Bad Is Bad, Period. Essay

Submitted By tcardle
Words: 1623
Pages: 7

Bad is Bad, Period.

Steven Johnson’s book, Everything Bad is Good For You, attempts to convince the reader that although the current state of the world is that of media bombardment, we are becoming smarter and deeper thinkers due to the hectic nature of our society. Johnson argues that United States has seen a steady increase in IQ over the past 75 years and that this steady rise is thanks to popular culture. Whether it is though dedicated attention to television or movies, prolonged concentration playing video games, or our social connectedness via the Internet, Johnson believes that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to our media engagement. Although it is true that the overall IQ level in the United States has increased steadily over the past 75 years, I believe that the subsequent rise in popular culture is simply a coincidence, if not a hindrance on our nations IQ levels. Johnson, although creative in his thesis, bypasses some key facts that contradict the claims he makes in his book. When researching Everything Bad is Good For You, I stumbled upon an article that Johnson released shortly before his book. The article, published by The New York Times, is clearly an attention getter and a rightful ploy to get people to read his book. It points out how our culture’s actions and attitudes are defying what would be expected had they been analyzed 20 years ago. Johnson uses the example of the TV show “24” and how its edgy content, rapid flowing plots, and massive cast would be unheard of 20 years ago and yet for today’s standards, it is gripping and interesting. For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. In his article, Johnson commented, “As “24” episodes suggest, the exact opposite is happening: our culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less.” To make sense of an episode of “24,” you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Johnson wrote, “Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like “24,” you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships.” This is a major point in his book, that we are indeed becoming smarter rather than dumber thanks to the complexity of our popular culture. He refers to this phenomenon as the Sleeper Curve, which he regards to be the most important new force altering the mental development of young people today. Johnson argues that the quality and make up of our television programs today require us to interact intellectually with the programs as opposed to those of the past which were all spelled out in front of the viewer and only required a passive viewer. Media via the screen has changed and requires more of our attention then it ever has before. The amount of information from a single episode of a modern TV drama is far more than that of past TV shows like “Dragnet” and “Starsky and Hutch.” This makes modern shows more enjoyable to the viewer as they are constantly engaged in the show. Johnson is clear to say that he is not arguing that TV has gotten better to the point that there are no longer bad shows, because we all know there are plenty of bad shows on TV, but that the overall quality of programs have improved from what is considered the prime of TV in the 70’s. The classics, like Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, and Frasier, are not to be considered bad programs, but they are simply not as engaging as modern shows. In regards to older programs Johnson stated, “You no more challenge you mind by watching this intelligent shows than you challenge your body watching Monday Night Football.” (p.64) He claims that the cognitive benefits brought out from reading: attention, patience, retention, and the