An advantage to posting late today, I can forgo the standard Valentine's Day stuff. Instead, I want to talk about something that strikes me frequently, but really hit last night during the Grammy Awards. While watching, it struck me that, even though I'm a little older and never have really be a mainstream/pop music guy, I had very little idea who most of the people performing, presenting, and nominated were. The same thing happens when I watch the Oscars and Emmys as well, and I would be completely lost if I tried watching the MTV awards nowadays. I'm not even sure MTV does awards anymore, it's not like they do music anymore....
However, it occurs to me that this isn't simply a matter of me being out of touch with the mainstream entertainment world. It seems to me that there isn't really a mainstream entertainment world anymore. Very few and far between are those universally recognized bands, movies, or TV shows. There was a time when there were some TV shows and movies that everybody had seen, and some songs that everyone knew the lyrics to. Now, with 157 channels and DVRs to fill our TV addiction and everything under the sun (and a lot of stuff from the shadows) available on the internet on demand, plus advertisers and producers preferring pinpoint target marketing over the melting pot, and a big helping of the constant push of modern western society to individuality, it all comes to a very splintered culture. I know we have blips on the scene, such as Justin Bieber, American Idol, and Glee, but is the fandom and recognition of those as universal as say Michael Jackson, The Cosby Show, or Titanic?
I have been and still consider myself part of several different subcultures that suffer from this kind of splintering. Metal, punk, hacking, and the Church all suffer in various ways from too many within the groups looking at their individuality instead of trying to melt together. Punk is particularly vicious when it comes to dividing over ideals, with it's long and strong history of fighting to stay out of the mainstream and avoid any contact with evil corporate record labels, some in the scene laying out lots of hate, verbal, in print and sometimes physical on anyone daring to gain commercial success playing punk. Metal isn't quite as bad, but there are some examples of the masses calling out bands for sudden, money-inspired career choices ****COUGHCOUGHCOUGHMETALLICACOUGHCOUGH****** (Excuse me, something in my throat). Hackers engage in a lot of debates of white hat (searching out computer exploits simply for the sake of knowledge and fixing them) verses black hat (happy to exploit found holes for monetary gain, cyber vandalism or scene fame). And of course, we don't have dozens of different denominations within the Church, didn't go through the Reformation, and didn't have a Great Awakening here in America because everyone in the Body agreed on all points of theology.
There's nothing wrong with some grouping together by ideals, tastes, or histories. The annual Cornerstone Christian metal festival is a big gathering of people brought together by their taste in music and their faith. The Hackers Of Planet Earth (H.O.P.E) conferences are gathering of people interested in technology, what it does, what it is doing to us, and what we can do to it. But when those metalheads go home, they go to their more diversified local churches, and those hackers head back to their mainstream jobs and schools. Both groups mix and mingle with others who may or may not share all of their views and likes. Hopefully, both the mixers and mixees pick up positives from each other. The metalhead may get inspiration for a song from a line in the pastor's sermon, and one of the hacker's coworkers just may start practicing safer websurfing habits after a conversation about where the hacker went last weekend.
That's the whole point of a melting pot. Different groups putting all of their good ideas together, often to create brand new ideas. I know we started off talking about divisions in our entertainment culture, but those are just an example of the divisions in our culture, divisions that cut much deeper than TV shows and music. Some of these divisions come from the aforementioned target marketing, with a lot of money and research going into exactly what words and images attract people with different tastes. Some of them come from certain groups looking to keep the culture at least divided and distracted, if not conquered.
We can't have a melting pot without a variety of ingredients. But we also can't have a melting pot without those ingredients being willing to come together sometimes. No, simply trying a new radio station or a different news station or listening to a different preacher isn't going to create a great social conglomeration, but it is a step in the right direction.