Why Pop Culture?: Alexandre O. Philippe at TEDxMileHigh

Why Pop Culture?: Alexandre O. Philippe at TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I want to tell you a story
about my childhood. I was raised in Switzerland, in Geneva, and when I was eight years old, my mom
took me to one of our local theaters, to watch “The Empire Strikes Back”, which was, of course, dubbed in French and it was called
“L’émpire contre-attaque”. This was a huge deal for me as a kid. I mean, I was very much a Star Wars fan, I had never actually seen
the original Star Wars film, but I had all the toys. And so during the now iconic,
climatic reveal, that of course we all know,
“Luke, I am your father,” I had this incredible memory
of just standing up, in the middle of the theater, completely utterly confused
about what was going on. And so I am turning to my mom
who is sitting right here next to me, – of course she didn’t have the answers – and that was it. Ten minutes later, the lights come up, and you walked out of the theater,
mind completely blown from the single most extraordinary
transformative cinematic experience of your entire life. And what do you do, when you are
8 years old, and you have to wait 3 years, – three years! –
for the next Star Wars movie? (Laughter) I mean, that’s like half
of my life at this point, right? (Laughter) So, well, what you do is you go home,
and you pick up your toys, and you start playing,
speculating, thinking about what that next Star Wars
movie is going to be. And that is the great gift
that George gave us. He gave us the toys. It made us very hands-on. We were essentially playing
in George’s sandbox. Since that day, I think it’s safe to say
that I was raised, without knowing it, as a Pop culture geek. And here I am now, 30 years later,
on stage, at the Alley, standing before you,
still very much a Pop culture geek. But you know what? I am OK with it.
I’ve sort of embraced that. And in fact, I am proud of this. You see, I found a way to turn
this passion of mine into a career. I have been documenting pop culture
now for the past decade, and I am here to tell you
that this stuff, really, really matters. Let’s take a little step back and see if we can actually define
what pop culture is. I have got a few images for you. This is a World War II soldier. No. Absolutely not pop culture. Now, Stormtrooper… Yes! OK. That is
most definitely pop culture. Zombie Stormtrooper? (Laughter) Way pop culture. You’re getting this. Let’s do a few more.
And it’s going to get trickier. OK? A cute little kitten. Well, I mean, it’s cute, yeah, sure, but it’s certainly not pop culture
in and of itself, right? Now, for that kitten
to become pop culture, it would have to, for instance,
get on YouTube, right? (Laughter) Go viral and become
a meme-like grumpy cat. (Laughter) You know what I am talking about. You guys know, of course,
that grumpy cat just got a Hollywood deal. And so we’ll see a grumpy cat movie
in the next couple of years. So, yay! How exciting is that? Mitt Romney, ladies and gentlemen. Well, again, politician, you know, presidential candidate,
doesn’t matter how you look at him, you simply don’t associate him
with pop culture until Mitt Romney talks about binders full of women. (Laughter) Now he becomes pop culture. You are starting to get
a hang of this I think. So we are doing just one more
just for the hell of it. I love this guy, I love this guy. Kim Jong-un. But no, he is not pop culture,
in fact he is really not funny. I mean, if you think about it,
he is very unfunny until you pair him with his now BFF Dennis Rodman. (Laughter) And that is absolutely pop culture. So, in other words, on the one hand, we have
the important things in life like politics, religion, social issues,
cultural values and beliefs. And on the other hand, we have
the fluff, the stuff that goes viral, that we consume by the billions, and that we kind of dismiss
as trivial and unimportant. And a lot of that turns out
to be pop culture. As a self-professed pop culture geek,
I get offended by that. And, you know, like when people
tell me to my face, that Star Wars is
‘just a movie’ for instance, I really, really–; it gets me. Because it is the easy argument; of course you can say,
Star Wars is only a movie. But look, Star Wars changed culture, it changed the way we watch movies,
it changed the movie industry, changed technology,
it changed the toy industry, Can you spend a day nowadays without seeing or being exposed
to any kind of Star Wars reference? You can absoltutely make the argument,
the counter-argument that Star Wars changed the world. So let’s see if we can look at things
perhaps a little bit differently, maybe shift our perception. And I want to go back
to these important things in life, – because they are important
and I am not trying to trivialize them – but look, politics divides us, religion divides us, social issues divide us, culture beliefs and values divide us. Now let’s take a look at this. (Video by PSY–“Gangnam Style”) (Applause) Case in point, you know, if you guys
were expecting me to dance here on stage, I am sorry. (Laughter) You know the old Genesis song
“I can’t dance”? That’s me. Not going to happen. But in any case, this gentleman, PSY, For a couple of months of course, he was
