On the whole we as a culture like things that are easy. Britney Spears’ music is easy. Freddy’s movies are easy. They don’t challange you, don’t make you think too hard, don’t make you feel too much. It’s easier to give your kid a lunchables pack for lunch, rather than making a sandwich, cutting up some veggies and fruit. even if it tastes like shit and isn’t nutricious, oscar meyer tells us its lunch, so its easier. a lot of pop culture is like the lunchable: its easy to digest but ultimately leaves you hungry and malnourished. But if you consume lots and lots of lunchables you can keep the hunger at bay.
The media doesn’t so much lead us by the nose, as much as they filter out the things that are too tricky or challenging. much better to watch Dawson’s Creek than that pesky michael moore’s T.V. Nation. That said, there is nothing wrong with watching Dawson’s creek or listening to a Britney record, just like there’s nothing wrong with chowing some ez cheese or a toaster strudel from time to time. The question becomes how much of your diet consists of these kinds of things. If you are a well rounded person then you cultural diet will be more diverse. you may have some interests and tastes that are extremely challenging and some guilty pleasures and then a whole bunch of the good stuff in between.
Take J’s music for example it’s not as musically challenging as a piece by coltrane or debussy, but it certainly isn’t O-town or LFO. It challenges, excites, makes you react and feel. In short its the good stuff in the middle.
Something that has artistic value, can be judged on many levels on enjoyed more than just a couple of times. I know this is a fairly mundane description but thinking about this question even in these simplistic terms we can start to quickly see the difference between something with at least some artistic merit and something that was created as a safe commodity.
As far as what culture says about the individual, I think that people with certain values and priorities in life tend to gravitate towards certain types of music/literature/film etc. I don’t think these things define the person as much as they often reflect his/her world/life view.
losing my point
so I’ll take the easy way out and listen to some britney and munch on some peperoni lunchables.