15 April 2010

Over Here, Over There

National Public Radio (NPR) is a semi-independent, privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organisation that serves as a national syndicator to public radio stations in the United States. NPR programming is considered to be 'over here' and 'high brow' culturally. In other words, sophisticated.

Imagine the shock listeners must have felt when NPR featured Justin Bieber. Furthermore NPR felt the need to justify this choice (blogged by Linda Holmes)

It was not difficult to predict that there would be a lot of horror about the idea of discussing Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber is perhaps this cultural moment's greatest embodiment of the idea that some things are Over Here, and other things are Over There, and I only like things that are Over Here, and I don't want to hear about what's Over There, and I don't want to talk to the people who are Over There, because if I did, I'd be Over There instead of Over Here. I came Over Here; why are you telling me what's Over There?

Pursuant to this paradigm, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears and American Idol are Over There, while, say, Animal Collective and all unsigned bands are Over Here. Treme is Over Here, but CSI is Over There; the Coen Brothers are usually Over Here, while the Farrelly Brothers are always Over There.

Surely there is enough 'over there' 'low brow' cultural material available commercially. Still NPR tried to justify the choice with some discussion

If you look back across cultural history, this kind of progression happens all the time. Justin Timberlake doesn't carry nearly the "all sizzle, no steak" baggage that he did when he was a member of 'N Sync or, let's say, on The New Mickey Mouse Club. Julianne Moore got her start on As The World Turns. Alanis Morissette was a Canadian teen pop star before she came, you know, Over Here. There are countless examples of this -- people who are now highly respected in their fields who cut their teeth on projects that might have seemed like throwaways at the time.

I'm not saying don't be discerning. You should absolutely be discerning. You should absolutely have standards. But just be careful about the breadth of the sweep of any dismissals you might make, because who knew Michelle Williams was a serious actress when she was on Dawson's Creek?

Seriously, that's not even a justification. What next, the Twilight series and Harry Potter considered to be serious literature?

1 comment:

nate said...

When NPR is featuring the Bieber, surely the end of the world is just around the corner.

Now, I can't stand people's obsession with the twilight books, because they're the equivalent of mcdonalds happy meal, but there's lots of substance on the Harry Potter series.