all over the news, he was everywhere. And he made us smile. And really in doing that,
he actually brought us together, So why are we so ready
and willing to dismiss him as trivial? What about Paul, the psychic octopus? Do you guys know Paul?
Do you remember Paul? Yeah, there you go. Paul is my buddy actually, I met Paul
and shook his tentacle, true story. True story, I actually
made a movie about the guy. Anyway, Paul, to refresh
your memory, correctly predicted the outcome of eight consecutive games,
during the 2010 soccer World Cup. (Laughter) And he brought a lot of joy
to soccer fans around the world. And he made us think,
actually he made us think. What about zombies? Look guys, if you remember, if your where here in Denver last year
during the Zombie Crawl, we had 17,000 zombies
on the 16 Street Mall. Absolute world record. (Cheers) (Applause) And apparently … apparently some of the got lost I think. So this makes me ask–
I ask myself a lot of questions. Can we really say that PSY doesn’t matter when close to 2 billion people downloaded his “Gangam Style” video on YouTube? I think about comic books,
I am a huge fan of comics. And why did it take decades for comics to be recognize as a legitimate art form? Why did we have to wait
for the Library of Congress to induct Star Wars
into the National Film Registry in 1988 to be able to officialy say,
“Yes, this movie matters to us.” When we knew of course,
back then, that it did. Of course it matter to us. The crux of the issue is this. Why must we be so serious about what divide us, and trivialize what bring us together? I mean, surely, we must know as humans that any time a wall
collapses between us, we are better off because of it. So let’s try this one more time:
what is pop culture? I’m going to tell you. Pop culture is a universal language that manages in all
of its seemingly trivial glory to make us dream and smile, to connect us across racial,
political, and social divides. It is part of our fabric as human beings. It says something about us,
about our better nature, so, isn’t it time for us to respect it
cherish it, and learn to preserve it? because I also happen to be
a massive, massive film buff and it is such a tragedy to think
that we have lost, forever, over 90% of all American films
made prior to 1929. We have lost, and my voice
is going to crack when I say this, We have lost over 50%
of our cinematic heritage prior to 1950. I mean this are staggering,
horrifying stats. Do we want this to
happen to our popular culture? I think not. Well the good news is, there are a lot of people who are working
right now, in the right direction. There is this little, tiny little event,
you might have heard of, in San Diego called “The San Diego Comic Con”. Yeah. Yes! Yes! Thank you. We had about 200,000 geeks, who congregate every year,
every month of July, in San Diego, and trust me, it is a thing of beauty, Aand you better believe I am going to be
there the next month. But look, we don’t have to travel all the way to San Diego
to experience this. We have one right here in Denver. And just two weeks ago, we had
our second Denver Comic Con. Guess what?
61,000 people showed up. I think we can absolutely rival San Diego. So the bottom line is,
I am very optimistic. But you know,
it really starts with us, kind of recognizing that our popular arts,
our popular culture are not just guilty pleasures, it is something that truly matters to us. And I am going to tell you this one thing
from a slightly outside perspective – as I’ve mentioned to you,
I am Swiss French though I’ve been in the US for 22 years
which is more than a half of my life – I think the one thing that makes
America so great to the rest of the world, above all else, is the fact that we are
the first civilisation in human history to have made fun important. And guys, we must never
ever, ever lose track of that. (Applause) And when zombies look you in the eye
and chase you off the stage, you have to run. (Applause)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

28 thoughts on “Why Pop Culture?: Alexandre O. Philippe at TEDxMileHigh

  1. culture as a language is just culture specific..'pop' is universal? perhaps in terms of US

    Anything you add to instincts (smile is relaxing) gets 'interpreted' by cultural specifics of bee holder's eyes

  2. pop culture is just that, popular culture. not long lasting or deep, its the general dominant very much western internet based culture. it does bring people together but it also divides them like any facet of human culture.

  3. God he's great….I really feel a lot like he does when it comes down to the pop culture world we are in now with how much love and respect we and all other people like us have for it no matter what it is that we love about it.

  4. Note on TCM/"39 Steps"
    He says Donat and Mr. Memory appear "at the same theatre" in the
    opening and concluding scenes. I don't think so. The first is a raucous
    music hall with a lively bar crowd. The last is the more-sober London
    Palladium.

  5. Agreed. I like tv so obscure that it’s on the public domain. Just entertain yourself with whatever works for you.

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