Recent developments in popular culture were arguably predicted by the French philosopher and cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard in his book, ‘America’, in which he talks about the infantilzation of society. Put simply, this is the idea that as a society, we are kept in a state of arrested development by dominant forces in order to keep us more pliant. We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc. It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth? A time when we were shielded from painful truths by our recreational passions, the toys we played with, the games we played, the comics we read. […]
The ‘dumbing down’ comment came off as a huge generalisation by an A-grade asshorn. I did not mean that science fiction or fantasy are dumb, far from it. […] I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become.
–Simon Pegg on the problem with pop culture.
I actually think Pegg is on the money here, even if he’s expressing something very complex in… maybe not the most lucid way possible.
Essentially, he’s not saying that pop culture–science fiction, fantasy, comics, whatever–is childish, he’s saying it can be made childish. And, moreover, it’s made childish as part of a bread-and-circuses strategy designed to keep people politically disengaged.
If this does not describe you and your consumption of pop culture, then congratulations, gold star. But I think it’s really hard to deny the phenomenon doesn’t exist at all, particularly when you’ve got movements like GamerGate, the Sad/Rabid Puppies, and the MRA pushback against Fury Road; people who throw tantrums when popular culture dares to even lightly critique dominant social orders.