Pop Goes the Culture

A National Knack for the Quick, the Vivid, the Exuberant

It may be the ultimate instance of American mixed feelings. Our popular culture? Spiffy, spectacular: Billie Holiday songs, Krazy Kat, Preston Sturges movies, Ernie Kovacs, the Four Tops, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Dylan, E.T., even blue jeans, Whoppers and soda pop. But ask again, on a dull, gray, Spenglerian day, and the view is altogether different. Alarming, appalling, totally awesome. The critic Dwight Macdonald called pop culture a spreading ooze back in the 1950s, when Sylvester Stallone was still just a boy. Today America's righteous pop thug is huge, ubiquitous, swaggering from one medium into the next and the...

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