Pop Culture Never Dies

Putting aside the matter of whether or not I like today’s Top 40 sound — which skews heavily in favor of the right side of my pairings: feminine, glam, synth, etc. … — my question is: will it go on forever? Is today’s studio-centric hegemony a build-up to a hairpin turn toward performance-driven, sweaty musicianship — a playing out of history’s many earlier revolutions in mainstream sound — or … with apologies to Fukuyama, [is this] the end of music?

The above is a meditation on pop culture that segues into the adolescent’s phenomenon of psyche that you felt once too and maybe forgot.

Pop culture never dies — at least not as long as there is a medium of mass transmission. Back in the day, a friend’s mom told us that as you get older, you lose touch with popular culture until your own kids start following it, which is when you once again become interested in it.

Now, though, popular culture is fragmented. Naturally so, as Anglophone countries are a mess of alien cultures, which necessitates that the industry’s mass-distribution products cater to a watered-down lowest common denominator of sophistication and authenticity. People naturally coalesce around their own and gravitate to purer expressions of their temperament. And now, a new development makes the centralized entertainment industry less relevant and helps with niche-formation: the internet-driven dispersal of talent. One word: YouTubers.

There are several who are popular with White kids. The big names on that scene have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, millions of daily views, upper-bracket incomes from their channels. Collins Key is one such act. It’s two young California brothers, Collins and his younger bro Devan. Cool looking dudes, excellent positive energy, astounding creativity.

Their show is profanity-free and makes absolutely zero references to politics or culture-war stuff. What their act is, is hyper-energy slapstick, very often involving insanity with food. Representative episodes:

Devan’s wisdom teeth. If you or your friends have biological brothers, then you understand the bond. Beat each other up in childhood, have each other’s back for life. The younger brother Devan is under the influence of narcotics, having just come down off dental surgery. Funny as always, but you also see the fraternal bond.

Collins, who is recording this episode, gets on camera after the 11-minute mark… that’s when the yodeling starts. Now you’ve seen everything.


The messy twins telepathy challenge. (See the video below). The Merrell Twins are regular guests on Collins’ show. Pretty girls, and here they are mercilessly abused by Collins good and proper, and loving every moment of it. If I hadn’t mentioned it yet, the young man is a natural alpha and likable.

In that episode, the twin girls blurt out the name of their favorite band: Five Seconds Of Summer. Never heard of them, so I looked them up; “She Looks So Perfect” is one of their older songs. It’s from five years ago. It’s not a new style for a new generation; it sounds to me like classic Taylor Swift with its youthful energy and soft verse / hard chorus pattern that comes from grunge, which in turn is borrowed from 1980s alternative Rock.

The song’s video shows people having fun and, you know, stripping down to their underwear. I’m sure that’s a metaphor for being honest with each other, like those dreams everyone has about being naked. The aesthetic is California (mostly) blond. What’s not to like in seeing nothing but kin faces? The video does show diversity: age, body type, socioeconomic status — a full social ecosystem. What you ask — what about the you-know-what-I-mean Diversity? I know not of what you speak. All the diversity that needs be shown is right there in that music video.

Back to “The Messy Twins Telepathy Challenge.” It’ll put a huge smile on your face:


21 thoughts on “Pop Culture Never Dies

  1. Back in the day, a friend’s mom told us that as you get older, you lose touch with popular culture until your own kids start following it, which is when you once again become interested in it.

    Not to get all wonky, but if there’s ever a thing that could use a definition, it’s teenage pop culture. Because w/o a definition it’s what, the music and clothes that teenage girls like?

    In that episode, the twin girls blurt out the name of their favorite band: Five Seconds Of Summer. Never heard of them, so I looked them up; “She Looks So Perfect” is one of their older songs. It’s from five years ago. It’s not a new style for a new generation; it sounds to me like classic Taylor Swift with its youthful energy and soft verse / hard chorus pattern that comes from grunge, which in turn is borrowed from 1980s alternative Rock.

