100 thoughts on “A Defense of Overthinking Pop Culture

  1. This reminds me very much of this blog post about "the archipelago of weird", using a similar analogy but also talks about how subcultures fit in. Basically pop culture is a continent, and there are islands around it representing subcultures. One group of such islands is the archipelago of weird. It mentions how you can be a citizen of multiple islands, and as such you have certain voting powers.
    What I like about this channel is we build bridges between islands, introduce populations to each other, and sometimes we even sail into uncharted waters and if we're lucky stumble into a new island.
    Oh, and maybe given that we are all metaphorical sailors now, perhaps you can fully flesh out why the word "content" makes you speak pirate.

  2. I love that this episode came out the same week as Taylor Swift's new song because oh boy, her subtle and hidden clues pointing to this being a stab at Kanye is making me despise her so much.

  3. maybe it's just everybody else underthinking, and honestly I don't get why people underthink, the way I see it, not overthinking, just being ok with the surface level meaning and values of the media you consume, is mental mediocrity, and I don't get how anybody can enjoy being mediocre at anything

  4. I would consider you among these "producers" of popular culture, yet I get the vibe that you're talking about yourself as primarily a consumer. Granted, you could say that the content you produce is dependent on you first consuming the work of others, but isn't that true of all culture? You can't create in a vacuum, you can only react to and iterate on what you know for the most part.

    My question, then, is whether you could consider you arguing with and slightly dismissing complaints and critiques of your methods (some I would agree with more than others) by viewers as an argument where you inherently have a lot more power? Especially where, even in the interactive aspect of the channel, you choose which comments are displayed and responded to and which are not, which arguments are addressed and whether the discussion about them is "closed" or not.

  5. Meaning is the only hope we have of finding meaning in this world. I say embrace it like you only have one life to live lol

  6. my wife had this notion once, that Lassie (the tv show) was an unofficial prequel to the Final Destination series and she was told she "thinks about stuff too much"

  7. The idea of "overthinking" implies that thought is some kind of finite thing that you can waste by directing it incorrectly. But, anybody who does a lot of "overthinking" knows that it breeds: the more you think about something — anything — the easier it becomes to think deeply about anything else and the more you find worth thinking about in any given thing. Even if we imagine that the direct results of analysis are meaningless (which I consider unlikely), the act is worthwhile because it makes analysis so much more efficient when later applied elsewhere.

  8. In regards to the third charge, I think it's important to remember that just because the media creator wants you not to "look into" their media doesn't mean you shouldn't. For example, if I'm a deceptive and corrupt ruler, I wouldn't want my subjects to look into my proclamations, figure out why I issued it, and subsequently raise concerns, issues, and reasons to go against my word. Look into the media presented to you, challenge untenable ideas, resist deception, and may intellectual honesty live forever.

  9. I'm not sure I agree with your claim that opera isn't popular culture because it is expensive, seen as snobbish, and/or is unapproachable. Those distinctions feel a little arbitrary to me.

    It was pretty much impossible to get tickets to the original run of Hamilton. Does that mean this particular iteration of Hamilton is not popular culture? What about other productions of the same musical? What if everything I know about Hamilton comes from popcultural osmosis? What about that infamous Wu Tang album that Martin Shkreli bought and that was never released? Is that album, out of the entire Wu Tang corpus, not pop culture? And if it does eventually get released, does it become pop culture even though it wasn't before? There are episodes of classic Doctor Who that may be lost forever, the only remaining tapes destroyed. Are those episodes not pop culture? Were they pop culture when they were broadcast? If the BBC recovers some of those tapes and releases them, do they once again become pop culture? Were they ever not, then? Noise music is widely regarded as inaccessible and unapproachable. But is it part of popular culture? If you delete this Idea Channel video, does it cease to be part of popular culture?

    I guess what I'm getting at is the question of whether there is some process by which a work becomes or ceases to be part of popular culture, which you seem to imply with your claim about opera. I don't believe such a process is clearly definable.

    Mike, thank you for overthinking everything and encouraging us to do the same. You have honestly had a huge impact on the way I approach … well, everything, really, and I am looking forward to whatever it is you decide to do next. I'm sure it will be fantastic.

