New Delhi, Apr 25 (PTI) While popular culture is considered to be a subversive device to break canons, eminent photographer and arts critic Sadanand Menon said, it is in fact a tool used to manufacture consent.
Speaking at a session on ‘How pop culture affects communication and media arts’, Menon said that the mainstream ideology reasserts itself through pop culture.
“Contrary to the belief that popular culture is a people’s subversive device to speak to power, an attempt to break canons and invert power hierarchy, I personally believe it is a means through which mainstream ideology reasserts itself,” Menon said.
Citing example of the recent Jallikattu agitation in Tamil Nadu, which was extensively covered by national media earlier this year, Menon highlighted how it started as dissent but ended with manufacturing consent and strengthening the state.
“It is sad how we are not able to think for ourselves. We have just become one strange obnoxious mass of people which is constructed by popular culture. Even though the whole incident of people coming out for Jallikattu was dissent, it ended up manufacturing consent. It ended up manufacturing support and thus, strengthening the state,” Menon said.
He presented several similar incidents where popular culture was used to hide a mainstream ideology.
While taking a quirky jibe at former BJP MP Tarun Vijay’s recent racial remarks on south Indians, Menon said that the remarks were received in good humour by people because Tamil cinema itself has made several songs valorising the darkness of their skins.
On the other side, the same film industry, Menon said, uses misogynist themes in the same vein.
“You would say Tamil cinema is progressive, since it is valorising black. But then in the same vein, there are several songs and movies that are misogynist to the core. There are literally hundreds of such songs penned by national award winner writers.
“This is the kind of a popular culture that virtually vomits a particular kind of ideology out. And it is a vomit that all of us instead of wiping away, regurgitate and suck up from the floor,” the art critic said.
Painting a rather grim picture supported by numbers, sociologist and academician A F Mathew, who was also part of the discussion, noted that popular culture essentially comprised of upper caste people, who controlled everything in the country, owing to their domination in the employment sector.
He said that the employment scene in India was largely influenced by the minority upper caste.
“Caste is central to our lives. They actually control everything. For semi-government services, government says it has fulfilled the reservation quota. But in reality these jobs are held by 17 per cent SC and 7.1 per cent ST people, and 45 per cent of all these employees are sweepers.
“This is the reason why you see the cinema and TV that you see. You need to examine the aesthetics of Indian cinema and tv serials by keeping this in mind that it everything stinks of casteism,” he said.
The discussion was a part of a two day symposium titled ‘Beyond the Present’ held at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts & Communication here.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.