Mass culture often does a better job of reflecting the complexity and contradictions of the way we live now more vividly than polling data or election results. Culture can live in those contradictions, rather than trying to force them into a coherent picture that will predict the next election or explain the outcome of the next big policy fight. And it can help us escape the constraints of our politics entirely, giving us dreams about what our lives might be like hundreds of years in the future or thousands of mile from earth, or without the constraints of our existing gender roles, racial divides, or resource distribution. To put it another way: it’s significant that the best case for public service these days comes less from federal officials in Washington than from “Parks and Recreation,” a low-rated, obsessively friendly sitcom that has stayed alive for six seasons by sheer force of pluck and determination.
As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat put it on Friday in response to a question from a reader about his culture writing, “In certain ways pop culture is our public discourse – or at least the discourse that matters to the millions of Americans who are sane enough to tune out most of what happens here in Washington D.C.”
At this blog, I want to talk to all of you, whether you’re exhausted by the dramas of national politics or obsessed by them. And we won’t just be parsing policy or fact checking political art. If you’re addicted to “Scandal” or desperate for the next installment of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” I’ll be writing about power, politics–and the latest One True Pairing.
The highest respect we can show culture we love–or that we really, truly hate–is to take it and its ideas seriously. That’s how we determine what we value and what we’re afraid of, what we’ll tolerate from some characters but not from others, and what sorts of ideas are hot and which are marginal, or even untouchable. At a moment of what seems like wild bounty in film, television, books and music, it’s a call for pop culture to everything it’s capable of doing to help us understand the world and ourselves.
Because what we have on the page, on the screen, or in our ear buds isn’t determined solely by what inspires artists, I’ll spend time talking about where pop culture comes from and how it gets delivered, too. As Comcast moves forward with its attempted takeover of Time Warner Cable, as Netflix tries to figure out whether it’s a cable network or an internet service, and as the Federal Communications Commission moves forward with new net neutrality regulations, we’ll discuss what these big moves in business and technology mean for what ends up in front of us.
So let’s talk. Let me know how you feel about Brandon Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance,” whether you share my frustration with Kristina and Adam Bravermen on “Parenthood” this season and the great movie you saw at SXSW that I just have to catch when it screens here in Washington. You can e-mail me here and you can find me on Twitter at @alyssarosenberg. Let Act Four begin.