Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Pop Culture and Mediocrity

I’ve been noticing a popular culture trend over the last decade that says that mediocrity is ok. Basically, movies, books, and commercials have made jokes about us every day people who think about becoming great, but generally succumb to our pettiness and remain mediocre. It’s typified in the whole Bridget Jones franchise.

I was (and still am) a huge fan of the whole genre for quite a while, including Bridget Jones, every woman’s everyday girl. What I don’t like is the general trend in marketing that I’ve seen recently that jumps on what used to be a humorous commentary on the pettiness of our Western society, and turned it into an “it’s okay to never think about things bigger than ourselves” mentality.

In particular, I was reminded of this whole trend by a Tim Horton’s commercial where two women are in the drive-thru and talking about their 2005 resolution to become better people, write a novel, and make great change. They settle, instead for getting the newest muffin and bagel on the menu. While it’s meant in jest, the underlying message is that you needn’t ever rise above your do-nothing mediocre life, so just spend your money on more trivial, unhealthy crap.

I know many of you will say that I’m reading WAY to much into franchise commercials, but this one really hit home. And now, I bet you’ll find evidence of this trend everywhere you look in popular culture.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Carmi said...

Really well put! I've always believed pop culture is, by definition, completely reliant on the dilution of excellence. Mediocrity occupies the big fat center of the bell curve. Future content must mimic past content so that it does not alienate too many consumers in that juicy middle ground.

Within that mindset, shooting for the stars would only marginalize the potential degree of acceptance.

I'll hang out on the fringe as I churn your thought-provoking post - over and over - in my head.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Retroboy said...

I suppose the burning question to be asked here is......

What flavour was the muffin?

All hail mediocrity!

At 2:47 AM, Blogger Rich Rosenthal II said...

I usually get kicked out of the room when I get on a rant about the underlying meaning of a given commercial. Also there is the inherent evil of people who say, "I watch the superbowl for the commercials." the entire christmas you will get sex if you buy our loved ones this really expesnive gift message almost pushed me over the edge.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Dean said...

Commercials are a reflection of the culture as a whole. More than anything else, they give you a glimpse into what is acceptable and what is hip. Few advertisers really push the envelope, and if they do, they push it in a direction in which society has already moved anyway. They're not trying to change things, they're trying to sell stuff. They're trying to tap into, not create.

I'll bet it would be interesting as hell to go back and sit through a day of TV, circa 1965. That would tell you more about the society of that day than the memories of an old codger like me.

(I should qualify that by saying that I was 5 in 1965, and so my opinions on popular culture at that time should be taken with a colonload of salt*.)

* Eww. That sounds painful.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I have to take issue with you on this one, Trillian. My recently discovered gluten allergy notwithstanding, there is nothing trivial about breakfast in Canada.

I have no doubt that the path to greatness neccessarily leads one through the center of many a Tim Horton's donut hole.


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