Note on culture standardization

Image: Julio Nery


The superficialization of cultural objects has become an increasingly present phenomenon

In the contemporary world, the superficialization of cultural objects has become an increasingly present phenomenon. This trend can be understood under an economic and anthropological logic, related to the cultural industry and the evolution of social media associated with the society of the spectacle. In this article, we will explore this phenomenon, however, it is worth mentioning that this analysis does not aim to create a value judgment in relation to the supposed “high” and “low” culture, but rather to highlight a global phenomenon that occurs in the contemporary world.

The cultural industry, as theorized by philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, describes the mass production of cultural goods such as films, music, television programs and other media products. From this perspective, culture is treated as a commodity and its main objective is to generate profit. Under this economic logic, cultural objects are produced in a standardized way, aiming to reach a wide audience and maximize financial gains.

This standardization of the culture contributes to its superficialization, one that, in order to reach a larger audience, it is often necessary to simplify and dilute the contents, resulting in a loss of complexity and depth. In this sense, reflective and challenging elements are often replaced by predictable and stereotyped narratives. So creativity and originality are sacrificed in favor of tried and tested formulas for success. Ultimately, culture becomes shallow, devoid of meaning and deeper analysis.

The evolution of social media plays a key role in the superficialization of objects of culture, since with the emergence and popularization of social networks, public attention has become a valuable commodity. Digital platforms compete with each other for the attention of users and the content that manages to capture this attention quickly and easily ends up being privileged.

In this context, the society of the spectacle, a concept developed by the philosopher Guy Debord, exerts a significant influence, since it values ​​image and appearance to the detriment of essence and content. On social networks, it is common to observe the search for a perfect image, the cult of superficiality and instant consumption. Audience attention is often directed to the momentary spectacle, while critical reflection and in-depth analysis are left out.

To illustrate this process of superficialization, we can analyze some lyrics of contemporary songs. Although it is important to emphasize that these examples do not reflect all the diversity of current musical production, they allow us to observe some characteristic elements of this phenomenon. For example, many popular songs feature lyrics that focus on shallow themes such as partying, shallow relationships, excessive drinking, and body image. Lyrics tend to be simplified, with repetitive structures and easy rhymes. Lyrical creativity and thematic depth are often sacrificed for the ability to capture the listener's immediate attention.

On the other hand, when we examine musical works from earlier eras, such as songs from the 1960s counterculture movements, we find a more engaged and critical approach. letters like Blowin 'in the Wind, by Bob Dylan, or Imagine, by John Lennon, were marked by conceptual depth and a call to reflection on social, political and existential issues. These songs sought to stimulate the listener's conscience, question the status quo and propose social transformations.

The same phenomenon can be observed in contemporary cinema. Many films focus on superficial narratives, full of clichés and dazzling special effects, but lack a deeper approach to the themes. Predictable plots, stereotyped characters, and simplified dialogue are common features. In contrast, film classics such as Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles, or 2001: Uma Odisseia no Espaço, by Stanley Kubrick, present a narrative and symbolic complexity that challenges the viewer to reflect on the deepest aspects of human existence.

It is important to emphasize that it is not a question of belittling or disqualifying these productions, but rather of identifying a pattern present in a significant portion of contemporary popular music. The analysis of these lyrics is not intended to judge the artistic quality, but to highlight the process of cultural superficialization that occurs in our sociocultural context.

Therefore, this is a complex phenomenon, related to the economic logic of the cultural industry and the influence of social media associated with the society of the spectacle, which results in the loss of complexity and depth of cultural objects, which are produced in a different way. standardized and simplified to meet an immediate consumption demand. The analysis of contemporary song lyrics allows us to observe this process, with an emphasis on superficial themes and simplified lyrical structures.

To deal with this tendency towards superficiality, it is necessary to promote a culture that values ​​diversity, creativity and critical reflection. It is important to seek a broader and more inclusive appreciation of diverse cultural expressions, recognizing that culture is a multifaceted and dynamic phenomenon. Only in this way will we be able to develop a society that values ​​depth and cultural complexity, going beyond appearances and superficial consumption.

*Pedro Henrique M. Aniceto is studying economics at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF).

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