Contemporary popular culture, from books to film to television to music to the deepest corners of the internet, has provoked a great deal of criticism, some of it well deserved. Yet for many Americans, and particularly for younger Americans, popular culture is culture. It is the only kind of cultural experience they seek and the currency in which they trade.
In Acculturated, twenty-three thinkers examine the rituals, the myths, the tropes, the peculiar habits, the practices, and the neuroses of our modern era. Every culture finds a way for people to tell stories about ourselves. We rely on these stories to teach us why we do the things we do, to test the limits of our experience, to reaffirm deeply felt truths about human nature, and to teach younger generations about vice and virtue, honor and shame, and a great deal more. A phenomenon like the current crop of reality television shows, for example, with their bevy of “real” housewives, super-size families, and toddler beauty-pageant candidates, seems an unlikely place to find truths about human nature or examples of virtue. And yet on these shows, and in much else of what passes for popular culture these days, a surprising theme emerges: Move beyond the visual excess and hyperbole, and you will find the makings of classic morality tales.
As the title suggests, readers will find in these pages “A-Culture Rated.” This lively roundtable of “raters” includes not only renowned cultural critics like Caitlin Flannigan and Chuck Colson, but also celebrated culture creators like the producers of the hit ABC comedy Modern Family and the host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Editors Christine Rosen and Naomi Schaefer Riley have tasked these contributors—both the critics and the insiders—with taking a step or two back from the unceasing din of popular culture so that they might better judge its value and its values and help readers think more deeply about the meaning of the narratives with which they are bombarded every waking minute. In doing so, the editors hope to foster a wide-reaching public conversation—one that will help all of us to think more clearly about our culture.
Contributors: Judy Bachrach, Megan Basham, Mark Bauerlein, Pia Catton, Chuck Colson, Paul Corrigan, Caitlin Flanagan, Meghan Cox Gurdon, Margo Howard, Kay S. Hymowitz, Jonathan V. Last, Herb London, Stacy London, Rob Long, Megan McArdle, Wilfred M. McClay, Caitrin Nicol, Joe Queenan, Emily Esfahani Smith, Brad Walsh, and Tony Woodlief. See full contributor bios here.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values. Ms. Riley was, until recently, the deputy Taste editor of the Wall Street Journal, where she covered religion, higher education, and philanthropy for the editorial page. She is the author of God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America and was the founder of In Character, a magazine published by the John M. Templeton Foundation. Her writing has also been published in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education among other publications.
Christine Rosen is senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society, where she writes about the social impact of technology, bioethics, and the history of genetics. She is the author of Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement and My Fundamentalist Education. Since 1999, Mrs. Rosen has also been an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Her essays and reviews have appeared in publications such as the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, the Washington Post, the American Historical Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Wilson Quarterly, and Policy Review.