Monday, May 20, 2013

Deconstructing the Culture

I watch very little television – virtually nothing on network TV, except for one or two shows on PBS (Call the Midwife! and Masterpiece Mystery). And I watch virtually nothing on cable, so I’ve missed out on all the hoopla over Duck Dynasty and Iron Chef.

My reasons are various – time, little that I find interesting, too much network programming given over to political correctness and agendas. I haven’t disengaged from TV culture, but I do keep it minimal.

But even with what I do watch, and beyond television, what I read and view online, I do something that suggests a larger confinement and disengagement from popular culture. I deconstruct what I watch, what I read and what I see.

Deconstructionism is a term and literary process originally popularized by post-modern academics like Jacque Derrida. The text is everything, and everything is a text – you have to closely examine each text, take it apart, and see what it says about such things as power relationships.

I use the term much more loosely – I “deconstruct” texts, movies, programs and other aspects of the culture by asking certain questions. (If it sounds complicated, it’s not; once you start it becomes like second nature).

Instead of “deconstructing,” what I do is closer akin to “filtering the bull.”

I’ll consider a TV show, a magazine article, a movie, a book (especially non-fiction), a review, a political ad, a statement by a politician, a company or an organization – and ask myself a few questions.

What’s the point? What are they trying to communicate?

Are “agenda statements’ slipping in disguised as something else?

What isn’t be said? What’s being left out?

Could it be better said another way?

Is this only entertainment, or is it something else?

What aspects of my own prejudices or worldview does this appeal to or offend?

We have a movie reviewer for a local newspaper who prefers R-rated, and often violence-filled, movies. He panned the movies “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables.” He’d prefer a movie like “Pulp Fiction.” So we’ve learned to see his reviews as some kind of personal agenda-setting, and not simply his view of what movies should be.

Political ads are easier to deconstruct. Generally, I avoid them. I’m appalled by “advertising by assassination. My philosophy of voting is that a candidate is only as good as the worst attack ad he or she authorizes.

Even the church isn’t free from cultural influences, say Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold in The Life of the Body. Music, teaching and preaching are all subject to influence by the culture. The issue of “worship wars” has been with us for some time.

This doesn’t mean that culture permeates the church, and there’s no recourse other than everyone sitting there accepting it or going to war over it. Not all cultural influences are bad. Not all influences can be escaped.

But we are surrounded by the culture; we intellectually bathe in it every day. But once we’re aware, can learn how to discern and understand what is happening in the culture, especially in the entertainment media.

Led by Laura Boggess, we discussing The Life of the Body over at The High Calling. Today, Duane Scott takes up the third section of the book – with a focus on what the culture tells us our bodies should look like.

Photograph by X posid via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


nance said...

so many words
flying like
pigeons carrying
they always come
with a little

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

Sounds like an interesting read, Glynn. Like you, I watch very little television and am better for it! :)