Popular Culture

Danny Duncan Collum 08-03-2016
Richard Mackson / Sports Illustrated / Getty

Richard Mackson / Sports Illustrated / Getty

IN THE FIRST half of 2016, O.J. Simpson, who still resides in a Nevada prison for his bungled robbery of sports memorabilia, seemed to be everywhere. First, there was the FX series “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” a high-quality, behind-the-scenes dramatization of Simpson’s 1995 murder trial. Then came “O.J.: Made in America,” a seven-and-a-half hour epic ESPN documentary in which director Ezra Edelman finally gives the Simpson story its due as a landmark event in the history of U.S. attitudes toward race, celebrity, and domestic violence, and in the evolution of our mass media culture.

Among other things, the O.J. Simpson murder trial marked the end of an era in which professional journalists observed events, then summarized and framed them into a coherent narrative for public consumption. This legacy of the print age persisted well into the broadcast era. Until the late 20th century, live, real-time TV coverage was limited to things like sporting events, inaugurations, and moonshots, or national disasters. Otherwise, the world was presented to TV viewers in one neat, 30-minute daily package at 6 p.m.

Like everything else in American culture, this started to change as cable replaced over-the-air broadcasting and specialty channels proliferated. In 1979, C-SPAN started running gavel-to-gavel coverage of the generally somnolent proceedings of the U.S. Congress. But CNN came along the next year to make things such as a toddler falling down a well in Texas into a national melodrama. True, CNN also went wall-to-wall on things such as the Iran-Contra investigations and the first Iraq war, but in the months between legitimate big events it also whipped up essentially local stories, such as child disappearances or shark attacks, into manufactured national crises.

Brian E. Konkol 08-03-2012

Near the turn of the 2nd century A.D., the poet Juvenal published a collection of verses titled Satires.  Among other things, the text was intended to spark discussion about social norms at a time when the masses were increasingly withdrawn from civil engagement.   

In specifics, Juvenal wrote:  

…everything now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

According to Juvenal, the public of his day and age was growing less concerned about social responsibility due to personal pursuits of bread (comfort) and circus (entertainment). In addition, he believed political leaders used the distribution of comfort and entertainment as a way to sedate the population, distract them, and open opportunities for systemic manipulation. 

Juvenal believed far too many citizens were far too willing to cooperate in their own exploitation.

What I find incredibly intriguing — and disconcerting — about Juvenal’s observations is that, numerous generations later, it can be argued that much of what he considered to be problematic in his era can now be found in North America.

Christian Piatt 07-19-2012
Ten Commandments Mosaic. Image via Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock

Ten Commandments Mosaic. Image via Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock

No, this is not some new Charlie Kauffman movie that folds in on itself, creating a perpetual feedback loop. I’m serious; Christians love Top 10 Lists.

No wonder Moses did only 10 commandments.

I noticed this recently when all of the top three most popular articles on the Sojo.net at the time were lists of this kind. So I went back and did a search of my own personal blog archive. Every one of the most popular pieces started with “10 Reasons,” or “Seven Things” or the like.

Are Christians obsessed with lists? What’s the deal?

I talked to a publisher years ago who told me that the key to a successful theology book was to include something akin to “six easy steps” in the title. I never took them up on that advice, but he knew what he was talking about. So after expending a little grey matter on the issue, I came up with this list of reasons why I think Christians love these kinds of lists:

#1. We don’t want to have to think too hard: Now, before you fire up your keyboard and rattle off a protest email, this is a broader truism across our entire culture....

Gareth Higgins 03-01-2010

There's evidence that popular cinema is taking real life seriously.

"From the time of Moses' stone tablets, man [sic] has searched for a better way to store, study, and share God's work," preaches the press release for the newly released GoBible.
Finally, researchers have harnessed the fruit of the spirit into a new kind of energy drink!
Jesse Holcomb 06-01-2007
Do shows like 24 help make torture acceptable?
Struggling to explain God's ways to your Sunday school class? Nothing says "atonement" like sugar tinted with Red Dye No. 3.
Molly Marsh 06-01-2007
Clothing the world with justice.

Since the box-office success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, there's been a lot of hoopla about the big, previously neglected "Christian audience" (and how to cash in on it).

Danny Duncan Collum 05-01-2007
Now playing near you: A global monoculture.
Ed Spivey Jr. 04-01-2007
We cannot rest on our laurel, once we find out what it is.

There's no better way to prevent boredom than playing paddleball, and there's no better paddleball to remind you of your status with the Lord than the Inspirational Paddleball Game.

Julie Polter 03-01-2007
Why do Americans want to live so large?
Danny Duncan Collum 03-01-2007
Everday low prices are part of our American birthright. Right?
Molly Marsh 02-01-2007
Stitching for Social (and personal) change.

Soft Saints, Inc., purveyor of positive role models for today’s youth in the form of plush dolls, makes it possible to cuddle with a 15th-century purveyor of divine wisdom–the “Ma

Danny Duncan Collum 01-01-2007
The poet, musician, author (and senior citizen) keeps it real- and keeps it coming.

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