The Apocalypse took several hundred to complete, but it has already occurred, and now we are in danger of joining the Oblivious Walking Brain-Dead
I have always seen myself as a critically-minded person. I had always thought that I was adept as looking through texts of various genres from Hemmingway to a nightly news program, and seeing what others may not in analyzing texts. However, I have had to reconsider what it is to be a truly critical thinker. What I have realized more and more is that the lens through which we look is vital to adapting and facilitating our ability to see what messages may be transmitted through the images, sounds, and texts to which we are endlessly exposed. How Marxist theory changes the themes, characters, and messages of everything we see is to notice a new world of oppression. Feminist criticism exposes the universal struggles of women and the ingrained, accepted patriarchy- enforced gender roles and hegemony that rule every aspect of our society is surreal. One can see how the world at large has become a safe haven for an infinity of sexism and both openly cruel and sickeningly patronizing texts of every kind. These hidden messages that support these oppressive norms are have created the post -apocalyptic reality, and we are all the walking brain dead.
I had completely missed many of the messages in television and film that were blatantly harmful to women, and perpetuated a culture in which men have a hundred portrayed definitions of “happy” and women only one – life in the home and time spent with family. Of course this is not to suggest that is not something that, in fact, does make many women happy, but it is not the only thing. I had sometimes caught the sexism and the messages that all powerful women would really be happier at home doing laundry while combing through cookbooks, but admittedly, I more often was unaware and oblivious to the manner in which women and men are routinely portrayed. The lens of a feminist critical theory approach has completely altered every conversation I have and my view of everything I read and see – and just between you and me … that is saying something. I have to say there are now so many more ironies to behold and of which to be in awe. The montage of countless professional journalists and commentators weighing in on Hillary Clinton’s behavior and appearance reads as though it was written for an episode of Mad Men – and yet those who rail against feminism have the airwaves convinced that “Femi-nazis” are the real problem, and not the misogynistic norms of society. Of course what concerns me the most is how my own children will digest these messages and how it may affect my daughter’s identity.
This affect is all clear once one acquires and focuses a critical lens. A lens through which to focus our critical eyes and ears can change everything we thought we understood about not just the texts around us but what we think and believe. A critical point of view allows one to scrutinize and examine texts in specific paths of thought that have very different outcomes than when we simply observe or read, even when we think we are critical thinkers.
As we have moved onto other genres of pop culture, I continually see texts and behaviors that reflect the critical theories we have studied. I have in the past surveyed critical theories as applied to literature as an English Major. I was most struck with the applications of philosopher of Jacques Derrida and logocentrism –an idea which regards words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality, or describing a particular sense of the relationship between thought, speech, and writing – one basic application is that we cannot really think about anything until we have a word for it…. This has always explained my love of academia because academia names things. Once we have a name for something we can study it and take note of it and apply or fight against it.
Critical Theory names the manner in which we are indoctrinated or numbed each and every day. Critical theories give names and therefore disempower the modes of oppression and marginalization.
As I look to the manner in which television is designed to addict and capture an audience, and the manner in which the internet and Youtube turn one shared video into a 3—minute time suck of mendacity, I had never before connected that with statistics stating that ”Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many—63 percent—spend less than an hour a day on the internet unless it is job-related. 77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the internet recreationally,” and only 9 percent of the wealthy watch reality TV shows (Corley 2016). These stats are published in virtually every money and investment magazine from Forbes to Money. It is almost excruciating how this fits into a Marxist criticism of the entire structure of pop culture on TV and the internet. All is perfectly tailored to depoliticize and numb the masses so they will not notice how the powerful have it all and they are forever relegated to the powerless have nots. Of course the wealthy do not even consume the time-wasting television and internet memes and tubers, and ceaseless viral videos.
The pop culture post - apocalyptic world we inhabit is a wasteland of unread books and toddlers glued to hand-held screens just right for their little hands, and altered thought patterns (not for the better) and news anchors more concerned with viewer responses than the Fourth Estate, and an entire quarter plus of the population who believe that The New York Times is fake news and Fox news is the only place to get the truth, and The Bachelor –……. There are so many dangerously oppressive, sexist, mind-numbing, base hegemonic assertions in that one program , I can only hope that if we rise out of this wasteland manipulation of subversive texts the entire show will be a profane term – “you evil Bachelor-watching cake sniffer.”
In the meantime, we can only remain vigilant in seeing through the eyes of prophetic brainiacs who saw all this coming long before the first laugh track conditioned the need for a peer-pressured chuckle. Perhaps we will see and share more enlightened content that supports texts with in which the marginalized and disempowered get an equally good seat at the table in our brave, new world.