FOR decades now, there has long been a clash between popular culture and academics. Even to this day, popular culture movie critic Roger Ebert’s views are being underestimated by film professors as too shallow. I beg to disagree because even though professors have the technical know-how, they don’t have the means to connect their findings to the people so that the people can be warned and would know how to maximize progress in the world in their own little ways.
Consider this – there’s a new finding by a Johns Hopkins research team about the causes of liver cancer and they published the results of their research at the New England Journal of Medicine. Although this publication is available nationwide and can easily be accessed through the web, many people do not usually read it because they are turned off by the highly technical terms the doctors use. But since the topic is very important because it concerns the health of the people, this is now the job of popular culture to disseminate the information and educate the masses in a more readable way.
The most common popular culture media include paintings, movies, music and novels. I can name two movies which are being used as instructional materials at West Point. One is Clear and Present Danger which has an accurate portrayal on how a squad of Special Forces is inserted into another country to conduct an operation there. In this case here, the country portrayed is Colombia. The other movie is Tears of the Sun. Ably directed by French-American visionary Antoine Fuqua, Tears of the Sun is hailed by both the Defense Department and CIA for a very accurate portrayal of how a search and rescue military mission is being carried out.
A medium can also be an educational means to another end. There is one Australian painter I know who sells his paintings in Brazil and Europe to raise funds for football training of children in Perth. We already have discussed about scientific publications, movies and paintings. Let’s now focus towards music. In music, there are two things which make a track educational – the music itself and the lyric of the music. And then there are movies which merge music into their system. This is also one educational tool. One of the best releases this year is La Vie en Rose which is a biography of the great French singer Edith Piaf. Piaf herself is the star of the soundtrack. Through the movie and the soundtrack, we can learn about French music in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the recent 50th Grammy Awards, the biggest winner was Amy Winehouse. Even though the singer is British, Amy Winehouse’s hit Rehab was a runaway hit in the United States because a lot of young people can relate to it because they are hooked on drugs one way or the other. Whether it be movies, music or advertising, popular culture remains a vital educational tool in our society today.