Graham: How can you talk about (blank) at a time like this?
This week the hosts on one of the local morning television shows and a panel of guests were discussing the “Pokémon Go” craze, which has taken over our country’s mobile phones since it launched earlier this month.
One of the guests couldn’t help himself and put his foot down.
“Donald Trump could be our president,” he fumed, “and people are catching Pokémon?”
It’s a popular sentiment in this hotly contested election season, or in any time of great crisis: At a time when (fill in the blank with any number of human or global atrocities), how can we be talking about (fill in the blank with any number of trivial frivolities)?
Global warming is suffocating our planet, and you’re worried about Taylor Swift and Kanye West? Hillary Clinton’s emails disappeared, and you’re tweeting about “Ghostbusters?” Donald Trump could be our president, and people are catching Pokémon?
Yes, and yes. And that’s OK.
Life is balance. We laugh, we cry, and it’s possible to do both, just as it’s possible to have strong feelings on the upcoming presidential election and the current season of “Big Brother.” No one is equating the two or putting them on anything resembling equal ground. But paying attention to one doesn’t mean the other is being ignored.
Are our priorities as a country out of whack? Without a doubt. But because awful things are happening, does that mean we shouldn’t be catching Pikachus outside of Trader Joe’s? Or is it because awful things are happening that we are catching Pikachus outside of Trader Joe’s?
Entertainment is a distraction, but it’s also a reflection. At its best, entertainment says something about us as a people and mirrors our hopes and fears.
But sometimes it’s just a way to turn off, which is where things like “Pokémon Go” and Buzzfeed quizzes come in. They’re not a replacement for issues of global importance — or at least they shouldn’t be — but there’s a place for them in the world.
There has always been a symbiotic relationship between weighty matters and entertainment properties. The world was at war when people were crowding theaters to see “The Wizard of Oz,” even though some were probably saying, “World War II is going on, and you’re watching a movie about a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion?” (This assumes people were calling it World War II as it was happening, which most likely was not the case.)
Major social upheaval was occurring in 1968 at the same time Bobby Goldsboro sold 1 million copies of “Honey.” The No. 1 single in America after 9/11 wasn’t “The Star Spangled Banner,” it was “I’m Real” by Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule.
It didn’t mean one thing was taking precedent over the other, even though at some point it seems we started becoming a lot more obsessed with Marvel movies than world issues.
So people who say our collective time can be better spent have a valid point. Yes, guns are a major problem, mass shootings have become a horrific facet of everyday life, and our presidential election isn’t looking so hot. We could afford to engage in more meaningful debate about important issues and educate ourselves about the world around us. But in the face of those things, should everything else stop? Or can we admit we can do both and that it’s not a one-or-the-other proposition?
These sort of complaints are frequent on Twitter, which itself is a giant distraction from the real world disguised as a snapshot of our collective mind. Yes, people tweet about Kanye and Taylor, but most aren’t going to miss going to the polls because they’re tweeting about the #KimExposedTaylorParty. (Let’s hope not, at least.)
So the high and the low can, and do, co-exist. At a time when people should be talking about (fill in the blank), maybe it’s best to stop focusing on what other people are talking about.