Okay, if you’re not a fan of American football, this post’s title very likely means nothing to you. Even if you are a fan, if you don’t take part in the time-honored fan traditions of snark and sarcasm towards other teams — not to mention the internet slang/jokes the title is pulled from — it still likely means nothing. Bear with me, all will (hopefully) make sense as I try to work a whole bunch of random, unrelated thoughts into a coherent post.
Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday here in the US. Now, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the American media universe. Whether you love or hate it, the Super Bowl dominates the landscape in a way almost nothing else can touch. Hell, we’ve had twenty years of the freaking Puppy Bowl solely as an anti-Super Bowl for those who hate football…and if that ain’t impact on culture and life, I don’t know what is!
Yes, there’s always a but! But the media landscape is changing. It is changing as surely as is the socio-cultural landscape. That is no bad thing, by the way. Nor is it a new thing. Things change. Things have to change. Life and love and progress are built on dynamism, on imbalances in the system and the alterations those imbalances drive. Think of it as a physics problem, if you will; unchanging stasis is an utter impossibility.
At present, the change to the landscape is a splintering, and a devolution. Oh, not devolution in a bad way, but devolution in the sense of de-centralization. No longer do we all watch the same TV. No longer do we all experience the same programs and thoughts and cultures. We, for the most part, are far more active in our viewing today; we pick through Netflix and Prime for the best movies and TV. We follow Youtube and Twitch and TikTok creators who are the definition of niche — our niche. We actively choose our viewing, rather than the simple passivity of absorbing what someone else chooses for us.
Individuality is the order of the day, and that is a change very much for the better. For the most part. It has its negatives, too. The splintering of the media landscape also reflects a splintering in the socio-cultural fabric of our lives.* This is why I mentioned the Super Bowl above; its power is on the wane. It still is a media behemoth, and an arguably over-powered presence in the American media landscape, but no longer is it an absolute, automatic dominator.
*Or is it a cause? You can argue that one from both sides and make a good case either way.
I don’t do “regular” TV in any way, I only stream. Over the last couple of years the Super Bowl has been far more of an afterthought than it a must-watch. For anyone with similar viewing circumstances — a large and growing percentage of us — to watch and get overwhelmed by the Super Bowl requires actively seeking it out, rather than having it thrust upon us. Now, that is no bad thing since American football is not for everyone. Nor does it, in and of itself, say much of anything about our culture. But…
But, the Super Bowl used to be one of those touchstone, shared-experience things. We all saw it because we couldn’t escape it. We all talked about it the next day because there was nothing else to talk about. That no longer applies. One of our shared experiences — one of those things that unifies a culture — is no longer filling that role. Another crack appears, another splintering of our shared experiences.
The question of the day, of course, is what comes out of those cracks and fractures? What culture emerges? History is, in this, not much of a guide as “today” really is unique (a concept I am usually loathe to assert). In the past, the slow pace of communications meant culture was essentially a local thing. There could be no real splintering as, try as they might, folks living next to each other experienced the same things everyday.
Today? Today I doubt my neighbors watch the same things I do. Yeah, a whole lot of folks have experienced The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ right alongside me, but how many followed that up by watching the Millenial Farmer on Youtube?
Yeah, the Lambs beat the Bungles on Sunday, but I didn’t watch it. I didn’t care. Instead I binge-watched Apple’s attempt to turn Asimov’s Foundation into a show (hoo boy, is that a post for another day!). Thanks, Mr Yeats, for touching on this:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Wait…was that another crack I heard beneath my feet?
Okay, so this part of the post started as a mere Musical Note appended to end, but it grew a bit from there. It grew into an explanation and an exploration that I think merits inclusion into the main body. Music exerts tremendous power and influence over me. I say it all the time, but it bears repeating: music has power. I don’t do a terribly good job of explaining the particular how’s and why’s of that power, so I thought I would take a stab at it again by using an explanation from this particular song’s writer/singer as a way to illustrate:
“I write quite a few songs where the sort of issue is faith – having faith, keeping faith. And this song in particular is about the difficulty in having faith in things, and finding things to have faith in. In yourself, in God, in like he said, a woman. Faith is a weird thing, it in a sense it is all about waiting. It’s not actually about getting anything, you know, faith is about the wait, because once you get something there is no need anymore. So a lot about faith is just the willingness to sort of throw yourself on a fence and hang there for a while. That’s a very difficult and bitter thing, you know. In this song, I keep saying the main character, *I*. I said, “All my sins, I would pay for them if I could come back to you.” It’s not just about finding things to believe in, it’s about wanting to be able to believe in anything too. And it’s about all the voices that get inside your head and whisper for you to do it or not to do it as well.”