Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The King is Dead … Long Live the King

When Michael Jackson died, it only marked the temporary death of a culture that thrived longer than most. The Pop Culture was always trivialized as being trivial, bubblegum, if you will. But it resonated with people because well, we’re trivial too. Just call us bubblegum people.

And when I say pop, I’m not talking about Dad … or soda-pop … or soap bubbles. Pop was about popular, in that the masses identified with it. Fun, not too intellectual, pop culture was people, so its music, its ideals, its essence was that of the people. Pop was us, and we won’t go away.

Sure, we couldn’t all dance like Michael Jackson … we couldn’t all sing like Michael Jackson, but he was all of us. He was black, he was white, he was male, he was … uh, maybe something else … who knows really. But he typified the times with fun, catchy songs that stayed in your mind until your brain was ready to bleed.

And we couldn’t get enough. When the tributes to his live started pouring in, sales of Michael Jackson stuff soared, as we remembered, or in some cases, discovered his ground-breaking songs, videos and trends. We all threw away a glove, and pulled out sequins so we could emulate our fallen idol.

Well, maybe you did – I didn’t. But I would have if … well, no, I wouldn’t have worn a sequined glove on a bet. Or maybe I would, if the bet was high enough, but I wouldn’t have let anyone witness it.

As writers, we have to take culture into account. When I wrote my first young adult book …

… what young adult book, you ask? Thanks for asking, Fang Face – get your humor vampire goodness now!

(sorry, commercial break over).

… anyway, when I was writing Fang Face, I had concerns about the culture of teenaged kids, which overlaps almost seamlessly with popular culture. Was I writing a book they would identify with? Was it a slice of their lives? Kids aren’t stupid. If the book didn’t resonate with them, they’d know it and would respond as kids will - by ignoring it and letting it die.

So I asked a teen to read the manuscript, and this turned into an entire school studying Fang Face as a class project. I was invited to come in and talk to them about the story, characters, plotting and other stuff.

Can you imagine a better think-tank for a teenaged book?

You can’t ignore culture when you’re creating for the masses, be it bubblegum pop music, books or that green stuff growing in your tub. More specifically, you can’t ignore teenaged culture, which epitomizes what’s popular in society as much as anything. Teens drive the commercials you see on television, placement of merchandise in stores, art and music more than any other demographic of society.

So when you say Long Live the King, I say long live the Teen.


Norm Cowie


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