  10. I just want to say that I love this so very much and it is thoroughly satisfying to have this explanation of building community in such a thoughtful way as one of the final ideas you put out into the world via this platform. I'm glad that minds like yours exist in the world. 🙂

  11. On emoji, author Ian Rankin recently managed to get a letter printed in the Times which included one. https://twitter.com/Beathhigh/status/899927481104334849

  12. Everything is philosophical in a similar way that everything is political. Where in politics what is the concern of politics is a human relation, what concerns philosophy is anything that comes of being the subject. Anything you may do, say, think, anything, implies a theoretical framework that nessaseraly exists because we are human. Maybe it would be pointless being philosophical about something simple that occurs in nature which we dont need to consider, but anything made by a person has inevitably been imbued with the condions of its creation individual, social, historic, which may also include those pointless observations we nessaseraly made under a condition however slight that concernes a philosophy.

  13. I've been trying to figure out a way to describe how I feel knowing Idea Channel is winding down, and I had a eureka moment.

    These finale videos make me feel the way I did on my first playthrough of Majora's Mask, but only during the first three days of the game. I'm dreading the finitude of these last videos. I know Idea Channel has to end even as I also know I can always return to all my favorite moments–the end doesn't mean the end of my encounters with the text. Which is true of any video game or text–but when I replay Mass Effect or read a book again, I don't feel the finitude of the experience as poignantly as I do with MM. When I replay MM, the dread I experienced in my first playthrough–the world has a time limit and I am powerless to stop its progression–is an intrinsic part of the joy I experience when playing MM. Similarly, I am excited for the content of these videos, but my joy is framed and constrained by a definite end I can see coming and can't avoid.

    Thanks for the feels, Mike. Thanks for the thoughts.

    P.s.: officially on my bucket list: play a not-dnd tabeltop rpg with Mike Rugnetta.

  14. I would say that nothing really contains theory but that theory can only be applied. A tree is just a tree. Only by us looking at it and theorising how it may interact with other things we can try to understand it (which we probably will not even if we get close to it).
    Even when a creator creates a piece of work with a theory in mind the theory is not in the work. We may not understand the work without the theory so we have to get to know the theory in order to apply it to the work and maybe understand it. If something contained theory it would have to be impossible to apply any other theory to it. But we obviously can apply different theories to one work, even if one seems more likely or make more sense. Also, when a piece of work itself discusses a theory it does not contain it but at best imply that it may be applied.

  15. I have never written a comment in the years I accompanied the show (now I see how wrong I was for that), but now that the show is ending I'd like to say how important it was for me. Connecting and having new ideas, and just the general mind set of doing things, be they producing art or having critical thoughts about media, instead of having a passive attitude towards life, have been extremely important for me and I feel that Mike and idea Channel had a deep place in it. Thank you so much. Very curious to see what your new projects will be.

  16. Do people 'consume' cultural media?
    When we have gone through with something like a film, it survives, not used up, not 'consumed'.

    Edit: Wait; did we do a video on this?

  17. If the finale doesn’t have everyone on the production team and everyone you’ve collaborated with surrounding you clapping. Saying congratulations. I will be a little bit sad

  18. I just hate it when people start referencing shit I don't know anything about, usually a popular movie of the 70s I've never heard of… or talking about movie stars I've never even heard of. I feel like it's kind of a circle jerk.

  19. Speaking as creative and critic, limiting yourself to "the classics" disregards anything new and what voice it can offer. Pop culture represents people today and their beliefs, or at least the beliefs of the loudest voice. Knowing that and learning how to both tap into the positives or respond to the negatives is a good source of storytelling or finding new ways to tell stories/create art. And we create art and tell stories to not only find new ways to discuss things or understand things, but to take a break from the so-called real world and see a new perspective that you may either already agree with and feel like you're not alone, learn something you didn't and change your world view, or see a perspective that you feel is problematic and create a proper defense from. To ignore pop culture is to lose an avenue to the masses or at least a way to challenge your brain to take what you believe and utilize or update it.

