This might be the beginning of a cultural revolution. American entertainment and sports have shaped U.S. society and influenced and appealed to the interest of a global audience for decades. This, however, seems to be changing.
Media analysis shows that ratings of the once most popular programs are hitting historic lows as a result of the coronavirus crisis. I would not pay it particular attention were it not for pop culture’s predominance in people’s lives. Undoubtedly, it indicates a turning point, a shift, a new quest for more meaningful fulfillment that can only be achieved through human connection.
Just recently some of my students asked me about what might be the deeper reason for the low viewership of the 2020 NBA finals. Earlier this year, viewing of the Oscars and Emmy awards plummeted to all-time lows. How can this significant trend in the COVID-19’s era be interpreted? Particularly if we consider the prominence of pop culture in America and its influence around the world mainly through the media, music and film industry until now.
The reason is that the pandemic has marked a before and after in people’s priorities and sources of enjoyment. Prior to the virus’ impact on all realms of our society, our generation lavished in excesses of entertainment and sports more than any other. We placed them on pedestals and showered their proponents with our attention, adoration and respect. However, all such ways of enjoying and fulfilling ourselves wane at a certain point, especially now since they appear to be ephemeral and non-essential.
This new situation responds to the evolution of the human desire to enjoy, which constantly grows and demands new and different pleasures as soon as the previous ones are fulfilled. While all kinds of influences can grab people’s attention, from a major tournament one minute to popular celebrities the next, they will eventually find those attractions do not appeal to them anymore.
The reason is that our desire has outgrown what previously gave us enjoyment. Similar to children outgrowing their toys, we too will start feeling drives for more mature and meaningful fulfillment — to genuine human connection and answers to deeper questions about our life’s ultimate meaning, which will itch away at us more and more.
Sailing the Titanic to a Safe Shore
The coronavirus struck our lives, highlighted our vast interdependence all around the globe, and placed us all into a common global situation. It is as if we found ourselves aboard a new global Titanic without any clue as to where we are heading or what will happen next. As we float along together on this giant global ship, nobody really knows where to turn or what to do; some sharply turn right, others turn left, and we find ourselves in an increasingly polarized society.
Therefore, as our desires start outgrowing what previously fulfilled them, and while we increasingly realize our tightening interdependence and interconnectedness worldwide — as we share one common global problem — it is no wonder that the interest in what used to be the most popular shows and games has declined so drastically. It will improve only if the entertainment industry transforms itself and champions warmth, mutual care and connection.
We are growing up. I am optimistic that we will become more aware of how our human nature operates on us, how it is growing to new heights and how it starts demanding different and more meaningful kinds of fulfillment. If we start navigating through these turbulent seas, seeking how to meaningfully connect above our drive for momentary pleasures, then we can rest assured that our ship will reach a safe shore.
I am also hopeful that we will succeed in providing our more mature needs the fulfillment they seek, realizing the need for deeper and more positive human relations, and by doing so, feeling a much fuller, more expansive and authentic reality compared to our current one.