10 Minutes to Summarize American Culture

If you want to understand where America stands, pay attention to the Super Bowl half-time show.

I mean this from a purely sociological standpoint.

My reasoning:

  1. The Super Bowl is the single event that unites the entire country.  It transcends race, gender, social class, politics, religion and every other divide.
  2. The Super Bowl is considered family viewing.
  3. The people who put on the Super Bowl have a vested interest in maintaining this peak spot on the cultural mountain as the one All-American Event of the Year.

Therefore, the Super Bowl Halftime show is orchestrated to fit with the All-American status of the game.  It’s part of the package.  Year after year, the organizers seek out entertainers who have broad cultural appeal.

When you make it to the Super Bowl halftime stage, you are officially mainstream.

So who is American mainstream?  This year, Lady Gaga.  We’ve had Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, you can fill in the other blanks for me.

Study these people.  What do they wear?  A sparkly version of acceptable clothing.  What do they sing about? A dramatic version of acceptable feelings and desires.  How do they live? According to the accepted American ideals.

These people aren’t causes but effects.  They live to entertain: To give us what we want.  If we, as a society, found these performers to be repugnant, they would have no living.

Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Don’t be shocked! shocked! at this or that calamity in American society.  Our politics, our laws, the breakdown of our families? These are not surprises.  Everyone loves it.

 

File:Stevenson - Treasure island, 1933.djvu

Artwork courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain]

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