    The mom in that video is “rockin a killer bod” as SoBL used to like to put it. Otherwise, and not to cynical post, but that song sucks even by the standards of teenage pop music. It’s not on a level of Taylor Swift.

    The two girls in the messy twins telepathy challenge and pictured above, Veronica and Venessa [ last name here ]. Are they part Asian?

  2. Part Iberian. California is an exotic country! From a search: “When it comes to ethnicity, the twins hail from a family of Mexican, Portuguese, Spanish, German and Irish cultures. Their father, Paul Merrell is a video producer and musician, while their mother works as a school secretary…” Image search shows their mom looking vaguely high-blood Latin and their dad looks like a young Patrick Stewart.

  3. — if there’s ever a thing that could use a definition, it’s teenage pop culture. Because w/o a definition it’s what, the music and clothes that teenage girls like?

    A definition would be nice. You know it when you see it. For one, our world of memories is as alien to them as Buddy Holly was to us (me and Elk). From knowing pre-teen kids, I have some vague idea of what kind of music they like. None of it strikes me as a New Sound. The past 20 years has been a creative drought — but maybe I’m ignorant like the oldsters who didn’t recognize early-80s pop as its own original sound. There is studio-synth, techno/dubstep, or derivative of Taylor Swift.

    Youtubers are where it’s at. They generate the verbal memes, jokes, ball-busting burns. I don’t know about the older teens, but surely Anglin’s “Daily Stormer” is on their radar.

    Some of the kids dig our-era music, but in the spirit of archaeology. A friend’s 11-year-old son has an encyclopedic knowledge of Metallica. Loves them, knows their songs better than I do, and Metallica is all I listened to during a stretch of months in 1992.

    Also, I hear a lot of 80s Bon Jovi, Journey, Queen, and Billy Idol lines impromptu sang by under-10 boys. They are familiar with the songs, but not directly from the radio or active interest in the artist.

  4. Narcotics from wisdom teeth extraction. That will do it. Nothing better to hook you. Man was that good when I had it when I was 19. A year or so later I had the same type of dental surgery and was excited before it at the prospect of more legal dope. The second time nothing happened, no buzz at all. No pain either, so maybe they calibrated it perfectly the second time. Thank you, medical science.

  5. 5SOS (Five Seconds of Summer) appeared on my radar years ago. Never gave a thought to it until I found a photo of a girl wearing a 5SOS shirt. The sweetness in this photo makes me want to have a dozen daughters.

  6. Whatshisface (the old Cobra Kai leader a-hole) reemerges and says, “Our society has gotten weak … kids today are coddled. They get trophies just for showing up. Something’s got to be done. Someone’s got to tep in and stop the ass kissing, and start the ass kicking. That’s why we’re here. The world needs Cobra Kai.”

    I gotta say, not from bravado but from relief, AMEN.

  7. Sorry for spamming, but the Cobra Kai episode is truly remarkable. Themes of redemption, forgiveness, overcoming … like, damn,son, it’s like nothing Hollywood has produced in decades. It stirs the soul of the White Man. Even the token POCs behave themselves. Color me surprised and impressed.

  8. I watched the “Messy Twin Telepathy” challenge and my smiling muscles were hurting so bad. Thanks for sharing, PA.

  9. I haven’t yet seen episodes 2-onward of Cobra Kai 2nd season, just saw the first episode so far.

    Art is more perfect when true to life, it’s said. With that as guide, the episode breaks its suspense of disbelief with its complete non-racialism. As in, major characters being utterly color-blind when common experience dictates that they wouldn’t be.

    Smaller example: Daniel LaRusso’s complete nonreaction to his beloved daughter having dated a young man of another race. Even if he’s a liberal, saying “Miguel” without so much as a twitch of the lip betraying your recognition that his daughter is heartbroken over an interracial romance… not as bad as “so sorry about Ahmed” or “Jamal,” but still felt unrealistic.

