Segarini: Popularity – It’s Craptastic!

It is everywhere. In the Government (both Federal and Local) in the corporations, the banks, on Wall Street, in medicine, food and drink, the music business, radio, television, movies, and the internet. No matter where you look, there is a Festival of Crap evident in every facet of our daily existence. We are inundated with shoddy this and tacky that, ill-advised laws, rules, and regulations, planned obsolescence and dumbed down entertainment. So why is there so much crap out there? The short answer? Because we love it.

Here’s the thing. Crap in and of itself is not a bad thing. You could say that there is good crap and bad crap, and the definition of those two points is dependent on the taste of the individual. For example, personally, I cannot fathom why anyone watched Jersey Shore or continue to watch Survivor or American Idol. Do we watch these shows to feel better about ourselves? To judge others? Think back on Jersey Shore. Did women in a bad relationship watch The Situation and think that maybe their boyfriend wasn’t so bad after all. Did guys look at the women on this show, consider homosexuality for a moment, and then go out knowing the dating pool can’t possibly be that bad where they live? And Survivor; what possesses us to watch an unemployed mailman and a single parent secretary eat bugs and make a raft out of driftwood, chewing gum and a pair of track pants while covered in mud and the occasional leech, all to win a candy bar or a tiki themed keychain? And in the case of American Idol. Just to be on this show, you have to sign a contract that amounts to indentured slavery, get choreographed, suited up, styled, and buffed to a fine sheen, then sing one song…a night…to a prompted audience and become a star if you’re the last boy/girl standing. What exactly does this prove? I’m not saying these kids aren’t talented, they most certainly can sing, but usually without the necessary experience for the words coming out of their mouths to have any weight, any soul other than the kind learned listening to a seasoned performer do the song over and over again. If you wanted me to watch this show, you would have to take the contestants, give them each a van and a band, send them out on the road for a year or so playing duff clubs, hotel lounges, and opening for bands at roller rinks and colleges, and then put them on TV and let us see who can actually earn the sobriquet ‘American Idol’.

On the other hand, what I do watch gets its share of derision from those who don’t get my crap. Family GuyAmerican DadArcher, and Bob’s Burgers are ‘cartoons’ to most of my friends. Procedurals (as far back as Perry Mason and Ironsides, and current manifestations like Whiskey Cavalier and The Gourmet Detective among them) are deemed ‘stupid’ and ‘loud’, which they most certainly are, but hey, I love ’em anyway.

My point is this; that mostly, popular entertainment is crap…you just have to find crap you like.

I have learned over the years that I do not have my finger on the pulse of the public. I can guess what they’re going to like, but it is only a guess. Most of what becomes mainstream (popular with the majority and easily accessible to all) is lost on me. I could not tolerate Seinfeld, yet another celebration of stupidity and self absorption as humor like its progeny Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, Modern FamilyYoung Sheldon, Fresh off the Boat, and Man with a Plan,  make me wince in pain. Shows populated with unlikable characters, propelled forward by embarrassing plot points, and supposedly funny because of how lame the people are, how stupid, how self centered, how inanely they behave? I don’t find laughing at people funny. I like laughing with people who make me laugh with wit and intelligence. I know I am not alone. Yes, all of these people have talent, but I have watched talent get derailed my whole life, and a lot of art is compromised by those who control it, not the people who create it. Popularity has become the goal because popularity earns more money, and Lord knows (especially these days) we all need more money. The bottom line however, is this. We like crap, so they give us crap. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a Big Mac, a box of Twinkies, and a Red Bull.

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At least there are enough different kinds of crap to please everyone. One of the rules you follow to make sure your crap is popular is to make sure what you are doing is familiar. People constantly complain that Hollywood has run out of ideas. They haven’t…it just looks that way. In truth, they know the majority of people want something new, yet familiar to them to spend their hard earned ducats on. So…if Studio A makes a Superhero movie that sells tickets, Studio’s B, C, and D, will also make Superhero movies. Lately, we get a good ones, like every entry in the MCU, or the fluffy but fun Shazam, but mostly, we got Nolan crap and Michael Bay explode-y trash.

The old CSI shows tipped the scales on television, and had dozens of procedurals in their wake, but now almost all of them are gone, replaced by Dateline, On the Case and other shows that tell the stories of real-life murders and mysteries.

Women as leads in action shows? There were none, now there are many. Why take a chance when someone else already has. If they’re successful, you can cash in too, or so they think. Sometimes, an imitation can be better than the original, but it is rarely the one with less crap.

If you think about it long enough (and I recommend that you do not) you can reach a horribly cynical and somewhat arrogant decision about popularity. If someone is elected to office, a movie is an Oscar winner, a song is number one, a television show wins an Emmy, and so on and so forth; everything that follows tries to emulate that success, and what does this say about our perception of ‘good’? By definition, the majority is neither in the top percentile of the population, or the bottom, it is in the middle. It is the average. It is…mediocre.

We are ruled by mediocrity, by the middle, by the average.

Most of us are in no position to judge the worth of anything. Most of us have no experience running a country, a town, or a city, yet we decide who should. Most of us have not spent years in the movie, music, television, or media industries, but we decide the worth of their efforts. Most of us have never studied to be chef or a dietician, or a mixologist, but we decide what succeeds and what doesn’t in those areas. We just plain know what we like.

It has always confused me that a majority can elect a public official, but the minute the winner (who clearly received the most votes) gets into office, seemingly everybody starts to bitch about him or her. Does this mean the ‘pre-win’ majority is different from the ‘post-win’ majority? How can there be two majorities? I’m confused. Everybody hates what’s on the radio, but what’s on the radio is the most popular music of the day. WTF?

I’m certainly relieved that we don’t sit around reading Shakespeare or the Iliad, go to the ballet or opera every Saturday night, or discuss Jung VS Freud over a double mocha latte at Starbucks in the evening to pass the time. I’m also happy that there are both People Magazine, and the Atlantic Monthly. I am grateful and deliriously thankful that Armani and WalMart can co-exist, and that Rumer releases records almost as frequently as Lady Ga Ga. We just all have to admit something. We all have to accept that what we like is probably crap to someone else, and we are all entitled to like that which floats our boat, lifts our skirts, and lights our bong.

Why is there so much crap out there?

Because we all LOVE it.

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Segarini’s column appears whenever his tips are less than his bar tab

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

 

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