It was a quiet evening like any other when the weary gentleman sitting next to me in bed unceremoniously fell asleep. It was only eight at night, and we had just settled in to enjoy the two-hour Season 4 opener of Downton Abbey.
A few nights later I tried re-watching for the benefit of my partner, and once again, he nodded off within minutes. Now lest you think otherwise, allow me to clarify that he is a fan of the show.
The following week I tried a third time — after all, third time’s a charm — and he managed to last 45 minutes.
All of this took place more than a year ago, and eventually we succeeded in making it through episode 5, but the process became so frustrating to me that I decided to give up, temporarily. I was convinced that we could resume in summertime when he is off work and stays awake late, and we could enjoy the season together — start to finish.
Sadly, by the time we were ready to binge-watch season 4, we couldn’t find Downton Abbey anywhere online or on cable. Unwilling to drop the dollars required to purchase the DVDs, here I sit (pouting), not only unable to watch Season 5 (because I wish to see Season 4 first), but avoiding spoilers everywhere I turn and disappointed that I cannot be part of the conversation about the series.
No chatting about Lady Mary or Lady Edith for me, and I feel woefully “un”current as this piece of pop culture is passing me by.
On (Pop) Culture Definitions
Pop culture. What a concept. And to think that Masterpiece Theater, once the domain of so-called intellectuals (on this side of the ocean), is now part of the pop culture landscape.
If we think of popular culture as products, activities and sources of entertainment made known through the media and primarily targeted at the young, does my example of Downton Abbey even hold up? As those of us over 40 and 50 swell in numbers, aren’t we still subject to mass marketing and pop culture influence?
Aren’t we the audience for pop TV, pop music, pop games, pop social media — and in the thrall of Celebrity Apprentice, celebrity Twitter feeds, celebrity gossip, and celebrity bucket lists? Are we really just like our teenagers and college kids, though the famous faces we follow may be different — or not?
Are You Relevant?
I’ve heard many talk about the need to stay relevant. For some, this means keeping their names (and faces) in the public eye, which is necessary for continuing to work. You could say that performers fall into this category, and likewise, those of us who write on the internet – as journalists of various types or otherwise.
Naturally, the notion of relevance has undergone a transformation as we all seek to shout (and shout out) in our real and cyber circles. If you ask me, relevance is no longer about currency in substantive subjects of meaning or importance to society, but rather, awareness of trending topics with sufficient ease to nod, add a remark, and thus be a part of the in-crowd.
I think of popular music. I don’t listen, I don’t buy; I can’t say that I miss it.
I think of the way people use Facebook to play games — if that entertains you, why not? But it wouldn’t occur to me to do so any more than I was interested in Solitaire on my desktop back in the day, or Tetris on earlier versions of my mobile.
I have rarely been up on anything pop cultural. I loved music in my teens and twenties, but was far more devoted to words and images.
Besides, once out of college, my life was filled with working and writing, traveling and working, friends and working, marriage and children and working, children and working and reading and writing… and, well… you get the drill.
When the clouds finally began to part, I found that what sustained me is what has always sustained me: people, language, art.
In fact, my only pop culture acumen may reside in the realms of not-so-popular and more high-brow culture, though very selectively at that and yes, including (ironically) Pop Art — a Rauschenberg combine, a set of Dine tools, a dip into Warhol. I would add other nourishing pleasures to that list both before and after the Pop Art years: Schiele, Klée, Dubuffet, Rothko… Macréau, Deux, Diebenkorn, Himmelfarb.
Might anyone else perk up at the very mention of Pop Art, or modern art, or contemporary art, or art brut, or for that matter any other elements of unpopular culture?
On (Real) Housewife Culture
Never having been a traditional housewife, though I certainly (wo)manned domestic duties for more than two decades, I sheepishly admit to knowledge in the realm of Real Housewives Pop Culture, not to be confused with Lisa Vanderpump’s “pop culture living” line…
My enjoyment of select cities — New York and Beverly Hills are faves — garners glares from my bunkie who shakes his head. Then he takes to his ear buds in disapproval while listening to his addiction — the Rolling Stones.
Naturally, we all have our pop cultural references, our pop culture tolerance, our distinctions to be made between what we deem pop culture (and transient fakery?) versus “real” culture (lasting, important, instructive, meaningful). Then again, doesn’t popular culture eventually become “culture” – at least in certain instances?
We may also disagree as to the most engaging, entertaining, or valuable aspects of pop culture — those personalities, tunes, styles or pursuits that are hashtagged and trending in our preferred media.
For me, a love of Russian classics and layers of paint do not preclude my fascination (and love-hate relationship) with two luxury-loving Lisas in 90210, or one Skinny Girl and a Countess squaring off in the Big Apple.
In the meantime, I’m missing my news of Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Does anyone know where I can view Downton Abbey Season 4 online — legally?
- Your pop culture touch points?
- Your (sur)reality indulgences?
- Your “high” cultural activities?
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