Tag Archives: mass media

[insert celebrity name] died in January what’s up with that?

We have seen some cultural icons pass in the last month.  And whenever we hear of another individual death, we’re tutting on social media and giving January 2016 a bit of a hard stare.

It’s had me thinking about death, how it’s always a surprise even though we know it’s coming.  How the War Babies and Boomers are getting older and will naturally be starting to disappear and what it also means about our culture.

First of all, January.  Yes January is a bastard.  Even if you’re well it’s long and dark at our latitudes and I think lots of people who aren’t so well decide consciously or not that they’re not up to sticking around for another winter.   From the ONS Winter mortality statistics from England & Wales you can see that January 1st was the number one day to die in the period 1/8/2014 to 31/7/2015 and that January was the peak month for deaths with just under 60,000 people.

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But what about Bowie, Lemmy, Rickman etc?  Well they’re the early-ish ones of a much bigger trend.  Although life expectancy at birth for males in the UK is currently about 78, back in the late forties it was 63-64 (presently ONS don’t produce life expectancy tables for people who took extremely large amounts of drugs in the seventies like Bowie and Lemmy).  A bit like house prices, most people have come to expect average life expectancy to keep going up even though they realise it can’t keep going forever.  Sooner or later everyone who had a top ten hit during the sixties and seventies will be dead, shortly followed by everyone who bought a copy of said hit.

And during the sixties and seventies we had something that we hadn’t had before and haven’t had since – the primacy of youth.  If you look at the people playing on number one hits during 1965, for example, most of them are aged 25 or under (the youngest was Dave Davies of the Kinks who was just 18, the oldest was Ken Dodd at a venerable 38).  That means we have a bubble of very famous people all around the same age who will probably be dying in the next few years.  We’ll have to get used to losing our heroes.

[Help me improve this.  Can you see better ways to use available data to make the point?  Can you see some more important points to make?  Pointe them out, let’s improve it together.]

 

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[bds] It’s about us not about them

Another important idea in this project is looking at how popular culture really played out from the point of view of ordinary people, rather than from those making mass media.  I’ve come to believe that we need to start telling our own stories in our own ways about our own lives, rather than relying on the established media to rehash itself.

I’m thinking mostly of television programmes that purport to tell us what life was like in the Seventies by stringing together clips of television programmes made in the Seventies.

There are two problems with this approach:

1. That by condensing material made for a mass medium all you’re doing is reinforcing an already partial view of society and what we were like.

2. That it is subject to censorship for reasons of political sensitivity (no more TOTP if it contains footage of Jimmy Savile) or the complexity of gaining licensing rights.

3. We all, legitimately, have our own view of what happened in the past and none of us know the whole truth.

My belief is that television was no more representative of what was really happening then than it is now.  Except now we can make and share our own media cheaply and easily and then it was hard and expensive.

I’m not just interested in collecting and sharing  this material because of the nostalgic fuzz, as delightful as that can be.

This project is also about allowing us to say: “This is how we were, we had a life and a point of view that was influenced by dominant pop cultures and media but was also something we made ourselves.”

Go on, chuck something in the pot.