On Popular Culture was Re: Americana - When will Judge Judy judge Bush's war against Iraq ?

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sun Jan 12 17:20:03 MST 2003

Interesting little thread.  I saw a Judge Judy show for the first time this
week. I have been in court so often, that I was first of all struck by how
unlike the real thing it is. Generally courts are like wars - very boring
when they are not dangerous.

But the thing I really found interesting about the thread was that these
kind of questions can no longer be asked within the academy.  Juriaan
wondered why the show was popular and Lou supplied some hypotheses and
analyses.  Fascinating. Makes me want to weep though.

The "field" where I labour, Cultural/Media/Screen Studies, has been
captured by the avatars of neo-liberalism.  John Hartley by boss here at
Queensland University of Technology is a classic instance.  He opposes
above all "critique" - the critical analyses of popular culture.  He does
this in the name of populism.  He accuses critics of being elitist and
against the people. Also of being 'Manichean' and opposed to sensuality. So
in effect he champions the current cultural level of the working
people.  To do so is of course to champion their oppr4ession.

Lou's post about Cuba and the struggles taking place now in Venezuela
illustrate very clearly that the working class will have to raise their
cultural and technological level to become controllers of their own
destiny.  (BTW there is a very good Cuban film _Red Dust_ which dramatises
this very struggle.) They can of course do it and they will over the next
decades.  But nothing in Judge Judy etc will prepare them for the task.

Lou also mentioned other popular cultural texts.  My own pre-occupation is
with shows such as Big Brother.  Partly because Dean Hartley makes a great
display of being a fan.  I have written about this before and Phil F. has
pointed out that Big Brother does demonstrate that people can rise above
the constraints of capital and become friends. I take that point seriously,
but I am inclined over all to accept the position that Lou puts, namely
that these shows are a combination of the reflex towards the freak
show.  Here the fundamental pleasure comes out of watching someone more
ficked up than ourselves. There is also the element of the "15 minutes of
fame". Within Big Brother this can be had on the very cheap.  One just has
to agree to be locked up for a few weeks.  Simple.  No struggle to improve
oneself.  Just turn up and be photographed doing every day things like
scratching, pissing, defecating etc. Hell we all can do that!



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