Saturday, February 28, 2015

Clear Eyes, Full Heart ...

Awakening to Cultural Studies

Leonard Nimoy’s death reminded me of a moment in college. I don’t remember what year it was, but I was talking with a student who was writing a paper—or was it a senior thesis?—on Star Trek. The thesis was about how the show’s representations of race filtered and processed various anxieties and aspirations of the Cold War, particularly ideas about civil rights in the US and decolonization abroad.
 Remembering this conversation reminded me of one of the critical aspects of my college education: realizing that mass culture was a thing, something to be studied, analyzed, approached with the same critical eye that you would bring to a literary text or historical event.
I don't recall a moment like that, where I stopped thinking about pop culture one way, and started thinking about it another, but it's worth reminding ourselves each time we find ourselves liking a TV show, a movie, a commercial, a politician, a policy, the status quo, etc. without knowing why that someone else probably knows full well why. The tastes we indulge uncritically are the ones that tell us the most about our prejudices; it's worth examining them, if only to understand how those beliefs make us exploitable.

When we are exploitable, it's a safe bet we're being exploited. (Nature abhors a vacuum.) Exploitation is just another way of saying we're allowing someone to take advantage of someone else without accountability. Injustice thrives in the absence of accountability.

Things matter. It's often the things we think don't matter that point us towards what's really the matter.

So what I'm saying is, if you think Mr. Spock doesn't matter, that's (as a profoundly wise friend of mine might say) another sadness ...

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