Earlier today, a colleague lamented to me what she saw as the dumbing down of culture. It just so happens that I'm reading a book right now that is also extremely critical of what it sees as popular culture's downward spiral (Dark Dreams 2.0, an incredibly insightful look at what horror does for us and to us). Taken together, it got me thinking: yes, there is definitely a lot of stupid stuff out there. But among the most popular books out there right now is the Hunger Games Trilogy, which (say whatever else you like about it) tries to tackle some heavy, pertinent issues. The best received movie of 2010 was the Social Network, which was as thoughtful an examination of a relevant topic as I've seen. Perhaps what's going on here is a matter of massive proliferation. With thousands of channels available, more reading choices open to us than at any point in history, not to mention the limitless offerings of the Internet, there's just so much more out there that we have access to than ever before. Given that a good 95% of Human artistic endeavor is crappy to mediocre (and always has been), that remaining 5% -- which has also been growing and is more accessible to us -- just appears that much more inundated by the lousy stuff.
What's the point? That things aren't as bad as they appear, or that things are, in fact, as bad as they appear but in a completely different way. The good news, it seems to me, is that if we can just work hard to discern the good from the dumb, to wade through the bad to reach those precious gems of artistic achievement and intelligent consideration, there are as many out there as there used to be; more, even. Paradoxically, it just takes a little more work to hear it over the static.
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