A cultural rut is something that I personally had no idea even existed until just moments ago. It can be described in layman’s terms as sticking to the familiar when it comes to what type of culture and media you consume, so much to a point where it’s as if you’re taking in the exact same things every single day. Falling into such a rut can surely lessen one’s diversity in today’s media centered society. As someone who has watched every single episode of How I Met Your Mother three times and can quote every single line of every Harry Potter Movie, I know that I could certainly benefit from breaking out of my cultural rut. All it takes is a little bit of exploring around different types of media to find something new that may pique one’s interest, and becoming ‘more cultured’ so to speak could benefit everybody. Most forms of culture are works of art made to be consumed by masses and deserve that type of attention.
Being a pretty typical twenty-year-old guy, the culture I consume is fairly lacking in diversity. I watch loads of sports, sitcoms, and action movies when I’m not playing XBOX or Nintendo. To step out of my cultural comfort zone, I went to the E! network to tune in to the most asinine show I could possibly think of. What better to break up the mundane day of SportsCenter and Super Smash Brothers than a solid hour of Keeping Up With The Kardashians? As one who has never paid the smallest bit of attention to celebrities, I thought it would be interesting to see if these people really are worth keeping up with the way so many people do, so I decided to go ahead and dive right in when I found it on TV.
Incredibly enough, this program was slightly worse than I expected to be. These people, for whatever reason, really are famous just for being famous. I spent a full hour of my life watching this show and I thoroughly enjoyed the 16 minutes of commercials far more than the 44 minutes of so-called ‘content.’ On top of that, saying there’s 44 minutes of fresh content per episode is a bold lie. Every time the show cuts to a commercial break, viewers are forced to re-watch around five minutes of the exact same content they saw right before the break. It’s almost as if they expected me to forget whatever irrelevant garbage they showed before the slew of beauty product commercials attacked my television. While I personally did not enjoy the E! show, I believe nearly all pieces of culture can be a learning experience. The show is in its 12th season according to E!’s website, showing that this family obviously has a serious following. While I personally may not be a fan of these narcissists, they were able to prove that many people are simply a fan of keeping up with people simply because they’re attractive and carry themselves as if they should be famous.
Generally, when thinking of culture, some of the first ideas that can come into one’s head are that of traditional high culture. Pieces such as the Mona Lisa, Citizen Kane, and classical music are what many scholars and general people consider to be the essence of culture. This high culture is what is discussed critically and recounted in textbooks. Just because this culture is more frequently chronicled, it doesn’t mean it’s the only culture that exists and has an effect on our society. This other culture comes in many forms, and is made for mass consumption in the current day. As Dwight MacDonald puts it, ”It is sometimes called ‘Popular Culture,’ but I think ‘Mass Culture’ a more accurate term, since its distinctive mark is that it is solely and directly an article for mass consumption, like chewing gum” (MacDonald 12). I believe Keeping Up With The Kardashians certainly falls into this idea of mass culture, as it is created to be sold to today’s current market, but holds little value in the eyes of high culture. I wouldn’t consider it the type of culture that will be fondly remembered and talked in about in history classes years down the road. That being said, its current relevance proves that it is still indeed an important part of culture. If any television show, regardless of quality of content, can muster up a large enough following to be continued on for (at least) twelve seasons, it has certainly established itself as an important part of the era within which it exists. In all, while not all pieces of culture should be viewed as high culture, they should all be recognized for what they do within society in their time.
“Havana Good Day.” Keeping Up With the Kardashians. E!. n.d. Television.
MacDonald, Dwight. A Theory of Mass Culture. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.