  20. From the very first sentence, sounds like Cultivation theory… Explains a lot…
    I mean good thing Doom doesn't cause violence, in the same way that GTA doesn't cause sexism. Otherwise, the fantasy world that Cultivation theorists imagine would actually require their opinions about challenging the zeitgeist, and I might actually have to care about what they say.

    Jokes aside, my thought on the matter is whether or not people who sound like cultivation theorists know what the term "selection bias" ( 1:34 ) means, in relation to finding "problematic" things in the world. I would even go as far to coin the term "self-fulling selection bias" as we've entered a media culture now that feeds on social outrage. It's gotten worse and worse, and with the ease of access on cashing in, we see more and more people jumping on the band wagon. Moderate ideas seem to be eschewed for the radical ones. Not everyone can paint a Mona Lisa, and there are very likely "better drawn", but less famous "Mona Lisa"s out there. And while you might try to suss out some past interpretations of beauty on such a popular work, not everyone finds it attractive in the same way. The varied works available to us are as varied as the opinions on them, now more than ever. I know dealing with daily hate comments, alone, is likely a very taxing endeavor upon your soul, but the growing cynicism toward "others" in your snarky gifs and condescending looks has disillusioned me from the potential this channel enthralled me with from the very first videos. I was more sad to see THAT Mike go, when you did your videos addressing gamer gate and dividing this pool of thinkers, than I am to see you leave now. You've stayed on my radar, because the ideas you've had have been novel enough and passionate enough to engender in me that same thirst for knowledge, that curiosity to what may be. And although we've parted on our ideologies regarding equality, and despite some slip ups, you've at least attempted to remove bias and welcome everyone to the conversation, for the most part. And for that I thank you. I wish you luck.

    (Unless I just "read too far into this piece of media"… and "brought this" instead of finding it. Teehee at implications)

  21. Personally, I enjoy this kind of thinking most when it's semi-private (intimate discussions with friends, family, etc.) or aimed at improving something more concrete (being a better writer/friend/person). The "cultural battleground" doesn't quite do it for me. Even so, interesting lens through which to view things — I definitely understand the appeal.

  22. You should make a compilation bluray, usb, or something. A cool little totem/ keepsake. I think it could become a time capsule which captures the pop culture of the last 5 years and how it relates to the unchanging human condition.

  23. Long time viewer…first comment. Two things.

    1. I teach college composition through the lenses of pop culture and semiotics and I have always appreciated the academic focus that this channel has brought to a host of different topics.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your position on 'over-thinking' and as others in the comments have suggested I believe that most people are just 'under-thinking' or not thinking at all about the media/goods that they consume.

    That sort of passive acceptance of the world clearly restricts the way that people think about the world around them. A more active, idea rich approach is what I try to foster among my students with varying degrees of success.

    2. One of the things that my courses discuss during a new media unit is whether or not services like YouTube challenge the culture producers. Sure, a lot of those spaces have been co-oped by corporations, but the possibility of creating content that is divorced from the culture industry does still exist. Do you see a service like YouTube providing a venue for folks to challenge hegemony?

    Thank-you for all of the hard work over the years. I always knew I could count on this channel to provide a break from the 75th essay on V for Vendetta.

  24. What about a musical who realeses the show as a album but is to expensive for most people to watch? live? Could you say that the listening experience is pop culture while the viewing experience is not?

  25. In a way it's an interesting countertake on a tendency of art criticism and history (note that i'm not a specialist in it and might very well be talking out of my … and if a specialist comes around please correct or confirm) — after a long run of artists being mostly seen as a collective reproducer/transformer of social traditions/representations, as society became in almost all domains more concerned about the place/power/agency of the individual, art theory has been mostly interested in the individuality of the artist, how they express their singular experience, vision, emotion and thereby creates an expressive agency. Which is great and all, until you focus so much on it you end up with a society that mostly believes in singular achievements all pit against each other for attention and dismisses societal context and influences. By focusing on media that is being produced "for the masses" (or for the idea the producers have of the masses, other can of worm), it underlines the societal aspects of media and art : which means do we use to have a common language, common values, and which are those values. It'd be interesting in a way maybe to see if there are any bridges between some of the problematics raised around some pop culture media, and maybe some "high art" pieces where the artist is supposed to have more agency to deviate from the collective norm around the subject, and see if and how it offers some kind of.. freedom or alternative?
    Oh idea channel, I'll miss you so. As Winnie the Poo would say "goodbye? oh no please, can we go back to page one and do it all over again ?"
    i guess i'll just rewatch

