Pop Culture Tribal Rites
POP CULTURE TRIBAL RITES IN THE MASS MEDIA
By Louis Greenstein, 1991 Merion, PA
"He's intense, funny, severe, provocative, loving compassionate and obnoxious.He's a teacher who gives his full range to his students. With Samuel, I went from being a clumsy kid to an artist."
Have you ever watched the daytime television phenomenon known as the 'Talk Show'?
Talk shows -- Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Raphael, et al are an American fixture, an elixir for boredom; fascinating when taken in small doses, through critically trained eyes and ears. If you've never seen a talk show, I urge you, get thee to your television, that Ark of the Covenant of popular culture! Watch a talk show, and ask yourself an all-important question.
'What is the world coming to?'
It seems to me that talk shows are the only real religion left in America; community/tribal rituals in which the participants actually participate. Think of America as a tribe; its territory the airwaves. The talk show hosts are the high priests; the programming a complex ritualized ceremony.
The ceremony commences -- as do tribal rites the world over -- with a victim upon an altar. The victim may be male or female, any age. (Usually the victimization has occurred at the hands of; a.) Doctors, b) lawyers, c.) Insurance companies, d.) Sexual deviates, or, e.) All of the above. The victim recounts the victimization in all its graphic detail. This recitation gives victims a sense of control over their destiny, enabling them to experience an emotional catharsis. As the victim catharts, the audience (at home and in the studio) experiences the victimization vicariously. Thus, each member or the tribe becomes a victim.
Victimization is a growth industry in America today.
Victims can't act; they are only acted upon. Being a victim is easy; victims needn't make choices. They take no responsibility for their situation, and consequently tend to equate their condition with guiltlessness.
Many men and women fail to look into their own hearts while searching for primary causes to personal, spiritual, or social crises They project the problems outward. They put responsibility upon others; but never themselves. Don't they realize that while everyone is busy blaming everyone else, no problems get solved? NOTHING CHANGES! People may 'feel better about themselves', but all the while everything around them -- environment, economy, quality of life -- is in a constant state of decline.
Don't Worry, Be Happy! Right.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned at Le Centre du Silence was how to accept criticism with as open mind and heart. Blaming my own failure on external forces, and recognizing my own shortcomings in others (but never in myself) would have been an easier route. But I have never regretted having gone for the real thing. And over the years I have found, much to my delight, that an honest look into my own heart is apt to yield a more comprehensive and unified world-view.
So keep your eye on popular culture. You may learn why we act the way we do. Tune in to Oprah Winfrey or Phil Donahue some time. Take part in the uniquely American ritual of the Talk Show. Pick up your phone; call in if you wish. But you'd be wise to remember, even as you keep the receiver to your ear, keep your tongue firmly implanted in your cheek!
Louis Greenstein studied and performed with Samuel Avital as a resident student at Le Centre du Silence, and a member of the Boulder Mime Theatre during the late 1970's. Since that time Louis has worked as an actor, stage manager, producer and playwright in many regional theatres, and has been a writer/producer for video, film, and television.
He is the author of numerous plays including WITH ALBERT EINSTEIN, INTENTIONS, IN THE WEE HOURS, and HOLIDAY SPIRIT, which have been produced at the Walnut St. Theatre, the National Jewish Theatre, and Theatre Center Philadelphia.
Currently he is writing a commissioned work about the New Jersey Pinelands for Stageworks Touring Company of Glassboro, New Jersey. Louis lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife Catherine, and their children Barry, Hannah, and Sam.