Sunday, March 04, 2018

How to Have Popular Culture No One Actually Likes

From Kaitlyn Tiffany on The Verge:  The last joke is Tide Pods

Seems like a nice summary of how memes can get out-of-hand.  Or maybe I'm just old:

The Tide Pod craze is an example of the internet machine operating exactly as we have built it to. I’m sure you are familiar, but it goes like this: Meme becomes somewhat popular on Twitter or Reddit or a body-builder forum; bloggers talk about the meme because it is their job; national morning shows try to understand the meme because they’ve been told to start treating the internet like a real thing; local businesses participate in the meme because maybe they’ll be on TV for doing so; nightly news programs drive irrational panic about the meme because this is the purpose of the nightly news; bloggers are obligated to comment further, with needlessly detailed explanation, because now the posts will get oodles of search traffic; the subculture from which the meme originally sprung splits into two factions: people willing to debase themselves by making lowest common denominator versions of the joke that will spread quickly and keep them in the spotlight, and people who will double down on encrypting the meme with in-jokes and croissant-intricate layers of irony and sarcasm that make it indecipherable to an outside world that will, nevertheless, attempt to decipher it. All the while, everyone is getting angrier and more boring.
Who in this assembly line is having any fun? Now you have Tide Pod cookies on Instagram and Tide Pod Jell-O shots at the local pub. Now you can’t buy laundry detergent without Wal-Mart’s special “opening the Tide Pod case” guy hovering at your elbow, asking you about your day. (Not that it’s any better to be him. I can’t even imagine the number of times he’s had to smile at some doofus who says, “I swear I’m not going to eat them, haha!”)
Now you have a popular culture founded on something nobody likes. Remember when all the cultural critics were worried about things like “highbrow vs. lowbrow” and “kitsch vs. art”? Bunch of snobs? Now we have to worry about whether everything we look at is something we elevated totally by accident and actively hate. We don’t even have time to debate the notion of “guilty pleasure,” because we no longer find pleasure at all.

No comments: