deal, because overall it’s writing seems to be above average. Even if I don’t agree with a certain writer, I usually hear a reasoned argument. However, today I was scanning the headlines and there was a headline so stupid it made my head explode. The headline was: Lou Reed Made Generation X. First of all Generation X is nothing but a marketing term used to describe people of a certain age, that as all people of a certain age can run the gamut in terms of political beliefs, religious beliefs, and all manner of other things. So basically other than actually describing people of a certain age, it means nothing. Unless of course you are using it to describe the punk band that Billy Idol was in. Lou Reed no more made this generation than he made those of baby boomer age, or young kids now. Certain members of each generation loved him and certain ones did not. It is a lazy generalization on several fronts.
Now you may think that I’m nitpicking. But I believe that pop culture writing should be taken seriously by serious publications. Often people know more about what is happening in pop culture than they do about what is going on in some far away third world country for example. You can view this as sad, but it’s true. I remember onetime reading a New York Times article that about Morrissey that was so factually incorrect and lazy that it blew my mind. I thought if they can’t even get the facts on him right, which are pretty easy to find, how factually correct are their serious news articles?
Now one does not necessarily affect the other. A newspaper or magazine could hire a crack commando unit of investigative reporters, and then because of budgetary constraints, hire a bunch of ignorant amateurs to write their pop culture pieces. However, with the newspaper and magazine industry in such trouble, can they really afford anything that makes people question their credibility?
Let’s give these publications the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that given the current economic constraints that they are facing, that they are indeed saving money on hiring good entertainment writers, so that they can fulfill their mission of providing people with news on what is most important in the world. In 2012 it was estimated that the American people spent $490 million dollars on entertainment. It is expected to grow by 5% to $597 billion dollars by 2016. This is despite the current economic problems that the country is facing.
It is well documented that during the great depression that people turned to entertainment for escapism from their economic woes. It is true now that many people are turning to spending money on entertainment even as they struggle to pay their bills because it helps them cope with the world.
Another important thing to note is that entertainment plays a role in this country in how we interpret the world. Often when we see something in the news it might make us reference a movie. Movies have moved the dialogue on political issues. I can remember, growing up in a somewhat conservative town, that the movie Philadelphia was one of the first times my friends and I talked about gay people in a real and meaningful way. Even when entertainment might not directly move the needle, it can often give strength to existing political ideals. I was against the Iraq War before Neil Young’s Living with War, but it definitely gave solace to me in hearing someone lay out what I had already been feeling with such clarity. It strengthened my resolve to speak my mind when I was out in public.
Whether you believe it is for good or ill, we spend an amazing amount of money and time on entertainment. What we listen to, watch, and read, is not only important to us as individuals, but does have an impact on our culture at large. Hopefully these publications will keep that in mind as they think about who they are hiring.
Facts about the economics of entertainment were gotten from: http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/how-much-do-americans-spend-on-entertainment/