The Cultural Value of Pop Culture Magic

pop culture zeus Among other books I'm reading, I'm reading a lot of pop culture studies books as research for Pop Culture Magic 2.0. In several of the books the authors make some relevant points about how the concept of pop culture is treated. Pop culture is considered to be low culture, culture of the masses, something which is frowned upon as being not relevant or serious to our times, as compared to older works that are considered high culture. Shakespeare, for example is considered high culture, even though when he wrote the plays they were considered pop culture. The point to consider here is this: What makes one cultural artifact valid or another invalid as more to do with social agendas than the actual artifact. This is relevant to pop culture magic in the sense that the dismissal of pop culture magic is at least partially derived from cultural standards used to judge pop culture as not relevant because pop culture doesn't fit the agenda of the people deciding what is or isn't culturally valuable.

I admittedly have my own agenda. I find pop culture to be relevant and insightful in regards to the times we live in, and in the magical and spiritual work people do. I think that integrating pop culture into magical work makes a lot of sense because of how pop culture informs our awareness and experiences of the world. When I see the occasional negative reaction to pop culture magic, what I really see is a reactive reinforcement of cultural standards, usually done without being consciously aware of that reinforcement. And in cases where it is done with a consciousness awareness of that reinforcement, what strikes me most is what I perceive as fear on the part of the person. The fear that pop culture will overshadow and replace what they find to be culturally valuable.

What keeps culture alive and relevant is how people interact with it and make it a part of their lives. This is true for older cultural artifacts as well as contemporary cultural artifacts. Thus it can seem that pop culture is in competition with older cultures, and thus the response is to decry it, make it less valid and valuable. However I think that pop culture doesn't have to be in competition with older cultures and can actually inspire people to learn more about older cultures. For example, while Marvel's Thor is not the Thor of Norse mythology, he is derived from that Thor. People who enjoy the modern day presentation of Thor may become curious to learn more about the Norse version of Thor as a result. The same could be argued for Greek myths. The Zeus of Percy Jackson isn't the same as the Zeus of Greek Myths, but how many people have been exposed to Greek mythology as a result of Percy Jackson?

Another concern is that people might take cultural concepts from older cultures and corrupt them by applying them to contemporary culture. There is some validity to this argument. A cultural concept from an older culture will have contextual meanings and associations specific to that culture which may not carry over or apply to contemporary culture, let alone pop culture depictions of contemporary culture. On the other hand, something worth considering is if applying a classic cultural concept to contemporary culture might allow people to learn more about those values who might not otherwise be exposed to them. There aren't easy answers to this particular conundrum, but I'll admit that part of what I think pop culture can be is influenced by the cultures of the past and acknowledging and consciously bringing that influence to bear could be good for all of us.

I think it's useful to examine our own biases and recognize what informs them. The education system is slanted toward presenting "high" culture and valuing that culture over contemporary culture. How then does that effect our own biases and opinions when it comes to pop culture? If we value a certain type of culture over another, what are the standards and values informing that decision and how have we come to that decision? I'll admit that in my case I've always been fascinated by pop culture and its various expressions. I see value in it and through it discover new ideas for my magical work. That other people feel this way as well tells me that pop culture magic has more lasting value and can bring something to magical work and indeed spirituality that could be useful to explore. Knowing our biases as we go into that exploration is important, just as it is important to understand the biases that inform other people's perspectives and opinions about pop culture and its place in magical work.