“Sizing up and taking down the things we read, watch, and play, this all-star team of analysts provides a series of delights
and surprises that will make you ponder anew the deep structures that inform our lives, even when we think we’re off-duty.”—Kyle Smith, movie critic, New York Post
Contemporary popular culture, from books to film to television to music to the deepest corners of the internet, has provoked a great deal of criticism, some of it well deserved. Yet for many Americans, and particularly for younger Americans, popular culture is culture. It is the only kind of cultural experience they seek and the currency in which they trade.
In Acculturated, twenty-three thinkers examine the rituals, the myths, the tropes, the peculiar habits, the practices, and the neuroses of our modern era. Every culture finds a way for people to tell stories about ourselves. We rely on these stories to teach us why we do the things we do, to test the limits of our experience, to reaffirm deeply felt truths about human nature, and to teach younger generations about vice and virtue, honor and shame, and a great deal more. A phenomenon like the current crop of reality television shows, for example, with their bevy of “real” housewives, super-size families, and toddler beauty-pageant candidates, seems an unlikely place to find truths about human nature or examples of virtue. And yet on these shows, and in much else of what passes for popular culture these days, a surprising theme emerges: Move beyond the visual excess and hyperbole, and you will find the makings of classic morality tales.
As the title suggests, readers will find in these pages “ACulture Rated.” This lively roundtable of “raters” includes not only renowned cultural critics like Caitlin Flannigan and Chuck Colson, but also celebrated culture creators like the producers of the hit ABC comedy Modern Family and the host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Editors Christine Rosen and Naomi Schaefer Riley have tasked these contributors—both the critics and the insiders—with taking a step or two back from the unceasing din of popular culture so that they might better judge its value and its values and help readers think more deeply about the meaning of the narratives with which they are bombarded every waking minute. In doing so, the editors hope to foster a wide-reaching public conversation—one that will help all of us to think more clearly about our culture.
Free excerpts, videos, and additional commentary available on www.acculturated.com.