On the futility of governing pop-culture

Who ever said capitalists were intelligent?

McDonald’s and a cabal of capitalists have been pushing the Oxford English Dictionary for some time now to remove its official listing of the word “McJob” in their publication.  But, AFP wires are now reporting that that’s not enough for McDonalds et al.  They now are seeking to actually ‘flip’ the definition of McJob (an irony in and of itself) from it’s current definition of:

“an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector.”

And they want the new definition in the Oxford English Dictionary to read something along the lines of:

“a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression.”

Now, it is no secret that capital has for years saught to subsume pop-culture and trends under its aegis.  However, what McDonald’s et al are ignoring is the fact that to the extent that capital succeeds in this goal, it does so not by dictating and governing from above what ‘popular’ ought to look like, but by so-called “cool hunting” and the subsuming of what is already pre-existingly popular into a corporate programme.

When capital or any heirarchical structure attempts to artificially manufacture from scratch what ought to be ‘popular’, the results are often ridiculous (and painful) as demonstrated by this ad by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario:  

(WARNING:  For those of you who don’t live in Ontario or who have never seen this ad, I must caution you – watching this may cause seizures, dimensia, decreased IQ and/or temporary insanity.  Proceed at own risk!) 

The capitalists seeking to change the definition of ‘McJob’ therefore are ignorant of two things.  First, obviously, the Oxford English Dictionary does not, like the ‘Newspeak’ dictionary makers in Orwell’s 1984, actually make-up definitions and construct the English language.  It merely reflects the pre-existing usage of the English language.

And second: you may be able to co-opt culture jamming, as the raging success of MTV and “cool hunting” demonstrates, but you cannot govern popular culture from above as these executives are foolishly attempting to do with “McJob”.

As insipid and asinine as many of us may consider the bulk of pop-culture to be, it nevertheless is one of the very few phenomena (along side activism and dissent) in our culture which finds its genesis in genuinely grassroots movements.

And that is a dynamic power which no capitalist and no government can either suppress or govern.


4 Responses to “On the futility of governing pop-culture”

  1. 1 Red Jenny 24 May, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    I hate that ad. Is it just me, or does all the white goo flying around, women shaking their booties, and cow love seem a bit creepy?

  2. 2 JimBobby 24 May, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Shee-it! That ad’s just reality TV in rural Ontariariario. Paul an’ Jenny, you two must be from the city like maybe Trawna (centre o’ the universe). Out here in sticksville, we’re always rappin’ ’round the farmyard. We got bigass bush parties goin’ on in every gully an’ woodlot. The ATV’s an’ quads an’ dirt bikes is all tearin’ up the cornfields every Saturday night. I reckon there’s some fornicatin’, too. It’s downright Bacchanalian out here, sez I. Ladies milk wrestlin’ draws a big crowd.

  3. 3 SUZANNE 24 May, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I agree with the general gist of your post, but I always liked that milk ad. I always perceived it as a parody of hip hop culture. It’s just humourous, not a reflection of rural life. I think it’s very clever.

  4. 4 Kuri 24 May, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Aw, like a good modern-day comedy film, that ad made me laugh *and* made me feel stupid for doing so!

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