Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cultural Magnets

From Julie D., over at Happy Catholic, comes this interesting exercise:

Via Quoth the Maven, comes this proposed list from Brewing Culture of those cultural moments which act as glue to bind us together as a culture and community.

I have added my "vote" after each item in italics.

Here's the CSM's proposed top-10 list. What do you think? How many of these do you partake of? Do you have others to suggest?

1) Breaking News
History in the making, with all of us glued to our TVs as it happens. Election night. The tsunami. Katrina. 9/11. These are images that not only keep us watching and can unite us, but often spur people to real action.

(I only watch breaking news if someone calls me about it because I'm usually busy doing something else. Oddly, I did happen to have the TV on at 6:00 a.m. the morning of 9/11. But Hubs also called me.)

2) The Super Bowl
An average of 90 million people watch the game every year. In 2005, 10 million more people watched than voted in the last election. Even if they were just watching for the commercials.

(We DVR'ed it this year and fast-forwarded through the commercials and some of the more intolerable replays.)

3) New Year's Eve / The Fourth of July
Both holidays are culturally defined by outdoor spectacles: Billions of people worldwide tune in for at least a glance of New Year's in Times Square, and millions head out to watch fireworks with neighbors and strangers each 4th of July.

(These have become family traditions/outings here in the Warren. We have celebrated New Year's Eve at home, at "First Night" celebrations, at family parties. The Fourth is watching the local hometown parade, a family bbq at the house of Bro#1 and his wife, and fireworks sponsored by our hometown at a local bayfront park.)

4) Oprah Winfrey
America's most powerful celebrity and most trusted person, Oprah's endorsemeent means millions in hard cash. Her influence is so pervasive that she was single-handedly blamed for people avoiding hamburgers because of her comments during the mad-cow scare in 1996.


5) Harry Potter
Over 250 million copies sold in the U.S. alone, and over $1 billion in ticket sales at the box office, Harry has brought families together around a story, and has not only gotten kids to read thousands of pages voluntarily, but has spurred an increase in reading across the country.

(I love Harry! He hasn't spurred a lot of reading in my particular household, but my niece and nephews enjoy him. The movies, however, are becoming major family events. Considering there is a 10-year difference in age between #1 and #4, I find that pretty amazing!)

6) American Idol
A show which draws from the diversity of all 50 states, and consequently looks more like the "real" America than any other. Selling the "new" American Dream -- that elusive 15 seconds of fame -- AI relies on that most American of institutions -- the democratic vote -- to stand as an icon of "interactive" TV.

(The kids watch it. I don't.)

7) The Oscars
Even though only handfuls of people have seen this year's five Best Picture nominees, millions and millions in America -- and up to a billion around the world -- will still watch the Academy Awards.

(Haven't paid much attention since "Oscar Parties" in college. I'll look at clips and pictures of the dresses.)

8) Cyberspace hangouts
Think of Craigslist, the city-based classified ads listing site which racks up 3 billion page views each month. Or MySpace, the teen-dominated board which claims membership of 50 million and gets more hits each day than Google, eBay and Amazon combined.

(Blogs and my e-mail.)

9) The Da Vinci Code
It may be a literary hodgepodge and flaming heresy to boot, but the book, with its 29 million copies in print worldwide, has created a cultural maelstrom in which everyone has to take sides, whether they've read it or not.

(Poorly written and inaccurate. I think Dan Brown should be beheaded for misuse of history and artistic masterpieces, never mind the Catholic Church.) (Okay--maybe not beheaded. But there is a deserving author who did not get his/her due because of Dan Brown's shlock--and the fact that his next book will also be published.)

10) U2
Heirs to the Beatles as the only truly global rock band, U2 is a unifying force across generations and cultures, with Bono blazing new trails as a humanitarian and political activist.

(I know who they are, but couldn't name a single song. Besides, whenever I hear "Bono," I think "Sonny.")

These Cultural Magnets are definitely current. The ones that I would have picked are quite different:

The Assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Moon landing and walk of Apollo 11.

The successful return of Apollo 13 (we watched the splashdown on TV monitors in my high school cafeteria).

The explosion of the Challenger.

The first Star Wars movie (where we learned to pay more than $5 for a movie willingly!).

The end of the Vietnam war.

The introduction of the personal computer (Apple and Commodore 64).

The introduction of the pocket calculator (HP-35 and Texas Instruments). (Hey, calculators meant never losing the decimal point again!)

The introduction of the VCR.

The inauguration of Bill Clinton as the first Baby Boomer President.

The introduction of The Pill--and Feminism.

Vatican II.

The death of John Paul I and elevation of John Paul II.

The tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Thanksgiving: parades, football, turkey, and family. And no presents (so no pressure!)

The resignation of Richard Nixon.

As you can see, my selections are also generationally and culturally biased. But that's what identifies us as group. My mother's list would probably include Pearl Harbor and the Depression.

This is not a bad thing.