Bend it. Shape it. Any way you want it.
Popular culture is pliable, colorful and non-toxic, just like Play Doh, and it takes a million and one shapes determined by, what exactly? Imagination and resourcefulness, I guess. Maybe a little bit of democracy, capitalism and modern/industrialized economies, too.
America has a popular culture that is distinctly all its own – cowboys, McDonald’s, rap and hip-hop, blue jeans and Elvis — as does Japan, with its anime, harajuku girls and kawaii.
And, while a study of their pop culture is an endless and fascinating wormhole, I think I’m more intrigued by countries like Afghanistan and Cuba that are now starting to splinter from long-held traditions and customs to create a new path forward. What do they need to lose or gain to establish a popular culture? How much of their history, beliefs and behaviors will underpin whatever emerges? Is popular culture an automatic offshoot of increased democracy and a developed economy? How do popular culture and traditional culture co-exist, if at all, especially in countries where life revolves around religion (Muslim countries)?
Maybe it seems trivial to think about a fluffy topic like popular culture when countries around the world are frying bigger and in many cases more violent geo-political fish, but this will be one of the many things that comprise these nations, their leadership, their citizens and, yes, even global diplomacy in the not-so-distant future.
To echo Friedman, no two countries with a McDonald’s have ever gone to war.