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Author Topic: Pop culture lies
scifibum
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My wife likes to take silly quizzes on facebook. "Which celebrity would play you in a movie about your life?" "Which pop singer are you?" There are dozens of variations on these things. They really are silly. I'm convinced they involve very little analysis. But I've noticed that they are usually all tuned to produce a flattering answer. Sometimes it's pretty obvious, like when the choices are all popular movie stars and pop singers, as in the examples I already mentioned. Other times there's ostensibly a way to get a non-flattering answer, but that doesn't seem to happen.

I suspect the popularity of these things is rooted in the little dose of flattery they produce at the end. "You're just like this famous person who gets paid for being pretty."

TV shows and movies tend to show main characters who live in expensive, professionally designed apartments. If someone is shown living in poverty or even - horrors - poor taste, most often it's either an independent production or the character is meant to be unlikeable. I watched "Yes Man" and Jim Carrey's character lived in an apartment that looked like something you'd see in a fashion magazine, not a bachelor pad. Shows about working class families have them in new houses with nice landscaped yards and new furniture, they drive nice cars and wear designer clothes. Even shows about police work and crime more often than not put the police into slick, modern and pricey digs instead of the drab suspended ceilings and flourescent lighting that you see in real offices. (Honestly, it's the sultry lighting more than anything else that gets me about Law and Order SVU. Apparently detectives like eye strain. I haven't managed to watch a full episode of any CSI flavor but I've seen the same thing in the glimpses I've caught.)

I think the message is "everyone deserves to live and work in rich, fashionable surroundings."

In entertainment, people don't spend much time at work, unless it's a drama (and then they work in the fancy digs I mentioned already). They always have plenty of time to do fun things. If we see the work environment, nobody who matters is doing anything hard. If there's a challenge it's solved with magic. "Let's just zoom in. Now....enhance. There's your license plate number!" Deadlines aren't missed. The complexity of problems never exceeds that which can be encapsulated in a sound bite. Dilemmas are personal: is this really who I am?

Message: work should be about fulfillment, and shouldn't be hard.

I can't think of too many exceptions. If a show attempts to portray realistically hard problems and crappy circumstances, it instead has disproportionate number of pretty people, or wish-fulfillment. (See: NYPD Blue. Lots of gorgeous people, and they get to beat the crap out of bad guys with no consequences.)

I'm aware that I'm not blazing a trail here by pointing out the popularity of escapist entertainment. [Big Grin] These things do bother me, at least in their most blatant manifestations, where seemingly nothing about the situation is realistic. But I don't get hung up on pretty people, for example, if other parts of the setting are somewhat realistic (or at least realistic enough to fool me).

But do these lies actually convince anyone? Does indulgence in escapism translate to an unwillingness to deal with real world problems? I wonder if skyhigh consumer debt and high divorce rates might indeed reflect some internalization of the lies of pop culture.

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Tresopax
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I don't think the hypothesis about the facebook quizzes being all about flattery is true. There are quite a few that are very much not flattering at all. I recently saw "Which infectious disease are you?"

Aside from that, yup, pop culture depicts reality in a wildly inaccurate way. I can see how it would lead to inaccurate expectations about certain jobs or lifestyles. Having said that, I don't think it translates to a general unwillingness to deal with real world problems like debt and divorce. Rather, I think the effect is more along the lines of lots of people thinking something is wrong with them because they don't have a life like the people on TV.

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Lisa
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I'm waiting for "Which Facebook Quiz are You?"

Seriously, though, that's the single most annoying thing I keep seeing on my Facebook page, and I can't filter them out without filtering articles people post.

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The Pixiest
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quote:

"Which infectious disease are you?"

I like to think of myself as a nice lingering skin aliment. Something that just never stops itching and oozing. Maybe MRSA!

BTW, should people with TB be charged with a Consumption Tax?

(edit: Changed my answer to the disease. New answer is much more true to life and much less psycho.)

[ May 22, 2009, 12:29 PM: Message edited by: The Pixiest ]

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Teshi
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There is a facebook application for making these quizzes. I made the "Which Subatomic Particle Are You??!!" quiz, for example. In that application it tells you to be positive in the responses.

Of course, my quiz had negative results-- electrons, down quarks etc.

[Razz]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:

But do these lies actually convince anyone? Does indulgence in escapism translate to an unwillingness to deal with real world problems? I wonder if skyhigh consumer debt and high divorce rates might indeed reflect some internalization of the lies of pop culture.

You may want to take a look at a newly published book called The Mirror Effect, by Drew Pinsky. It handles this issue through groundbreaking studies on celebrity and civilian narcissism indexes, and case studies.
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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
I think the effect is more along the lines of lots of people thinking something is wrong with them because they don't have a life like the people on TV.

I tend to agree.