  26. To me it seems that pop culture always has values and philosophical ideas in it, usually unintentional on the producer's part, because the producer is simply regurgitating what they know and are familiar with. As an example, Peter Gabriel's music is often artistic and thought-provoking, because Peter tries to make thoughtful music. Phil Collins' music, on the other hand, is probably more representative of "the masses", because he is not trying to make high-concept, artistic music. Peter's already put a lot of thought into his music; it's Phil's music that cries out for overthinking.

  27. To prevent and cure cancer it has been recommended to eat a balanced natural plants based diet. Salut!
    Keyword: superfoods
    Human is a symbiotic organism.

  28. No snacks at the opera? I guess they don't know about those delicious cinnamon-roasted nuts they sell in paper cones

  29. I like your pod cast, you should slow down your speaking. It is sometimes difficult to understand all your words. You are highly intelligent and I feel each and every word is important. I will be on the look out for more of your work.

  30. The picture at 0:48 is amazing btw.

    I also concur with the conclusion of this video that thinking is important.

  31. I love how people here don't have to be sociologists to simply discussing things like 'culture' in good detail.

  32. "The Aesthete" by Alan LaCerra

    The aesthete knows far too much about aesthetics.

    His eight-month-old niece yells, “Dadadadadadada,”
    and smiles toothlessly. His response? A lecture on L.H.O.O.Q.
    “They chose ‘Dada’ because it is a nonsense word,”
    he tells the baby’s father, who agrees.
    If she’d said “Mama,” the conversation would have turned
    to Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face,” which opens mumbling.
    High. Low. Cultural studies studies all cultures.

    But the aesthete’s a deconstructionist at heart.
    When his first-years argue about the literary “cannon,”
    inserting an extra “n” between the vowels,
    and put up authors to be “fired” from it, circus-style,
    he says, “Save the puns for our deconstruction discussion
    on Robert Browning’s ‘Meeting at Night.’”
    It’s only fair. He’s been saving his:

    “What kind of meeting can occur
    through the pane of a closed window?
    The unkindness of pain.
    Hearts may sync their sounds,
    but sinking hearts sound sad
    when no entrance emerges.
    Where is the door, where the opening?
    The end disenables the deed.
    The poem has no meeting at night
    unless ill met by moonlight.”

    He watches science fiction and fantasy fare
    (calling it “animationist” to exclude cartoons
    merely because they are cartoons)
    and wonders how each episode can boast the fullest moon.

    Possibility One: The episodes occur on the same night.
    Possibility Two: The episodes occur approximately thirty days apart.
    Possibility Three: The writers are stupid or lazy.

    As a writer, the aesthete tells himself his words are art.
    If only he could get the world to realize this as axiomatic.
    But axioms belong on math-class chalkboards,
    where the history of Arabic numerals is erased
    from side to side, from beginning to end,
    for that which embodies pure function
    can have nothing beauteous in its form.

    Outside, the moon’s a waxing gibbous.
    Inside, the baby’s crying.

  33. To some extent you can argue that 'overthinking' can be a bad thing if it distracts you from the rest of your life and limits your ability to reach your own personal goals.

    For example, as a society, we wouldn't want doctors who were tired for surgery because they were up late fanatically analysing a new season of the walking dead for its cultural implications the night before. I think there's also an element of diminishing returns on a personal level – as we move through the education system and mature, we should aim to get a grasp on some major themes to society, politics, economics and culture (pop or not). But once we've done this, we can internalise some of that knowledge, continue to use those skills as new developments/interests arise and move on. With a system as complex as all of human collective consciousness, we'll never find that one 'key' to understanding, even if there are many routes we can go down to understand more. And as an individual, no matter how 'enlightened' we are, there will always be limits placed on us by society that we cannot ourselves change to any great extent. We have to accept that and remember to focus on the aspects of society we can do well in for the well being of ourselves and those around us.

