The 2010s might go down in history as the decade that finally broke mainstream culture. From William Shakespeare to Britney Spears, pop culture has benefitted from a monoculture mindset; the idea that since everyone is ingesting the same media, music and news, there’s a general consensus on what is important enough to become popular at that given time. But as more streaming services (other than Netflix and Hulu) popped up, and cable effectively dead, media has spread out to the corners of the galaxy like the Infinity Stones. So what does this mean for pop culture; will it be harder to distinguish what is actually “popular” now that audiences are having to face more and more options?
With new streaming players like Disney+, HBO Now, HBOMax, Peacock, Youtube TV, CBS All Access and Amazon, the past ten years of TV has created a “streaming apocalypse.” It’s virtually impossible, or just wildly expensive, for the average person to have every single streaming service option. And while it’s basically common knowledge that friends and family share passwords to different services with each other as a divide and conquer tactic, it’s crazy to think that people have to now consider what shows and movies they won’t miss by not having a certain subscription.
The average American subscribes to only 3 streaming services and pays about $37 per month, Netflix still being a top choice. While that’s less than the traditional cable bill this creates an interesting conundrum; which services will be left behind? There might not be enough media landscape for all of them to survive.
This is where originals come in. A great strategy that these services have done is to create original content only available on their platform. Netflix first tested these waters back in 2013 when they released their first original series, House of Cards. This incentive alone has become extremely helpful for services to market themselves against each other. Disney+ has recently leveraged this idea when they put one of the most popular Broadway plays, Hamilton, on their platform. While it’s not necessarily their original content, the platform saw a 74% increase in app downloads the weekend the show was put up.
People will always find a way to be included in the pop culture conversation; society’s fear of missing out (FOMO) is too great. This monoculture that helped pop culture might not be as gone as we think. Perpahs it might’ve taken on a new form.
Thanks to social media there will always be household names and cult classics. But now it might be more up to the audience to decide who and what these are. As viewers are having to search out movies and music more, they might have more of a say than before. Social media, Twitter especially, can be a great unifier. Users can be in direct contact with their favorite artists, actors and directors just by tweeting at them. Movie and show trailers are now regularly dropped on Twitter and audiences have the power to create trending topics around anything. This just might be the new way pop culture is created and consumed.
Social media just might be the way to preserve and evolve pop culture.