Friday, July 22, 2005

commenting on comment pieces, hopefully coherently...

ho hum. i've just read an interesting piece in the guardian - Page 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 girl - about the mentality of porn taking over pop culture. It raised some worthwhile points, but i think i have to disagree.

The main points are the preponderance of nubile women in sexual poses in the media, ranging from shampoo ads to Nuts magazine, how this will affect the generation growing up with this and the old chesnut of objectification of women as sex objects. I think these are all fair concerns. What I'm less certain of are exactly which of these issues is particularly new, or worsened, recently and, more specifically, exactly how porn is to blame.

I think it's fair to say that ads have been getting more risque, but over the last 20 years - not just overnight. And i think it's fair to say that kids in the playground gawping at Nuts or Zoo is - culturally speaking - probably not a great thing, but again magazines like FHM have had the same playground cool for a while (and before that kids gawping at page 3... you've got to learn from somewhere!). What seems like a more coherent argument however is not to take these things in isolation and say "hmmm, that's a cause of porn becoming more mainstream and the media spreading these attitudes". It seems that it's more about the lad/ladette lowest common denominator culture that is at the root of all this. Magazines like nuts don't show this stuff because they've seen it in porno, they show it because it's what the public want, because beer and football and tits are all we are. People who want porn can go and buy porn, i don't think that it's some kind of malign evil that is saturating our media; rather it is the media that is taking its cue from popular culture and reflecting the growing interests of the public.

And more than this i'm not even sure if we can cast it in these simple black and white terms. Can we really say culture is dumbing down, or can we only go as far as saying that certain aspects of culture which currently seem popular don't reflect the intellectual aspects of humanity which we consider important? Can we also say that this has always been the case throughout history? This stuff is transitional, attitudes change and i don't think this can generally be cast as either a good or bad thing. Would i like to have the attitudes of someone from the 30s towards nudity? Would i like to have the attitudes of someone from the 1800s towards slavery or empire? No. Things change, but it's not just a one-way street and it's also not just a one-lane road, there's bound to be strange oscilations in taste and standards that some love and others loathe. Sure this stuff is popular, but so is a lot of other stuff that isn't concerned solely with beer and laddish jokes and puns. Look at the bigger picture and realise that there's probably not much you can do about it - save not being trapped by it - nor does it matter much in the end anyway.


and this was good too:
It's not political correctness to hold soldiers to account


Blogger paulhd said...

FHM may have been seen in the playground, but about 10 years ago there would've been very little in the way of 'cheesecake' in it and the cover would have been am actor or musician wearing a nice suit. Then the 'lad' mentality appeared and Loaded (which certainly took it's cues from porn, taking a 'movement' and also creating much of it) quickly arrived to capitalise on it. The success of Loaded saw FHM follow suit and then Arena as well as paving the way for new increasingly bad mags.
When a porn mag turned up in the playground years ago it was a rarity and tapped into kids genuine curiosity, now that curiosity is sated earlier and easier with Nuts/Zoo/whatever in a manner possibly even more degading to sex than porn simply because it is so prevelant.
Maybe the media and a more tolerant attitude to porn didn't create a certain culture but it's exploitation of it has seen that culture become worse. I wouldn't want to see a return to 30's values of nudity and sex but porn and pornlike advertising does damage peoples ideas of sex. A healthy appreciation of sex and the male and female body is one thing, yet the contrived, loveless, cynical and nearly always sordid manner of porn et al is not healthy (amazing how film, books, etc can be as crass or as literate as they want when focusing on violence yet almost always resorts to cheap titilation when focusing on sex)
I do think the advertising and the medias use of sex for the last 15-20 years or so has mirrored how it steals youth movements and sells it back to us/them, such as it did with grunge.
You're right, there's very little that can probably be done about this, but it is important to keep bringing it to peoples attention, because frankly when sex is used to sell EVERYTHING from mags to mobiles in such a lame manner, then it's not just foul, it makes sex seem unnatural and that's just wrong.

22/7/05 8:35 pm  
Blogger paul said...

yeah, i pretty much agree with that. i think it is fair to say that there is far too much sexual advertising. what i take issue with is the way this trend is blamed on certain scapegoats and the resultant conclusion that dealing with the scapegoat issue will solve the problem.

personally i think there is a place in society for porn, and as you say there is a place for stuff that promotes a healthy appreciation of sex. but pop culture gets stuck in these feedback loops - lads beget mags, mags beget more lads and so on - and i don't think you can stop this trend easily nor blame it on one thing. it's simply how trends and fashions seem to work.

thus the cries of 'something must be done' ring true to a certain extent as this crass culture is so pointless, but also seem like a denial of the evolutionary process that society goes through. still, i guess the point about culture is that if you don't like it you're free to add your 2 pence worth to the argument and maybe change some of the ideas that people hold about where we should be heading.

and yes, that did turn into another rather ambigous ramble, i'm struggling to pinpoint precise things to say about this, i just know i felt that the original article was lazy and lacked depth in its argument.

24/7/05 11:29 pm  
Blogger paulhd said...

Scapegoats implies that there is some sort of innocence. Other than that nitpicking I'd agree, the article the Guardian, not yours - that's the nice thing about blogging, you don't have to formulate your response first, it's like online thinking!) was a little lazy and the idea that dealing with the 'scapegoats' will solve the issues is flawed at best.
Sadly what would solve this issue (and many others) is cliched. I think it's simply a question of people taking responsibility for themseves and their actions. Not the most dazzling of solutions but that's why people never bother doing it, that and they think why should they if no one else is - I can see the debate in the Nuts and various advertising offices, "Well, everybody else is doing it, why can't we?"

25/7/05 6:57 pm  
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