The Mass Commercialization of Culture

Grant Klusmann

It’s not always often that media appeals to the undercurrents of society, hence the categorizations of popular and counterculture. Commercialism was second to the art form.  Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, Joan Baez’s musical calls for justice, George Carlin’s social criticism, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s raunchy animations, Cheech and Chong’s haze-filled humor, Gleb and Igor Aleinikov’s necro-realistic films, David Crosby’s psychedelic tunes, Bob Dylan’s protest anthems, Jerry Garcia’s heavy musical distortion, Hugh Hefner’s destruction of taboos, Jimi Hendrix’s musical riffs, and Abbie Hoffman’s subversive activities. At one point, icons like these and their actions shook up the status quo and disturbed the establishment to its core.

Throughout popular culture history, there has always existed a counterculture movement.  These include movements such as the civil rights, free speech, anti-war, second-wave feminism, environmentalism, and the homosexual liberation movements. These movements were not embraced by the status quo.  

A modern example is the musical duo, Matthew and Doris Melton, who front garage rock band, Dream Machine together.  Back in May of 2017, they gave an interview with music publication, Still in Rock, which stirred up controversy when they gave their candid opinions about certain social issues that were highlighted under the heated political atmosphere in the United States of America.  Topics in this interview ranged from the politically correct atmosphere of the music scene, in the United States, to immigration. In said interview, when asked what guided the pairs decision to relocate to Europe, Doris stated, “The choice to move to Europe was guided by a lot of factors.  American musicians (hopefully not Europe too) are getting increasingly politically correct and it started getting on our nerves.” Our publication had the opportunity to interview the two. The interview conducted gives insight into not only the counterculture, but also what the counterculture is rebelling against.

Doris replied when asked what they would say is the greatest problem facing popular culture.

“The lack of motivation for people to try.  There’s no longer a need for people to strive for greatness, to actually practice their instruments or create anything because now anybody can be famous by posting pictures of themselves on social media, or regurgitating identity politics talking points.”

When pressed on what will become of modern entertainment, the duo prophesied the outcome of modern music.

“Today will be remembered as the excerpts of the dark ages of mankind, unfortunately.”

When asked if modern music is truly rebellious or not, they said that of the commercialized variety is not.

“If what you’re talking about is mass produced music, then no because it doesn’t convey any type of message.  It’s just commercialized garbage and it exists for only monetary purposes.”

After hearing from those who are part of the modern counterculture due to rejection of the mainstream opinions of modern media, it can be said that modern media has become overly commercialized and has become more vacuous.  

Typically, when an art form has become increasingly focused on marketability, the actual art form becomes second priority.  This is similar to the concept of quantity over quality. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s bad; it means the media given to the people has become a business just like any other, making it less unique.