Popular culture which is massy and has a wide appeal turns toxic when people start imposing it and see it as a criterion for judgement. Read below to find out how criticism on the basis of ones artistic choices and intolerance towards the ‘popular’ develops an environment of toxicity.
When on one side Popular culture is accused of lacking “literary sensibilities” and in the words of Mark Angenot, it “occupies a space outside the literary enclosure, as a forbidden, taboo and perhaps a degraded product”, on the other side, it seeks shelter in the minds of the youth who high appreciation for it. They often consider its diligent follow up as a pre-requisite for forming a part of the ‘cool gang’.
This notion erases the liberty of associating yourself with the content in sync with your interests and forces you to get involved with the mainstream. This shouldn’t be misinterpreted as the consumption of the mainstream media and arts as something wrong. Youngsters due to the hegemony of the trending feel alienated when not versed with it.
“I am not that kind of a person who’d pick a genre or be an absolute fan, so I watch or read anything from popular to underrated. So there are tropes of ‘popular’ within these categories as well. I happily introduce people or give recommendations because it’s joyful, but oh god there are some people who are just so condescending if you don’t follow their trope. I just feel like Aisha in a world of Kabir from Wake Up Sid!,” says Umaima Khanam, BJMC student at KNC.
The creation and interpretation of art are highly subjective. Robbing people of that subjectivity and liberty by looking down upon those sharing uncommon view is just another instance of the domination of the majority over the minority. The toxic formula of making people abide by the common notion by being intolerant towards those who speak against it or have no appreciation for it might have serious implication on one’s mental health.
“Ohh, you haven’t watched Friends; you are so backwards” is a remark I encountered every now and then till the time I didn’t binge watch it. Judging people on the basis of their artistic choices and behaving critically towards those who are different from you is just another form of bigotry.
“It is very important for people to understand the difference between popular and populist. Popular is something that is just famous while populist is something that resonates with the masses. So, the very idea of rushing behind what is popular and not populist is toxic.
Also, I believe literature should be an arena that should be devoid of ranks and hierarchies, having those I think goes against the very spirit of art and demotivates new artists and their works. We shouldn’t be static with our choices, fixating upon a specific piece of art is not only toxic but also causes demotivation to the creator,” says Priyanshi Banerjee, English Hons. student at LSR.
This idea of following a forced trend stands in strong contradiction towards the idea of being yourself. People should develop inclusivity and rather than criticizing a piece of art, or those who appreciate it just on the basis of their own choices and opinions should be eager to know the why behind the difference of opinion. This approach will not only enable a process of learning but will promote the creation of a holistic environment wherein people are free to fall in love with what they desire and not with what they are forced to desire.
The article was previously published on DU Beat.