In recent years, mass culture has begun to take a back seat, in favour of a million different flavours of niche interests that we all consume to our own tastes; more à la carte than the set menus of the past. And yet, there are still big cultural moments that seemingly everyone raves about. Those who don’t ‘get’ them are left wondering what they’re missing.
Living in the UK, football has always filled that space for me. Almost everyone I know enjoys it to some degree, but to me there’s just nothing of interest there – just people kicking a ball and earning lots of money. As of this weekend, I have another example: the movie Avengers: Infinity War.
The gasps, the cries, the many variations on 'OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING’ – social media was been full of it at the weekend. So much so, that I thought I might give it a go at the cinema. I quickly realised that would be a bad idea. To fully understand the film, fans say, you need to watch all 18 of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies before it.
How do I fit that into my life? And if I do, what happens to all the other movies, TV shows, and games I’ve promised myself I’ll try? There are too many highly acclaimed works of culture out there to experience them all. And as the number of outlets funding original content increases, that’s only going to be more the case.
Having shared cultural experiences is important. While we used to discuss the biggest new TV shows around the dinner table with our immediate family, or at the watercooler with colleagues, now we find shared communities online to rave about our favourites with. That’s fine, but we’re losing something good when we no longer have widely shared experiences.
We live in a less connected and cohesive society than the past. It feels like losing that 'the whole world is going crazy for [insert hottest new movie or TV show]’ experience has contributed to that. It feels tied in with the increasing tribalism that’s causing so many problems in the world. A tribe of Marvel fans isn’t the same as a tribe of religious extremists, but they’re degrees of the same online phenomenon.
It almost feels like if I watched 19 Marvel movies in quick succession, I’d be doing my bit for a happier, healthier society.
Almost. I’m not sure I have the stamina. Sorry, society.