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Flynn: Politics Killing Pop Culture’s Popularity

The Grammys featured a performer namedrop “President Agent Orange” and a presenter urging the audience to google a transgender teen. The made-for-television event lost one percent of its ratings over last year and four percent over 2015.

Coincidence?

“I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States,” Busta Rhymes boorishly announced during a performance. “I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt of the Muslim ban.”

Other entertainers hit the president with more oblique shots. Joy Villa grabbed attention by wearing a “Make America Great Again” dress. But the media interest for Ms. Villa came in a man-bites-dog way. With everyone saying one thing, she commanded ears by saying the opposite. The exception proved the rule of the political monolith that is the recording industry.

In a politics-is-everything-and-everything-is-politics world, music, sports, movies, and all that isn’t politics necessarily becomes political. Call it a non sequitur or a category mistake. Fanatics frequently fall into such follies.

The NFL season witnessed players kneel for the national anthem. Television ratings dropped by eight percent, losing more than a million viewers per game, over the previous season.

Meryl Streep harangued her captive audience with an anti-Donald Trump at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The people disgusted by millionaire anthem kneelers and shut-up-and-listen-to-us-speechify singers likely take it out on her fellow thespians at the Oscars.

Pop culture requires popularity and culture. By appealing to a hardened minority of citizens, and doing so from a political rather than artistic standpoint, pop-culture vultures perform a treason of sorts to their vocation. They bore rather than entertain. We click away. Who wants to listen to a stemwinder speech from Katy Perry instead of hearing her sing?

Music, movies, and sports work as an escape. People turn on the tunes to tune out the noise. They go to the movies to leave reality. They click over to ESPN to click away from CNNFoxMSNBC. When monomaniacs divert the diversions toward politics, people seek to escape from their escape.

For this reason, popular culture has never been so unpopular.

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