    Bigger example: and this is a subset of Johnny’s unremarked-upon multiracial student body in Cobra Kai: John Kreese’s introductory “mission statement” about the world needing Cobra Kai because young people are soft. It’s equivalent to the hippie’s profession of his love for “all mankind” — what particular part of that mankind? It can’t literally be everyone.

    So with Kreese. He’s just come back from Afghanistan. No participation trophies there. So which part of the world needs the tough love of Cobra Kai: the West? America? Random people of random races in the Valley?

    The race-blindness, as displayed thus far, is an artistic shortcoming. It’s a limitation of it’s time. I’m, of course, looking forward to seeing the rest of the season. Other than the observation above, the sesson has started off great in the first episode.

  10. er… Daniel’s skin color is about the same as Miguel’s.

    Plus, Johnny is so attracted to Miguel’s mother Carmen that he dreams about her.

  11. Cobra Kai. It’s the best show I’ve seen in ages. Probably the last time I got this excited about a show was for Phineas and Ferb, and then Psych.

    Re the race blindness, remember Daniel and Allie? She was White as snow, and he was the greasy guinea from Jersey. And Keiko, too. She was from a homogeneous culture that barely catered to outsiders, same as Allie’s family. So, it’s plausible enough that maybe Daniel would/could tolerate the mixing.

    The black girl, I rather like her. I know girls like her, mixed, smart, looking to fit in. I don’t really mind it, but I’m sad for her. You can see the lines being drawn. She’s not a thug or a hipster, or a rich kid, or anything other than a (former) wallflower who has found a place. She’ll be either the wise negra savior or a sacrificial lamb. Either way, not pleased, but she has pathos, it’s undeniable.

    Hawk is Kreese/Johnny 2.0, they cannot telegraph that any harder. I pity him, too, and frankly, I worry about Miguel and Robby. Both are fatherless children, metaphorically if not literally, like Daniel and Johnny, looking for a replacement figure.

    Billy Zabka is still hot. His emotional turmoil is as attractive as his redemption arc and blue eyes. Yes, that jazzes me. He’s as much a lost soul as the kids he mentors and seeing his humble admission that he was never taught the different between mercy and honor. It’s a simple thing, but a “wow” moment for anyone not used to paying attention. I love his character.

    And I just knew that greasy smile was going to cross Kreese’s face, at the end…ugh and arghh and thicker plots

  12. Billy Zabka is still hot.

    True story time. I hung around briefly with a guy in college, we were “friends” in the sense that we hung around on the regular. This guy had good genes. He was 6 foot 2 and a good athlete and blond hair, but a striver. For high school he went to a local prep school that earns its rep as breeding those types. Not to be negative, but he was a lot like Trump’s blondish son; even looked like him, down to the coulda been an extra on American Psycho

    If I sound resentful, it is what it is. I probably coulda kicked his ass. It was a long time ago. He was of a clique that was the successful UMC business man click. They shoulda been in fraternities, but somehow were not, and we were in the same circles.

    False friends was a well treated theme in the jew production Something About Mary. The poor everyman’s jew Ben Stiller thought those guys were his friends, but the reality was they were having a laugh about how he got his zipper stuck all up over his dick.

    But this real life story false friend, had a picture on his dresser — in college males would hang out in each other’s rooms, it sounds funny now — he had on his dress a framed picture of himself and Billy John Lawrence Zabka. He woulda been an older teenager and Zabka at the height of his 80s stardom. They were arm around shoulder.

    The humor of it stands on its own, but just to say yeah: He really did, have a framed picture of himself and Zabka, on his dresser and in a Position of Prominence. I didn’t give him any grief about it; in retrospect, a more confident and alpha me, would have set him straight: Get your own life together already you striving blond starfucker! (you’re better than that)

    Almost certainly this ex-friend whose last name and looks was the very German Anglo Steele, has gone on to to success and probably in medical equipment sales. It certainly wasn’t something mechanical or in the trades. Whether or not his wife divorce raped him, is unknown.

