Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Don't FEEL Dumberer...

There's a new book out from an author named Steven Johnson that makes the case for popular culture making us SMARTER. Thus, nullifying all those old grumps who complain about "you kids and your new-fangled au-to-MO-beels."

I'm awfully glad to hear Stevens say this, because I think I am as addicted to television as any heroin addict is to their fix and I don't FEEL more stupid. I truly do have standards. I stopped watching "The West Wing" when Aaron Sorkin left because it stopped making me feel like a savvy Washington insider. I stopped watching "Six Feet Under" because the Psycho Bitch nymphomaniac was driving me nuts. After the second season of "Survivor, I said "sayonara". I mean, OK, I got it. And I started watching "24" finally because, well, because I like to cuddle next to my boyfriend on the couch.

As much as I hate to admit that my childhood favorite all-time sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was fairly undemanding of the viewer, it pales when Johnson compares it to the complex storytelling of "Hill Street Blues". It makes sense that as we become more visually literate and discerning, we will also become more demanding in our choices. Today's consumers of popular culture are just as different from the fans of "Pong" and "Welcome Back, Kotter" as radio listeners of the 30s were from the audiences of Charles Dickens and stereopticons.

An excerpt from Johnson's book was published a few weeks back in the New York Times Magazine and a review by Malcolm Gladwell ("Blink" and "The Tipping Point")is in The New Yorker. If you are looking for ammunion to prove that your brain is not, after all, turning to jelly, here's the book title: "Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter." Enjoy with a Twinkie and bottle of Budweiser.

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