While reading the most recent Dresden book, a friend and I had this conversation. (for context: I'm a paralegal and work in a downtown, fancy sort of law office...it's a big firm and we moved to a newly outfitted and furnished office just last June)

quote:
me: ha ha...shout out to paralegals!
and "The law office, apparently, took up the entire floor." (likely, it would really take up several, but what does Dresden know?)
K: hehehe
what chapter are you on?
me: 22
K: Ah, ok, just started 20
me: hmm....nothing like our office
first, very few meetings with actual clients take place on our turf
and when they do, it's in a conference room
the offices aren't set up anything like this...with the secretary at a reception desk
K: Yes, well, sometimes its easier to condense.
me: (not the first reception desk...but an inner one)
K: Maybe you should write to Jim Butcher... lol
me: seriously!
we don't have rock/water fountains
but we do have a nice entry way, some tasteful and simple art
and defnitely NO liquor cabinets
particularly for associate or staff attorneys
K: LOL
me: but the lady's description - that's about what they look like 'round here. [Wink]
oh, and the carpet isn't plush


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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:

But do these lies actually convince anyone? Does indulgence in escapism translate to an unwillingness to deal with real world problems? I wonder if skyhigh consumer debt and high divorce rates might indeed reflect some internalization of the lies of pop culture.

You may want to take a look at a newly published book called The Mirror Effect, by Drew Pinsky. It handles this issue through groundbreaking studies on celebrity and civilian narcissism indexes, and case studies.
I like Dr. Drew, but I'm a bit bemused by his recent venture "celebrity rehab." I haven't watched it, but I can't see how it would give much valuable insight into addiction treatment while also being a celebrity crash & burn voyeurism fest. In fact the existence of this show juxtaposed with a warning about celebrity narcissism seems a little ironic. (I listened to an episode of Loveline where a 'star' of the second season, Amber Smith, indulged in a lot of narcissistic rambling.)
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
There is a facebook application for making these quizzes. I made the "Which Subatomic Particle Are You??!!" quiz, for example. In that application it tells you to be positive in the responses.

Of course, my quiz had negative results-- electrons, down quarks etc.

[Razz]

Well, electrons should be positive...
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twinky
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Even shows about police work and crime more often than not put the police into slick, modern and pricey digs instead of the drab suspended ceilings and flourescent lighting that you see in real offices. (Honestly, it's the sultry lighting more than anything else that gets me about Law and Order SVU. Apparently detectives like eye strain. I haven't managed to watch a full episode of any CSI flavor but I've seen the same thing in the glimpses I've caught.)

... (See: NYPD Blue. Lots of gorgeous people, and they get to beat the crap out of bad guys with no consequences.)

The Wire.
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scifibum
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Yes, I had that in mind as one of the few exceptions. (And its popularity is correspondingly low.)
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dread pirate romany
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
I'm waiting for "Which Facebook Quiz are You?"

Seriously, though, that's the single most annoying thing I keep seeing on my Facebook page, and I can't filter them out without filtering articles people post.

Scroll over the right hand corner of the news feed. A tab should pop up with the options "send (person) belowedecks" and "send (quiz) belowedecks". Click on the quiz ( or other app_ and you will never see it in your newsfeed again.
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Lissande
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Problem is you have to do that for each individual quiz, and there are millions of those things. I gave up eventually.
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Samprimary
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I should make a facebook quiz titled "Which Annoying Facebook Fad Is Going To Make You Quit Using Facebook?"
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Achilles
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Seconded.
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Raymond Arnold
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I just took the "which serial killer are you?" quiz. Apparently I Ed Gein.

I read an interesting article recently (it was NOT a science article and the guy could easily have been wrong, but it sounded possible) that said the place in the brain where people store information is different from the place where you remember where than information came from. So while you might know while watching a TV show "that wouldn't really be like that," you might eventually forget that where you originally saw it was a TV show.

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Tatiana
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You know, the pop culture lies are one reason I don't like pop culture much. (Another is that it's pretty mediocre.) I read good books and the things in them are realistic and true. Even if the story is lighthearted and for entertainment only, the details are implemented in a fashion that's actually true to reality. I love that. I wouldn't lower my standards for anything!

Okay, like, some things are meant to be farcical and not at all realistic. Those are different. I'm thinking of something like Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors or Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Ernest. Those, if they're well done, can be a lot of fun and definitely aren't supposed to hold to any kind of realism.

But for most things, I really prefer if everything's real. Nevil Shute, for instance, is a fantastic storyteller, and furthermore, if he says anything in there about airplanes or sailing, or whatever it may be. Beekeeping. You know. Any random subject. Machining. You'd better believe he's going to get every detail exactly right. You'll never learn anything from reading a Nevil Shute book that turns out not to be true. And I love that about him. He's awesome. Another person like this is Michael Innes.

So my heartfelt plea to all of you is skip the mediocre and misleading pop culture garbage and read good books instead. =)

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