  13. He was fallible though, and likable. His friends however, not so much.

    I prepared the following comment prior and it goes as follows —

    Whoever came up w/ the overall premise for the show, is genius. Was it LaRusso who gets the primary writing credit, er Ralph ‘baby face’ Macchio?

    The lifestory theme that Life can be a long journey and some form of redemption may yet still. Or to put it in American: you didn’t necessarily peak in high school. (or did you?)

    These themes have always been around, but they are topical now to 40-somethings aka gen xers. And here’s the point to remember: Thesee themes are fairly “better left unsaid.” By their nature, everyone knows about them on a gut level: There’s the big gorilla (and it’s not you). Or if it is, wow: very impressive silverback you got there! (can I touch it?)

    Some meta commentary though, about how these manly yet sensitive (and therefore better left unsaid) themes, these very lifestagey themes, is particular to clown world and even more particularly to America. Because somehow such life stagey themes get buried under pavement of amusement park reality. They get lost entirely. The unconscious superstructure or whatever tf, even that has gone away and disappeared for with which to guide us.

    LaRusso gets all this. You can see it in his eyes.

    Hemmingway wrote well on this subject also, particularly in his most famous short, The Short Happy Life of Frances McDermott. The tldr —

    Untested American Upper Class WASP who is good at tennis [ now it would be pickleball ] goes to Africa and fails the ultimate test of manliness, but then redeems himself; and but then his wife puts him down. The brilliant observation by Hemingway in that story, relevant to Americans being clueless clowns is how when Frances drops the ball, literally drops his rifle in the face of a charging lion, is that he APOLOGIZES about it, to the Brit real man guide, which apology apparently is the WORSE guffaw times ten. If you fuck up like that, the only courtesy left you, is to not talk about it!

    However Frances apologizing for his failure, goes along with him wanting redemption.

    And so Sorry for the ramble.

  14. Maybe once America was settled, Americans settled. Rugged masculinity disappeared with the frontier. Now it needs to be found in the interior of the heart and psyche, but that’s laughable.

    Still, look at Europe. They settled, too, until America came along…then Asia, and then Africa. But by the time the rugged individualists could settle Africa, their settled elder brethren in Europe and America told them to give Africa her freedom.

    Yet those free African ps still, curiously, need White investment and food and medicine and infrastructure.

    We are beings that require a challenge. The interior frontier is about to break out in a real God’s honest fight, soon enough

  15. — “LaRusso gets all this. You can see it in his eyes.”

    — “Billy Zabka is still hot. His emotional turmoil is as attractive as his redemption arc and blue eyes.”

    Elk and Chakrates with killer kommentary on Cobra Kai and especially the eyes. You’re on to something.

    Zabka is a Slavic surname, meaning Frog (affectionate/dimunitive) if originally “żabka” or Little Tooth if somewhat archaically “ząbka.”

    I can’t think of more viscerally compelling character in pop fiction in over 30 years than Johnny Lawrence.

  16. I guess because of his looks, Zabka was always cast as the antagonist (or bad guy if that’s your flavor)

    In 1985, he was in a movie called Just One of the Guys (a sex-swap comedy), and played the jerk boyfriend.

    Same year he was in National Lampoon’s European Vacation in a bit role as Audrey’s bf that dumps when she’s on vacation, thus making him a bad bf.

    In 1986’s Back to School he was up against Rodney Dangerfield’s son for the diving team. Also a jerk boyfriend.

    Damn–I gotta get my film blog rolling

  17. I’m getting to thinking that the White jerk waspish playboy was nothing but fevered dreams.

    I had bullies but James Spader types weren’t in my mix. Sometimes you just knew your class/place and you lived there. If those upper crust guys existed (they did but they weren’t the Thing they were made out to be), they didn’t mess with lower tier girls like me.

    Those movies were, are, pure fantasy about the slobs getting one over on the snobs. It’s never been the main social thing anyone has really ever had to deal with. It’s all constructed on tropes and fantasies.

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