After listening to the NPR podcast about cultural rut, it left me very conflicted about my opinions about popular culture and culture in general. I’ve never known what a “cultural rut” was until listening to the podcast, but after taking notes about it, I realize that I, and a lot of people, are in cultural ruts. The problem I have with this idea is, why should I care if I’m in a cultural rut or if my friend is in a cultural rut? The people speaking on the podcast talk about cultural rut as if it only has negatives associated with it. They say, “I’m stuck in a cultural rut” instead of, “I’m currently experiencing a cultural rut.” Even the word “rut” puts this idea of spending your time watching, listening, and experiencing things you’ve already watched, listened too, or experienced in a negative light.
That being said, as a student of popular culture, the benefit of getting out of a “cultural rut” would be extremely beneficial. Being able to see and interpret a different form of popular culture is a valuable experience that most people of all ages don’t have. If I were to identify my current cultural rut, it would most likely be my experience with literature. Any time I ever read is because it was assigned to me by a professor or teacher for class. As a 20 year old young man, I’ve never read for pleasure. One of the podcast members mentioned how ruts are usually invisible to us, but very apparent to others and I think my experience with literature may be one of those ruts.
In an attempt to escape my cultural rut, I embarked on an idea that has never resonated with me; reading for fun. One of the speakers on the podcast mentioned manga so I decided to read a manga that my girlfriend suggested to me. The Manga is entitled Ouran HighSchool Host Club and found a copy of it on a manga sharing website called http://www.mangareader.net/ . I chose this manga because I’ve never read any literature from the Eastern Culture and because my girlfriend is currently watching the anime for this series. I consider this text “outside my wheelhouse” because not only have I not read manga, but I’m spending my free time reading instead of doing something else like watching YouTube videos or playing video games.
Reading the manga was a very interesting process. Its tiled like a traditional comic book, but It took me a while to figure out that the action happens from right to left, in contrary to our western ways of reading literature. The process of reading was very confusing simply because there are a lot of phrases in Eastern culture that I didn’t understand. For example, adding -chan at the end of someone’s name means that you feel close to them. That being said, I didn’t hate reading Ouran HighSchool Host Club but I didn’t particularly enjoy it either. In all honesty, I just would rather be doing something else with my time than reading. The manga itself was interesting and entertaining, but when I finished, all I thought was, “Wow. I could have been taking a nap or watching a YouTube video instead.” I definitely learned some new things about Eastern culture, but I don’t feel like I could read another edition of the manga.
The media itself has a lot of layers and many things about it that I could see someone who likes to read for pleasure would enjoy. After reading just one edition of the Ouran HighSchool Host Club manga, you can instantly tell that the cultural values of the east are incredibly different compared to our western values. First a foremost, all the characters are polite very polite. They use eastern equivalents of Mr. and Ms. when addressing each other and they also have words like senpai that denote if someone is older than you or in a higher class. Just from these examples, a reader can tell that the eastern culture holds high value in respecting their elders and being polite to their fellow human beings. The manga also presents men as godlike figures and women as the sheep who follow them in their hoardes. The men in the manga are idolized, fantasized, and sexualized whilst the women actually pay for the attention of the demi-god’s. This could be a correlation to the Eastern ideals that the man is the most important figure in the home, or it could be a critique about Eastern perceptions of men and women.
Hatori, B. (2002). Ouran HighSchool Host Club (Vol. 1). (Viz Media, Trans.) Chiyoda, Tokyo. Retrieved from http://www.mangareader.net/ouran-high-school-host-club/1
Thompson, S. (2014, September 5). Pop Culture Happy Hour: Repurposing ‘The Simpsons’ And Busting Out Of A Rut [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2014/09/05/346055621/pop-culture-happy-hour-repurposing-the-simpsons-and-busting-out-of-a-rut