    There is, of course, a lot of subjectivity in what exactly 'overthinking' would look like, or what the most important things to have thought critically about are, but we should recognise that overthinking does at least have the potential to be a bad thing.

  34. When you mentioned opera being snobby and boring to a lot of people, I thought of how those people should really check out some Gilbert and Sullivan. I think the heavy comedic aspects make it more accessible.

  35. I edit sales copy, and I think emoji should be included in quotes, but that emoji should be both singular and plural. Ie, one emoji two emoji. But that's just me. I'd definitely follow the style guide set out by the senior editors wherever I happened to be at the time.

  36. I am a fan of overthinking. But I have never thought about it. Did that make sense? I mean that while I am aware that it is happening, I never stop to think about why it's happening 🤔.

  37. I know this is kinda a sidestepp of the whole conversation, but WHERE IS THAT GIF AT 13:14 TAKEN FROM THAT LOOKS A BIT TOO MUCH LIKE IRON GIANT 2 TO ME (I need to know where it came from, cause i LOOooooooOOOve iron giant game)

  38. Shit haven't been on this channel in many months, can't believe it's shit down or that it never reached over a million subs. I just hope you helped some people explore new ways of thought or at least more open to critical thinking

  39. High and low culture and the ideas from them seem to be hierarchical not simply because of arbitrary distinction. High tends to be where the ideas COME from (John Locke, Adam Smith, Rousseau…) and the low makes derivatives of those ideas. In the case of 1789 France the popular culture took hold of PART of the ideas that came from the high and were motivated to action (not to say that that was only cause of revolution, just a part).

    Low Culture is low because it takes far less thought and reason. Its consumed like a "snack" because its easy, and because of this it tends to miss the heart of the ideas generated by the High.

  40. If you don't already do over voice for Tv commercials then you should. You talk very fast. Fast enough to name all the bad side effects of a drug before anyone HEARS it😊

  41. Definitely interesting points. I disagreed with almost everything you said, except the last point about analyzing everything. Beautiful channel, beautiful person, and beautiful work. Farewell

  42. Who's we? Is that the royal we? I have heard the word hegemony so much in my pop culture class it makes want puke.

  43. Just found this channel and I don't get everything from the first shot and I LOVE it. That is how I talk in real life.

  44. Overthinking is fine if there is something there to think about. But most people overthink by seeing something there that isn't (much like the critic who sees Picasso in a painting made by a chimp) in which case it is mental masturbation. There are better uses of one's mind than to spend it finding sociopolitical mysteries in a photograph of a bowl of soup. I find people who do this more like Philip Glass (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAh9oLs67Cw) than Daniel Dennett. Most of these armchair YouTube philosophers find themselves genius intellectuals with some clever insight to some mundane piece of media but sometimes they don't see the forest for the trees, and they tend to elevate some tripe like a Yorgos Lanthimos film to that of Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch.

  45. To critique pop culture does not mean to be elitist, because pop culture is in itself elitist, as it is produced by multi-billion dollar conglomerates, literally the elite itself. We must end the myth that pop culture is the "culture os masses", and the argument of the video reproduces this common sense.

  46. Too much philosophy brings us nowhere.Its just the matter of percepcion.To me the best approach is more like zen,dont get attached to anything especialy the meaning you give to media because its not the real meaning of the things.Your brain can be so much in wrong while having this theories and ideas and wrongly shaped percepcion of oneself,not enyoing the moments fully.Im much more into facts because i choose that way since philosophy leads me to depression,activates my brain in the ways i dont want my neurons to be fired that way.Our brain actualy doesnt know whats real from what we imagine and stories we tell ourselves.Edit : Somehow i feel like i have the phase when im obssesed with learning and being in my comfort zone,but after changing my beliefs i can swap my reality realy fast and easy.This is why i choose not to overthink,not to take too much information which can be misleading and it can be escapist habit.Its the state of a mind.

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