Between waiting for my flight to DC and actually being on the plane, I read one of the best books I’ve read on pop culture…at least since Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. It’s written by a scientist named Stephen Johnson, and the title is Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Pop Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter. Yes folks, he says smarter.
Of course, information can be manipulated to support pretty much any theory, but Johnson lays out a fairly convincing argument. He’s not saying we should eschew formal education, reading, or more traditional ways to “get smarter”, but it’s quite interesting to read about how Seinfeld stole from abstract theatre, how video games teach kids how to make snap decisions, and how all things entertainment are growing more complex.
But my favorite part of his book is the following statement, only because I feel like I have to justify my intented post-graduate studies:
“The talk-show hosts and conservative commentators love to poke fun at academics studying lowbrow culture…but what you’re ultimately interested in is the way culture affects human minds, not the sanctity of the individual work of art.”
And that’s exactly why I’m so passionate about pop culture. The way it affects us is fascinating to me. For example, someone who would dedicate a summer to watching the best films of all time…