This post is a response to “The Sort of Idea that Will Make a College Girl Light Her Posters of Marilyn Monroe on Fire”
With regard to icons and images becoming and staying popular you said, “Some persist on merit… …some persist just because they are somehow good at persisting.”
False, this is even worse than an explanation. This is encouraging the thought that there is no explanation so why bother trying to figure out what it is. Even worse, it’s wrapped up in a warm blanket of rhetoric.
Let me take off the warm blanket and expose the cool stench of bad logic.
By stating in the same breath that the Mona Lisa has merit and cat videos do not, you’re subtly telling your reader that they should define merit in the same way when they look at 16th century painting and a video clip on YouTube.
You go on to say that these meritless things that persist because “they are somehow good at persisting” will continue to persist going forward because “once an idea has gained traction it is increasingly here to stay.”
Claiming that some things persist “because they are somehow good at persisting” is a lazy argument and the underlying assumption that some things persist due to chance is untrue.
Some things persist while others do not for a reason:
1) Women like looking at cute animals, especially if they are doing something cute and even more especially if they’re doing something amusing.
2) Women love using social networking platforms (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram) and they like sharing things they like with their friends. Women know that other women like cute animals so they are likely to share cute cat videos with their friends for both the validation of getting lots of likes / comments on something they share and because the good feeling they get when they share something they know will bring pleasure to the people they like.
3) People who create YouTube videos make more money if they get more views. These people find out that cute / funny cat videos are popular so they make more cat videos.
Cat videos have merit in that they bring pleasure to people who find tiny furry animals cute. It isn’t chance that cat videos are popular and rat videos are not. Rats are not cute. Rat videos have no merit. You might say, well why not small dogs, or hamsters – they’re cute little animals? Yes but they’re not funny. Cats do funny and adorable things. Cat videos of cats doing nothing funny or adorable don’t get shared or viewed. Cat videos of cats jumping from one ledge to another and coming up way short get shared.
1) Marilyn Monroe was a very talented actress – Golden Globe Award Winner
2) Marilyn Monroe was in many popular films. Not just in popular films. Not just many films. Many popular films
3) Marilyn Monroe is beautiful
4) She was interesting and likable as a person – someone women would idolize
4) Marilyn Monroe had her own production company, “Marilyn Monroe Productions” – a great platform for self promotions
5) Her posters are aesthetically interesting, dramatic, and memorable
6) Companies who make posters understand that they are going to make more money by trying to push/create one iconic person (sponsor really) than to try and make a number of different women popular. The reason we still only have Marilyn Monroe posters is because Marilyn Monroe (or at least what she represents in the posters) is still the same person she was when she was in her prime. Granted college girls don’t buy a poster of Marilyn thinking “she was a talented and beautiful actress who embodies all the interesting and edgy qualities I secretly wish to aspire to and this particular poster has a classic, retro, vintage feel to it, which is totally in. Oh and there are 3 variations of Marilyn Monroe here front and center of this poster store.” Wait, yes she does, because the companies that make money from these posters have carefully and deliberately pushed that message over the last many years.
But wait, Marilyn Monroe can’t have been the only women with these characteristics. You’re right, let’s turn out attention to Audrey Hepburn. What do you know, Audrey just happened to be the first actress to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for a single performance. By all conventional standards she was one of the most talented entertainers of the last 100 years. Extremely talented – check. Performed lead roles in several popular movies – check. Beautiful – check. Interesting and likable personality worth idolizing – check.
There were other beautiful talented interesting women. But they weren’t AS good and the people making money off these women are going to make money if they concentrate on blowing up a select few rather than spreading themselves to thin.
Pink Floyd and Einstein have interesting stories of their own.
I agree with your second to last paragraph. We still ‘use paper’ where it’s impractical because of the high switches costs. And this does ultimately prevent the up and coming classical musician from getting appreciated.
I support the evolutionary approach to explaining why some things persist and other things don’t. But my guess is that an evolutionary scientist would say that some things persist because… [clear logical reason backed up with case studies]. But I’m not a member of the scientific community so maybe “some persist just because they are somehow good at persisting” is the best way to approach the interesting phenomenon that is Marilyn Monroe posters.