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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What aspects of widespread pop culture can help save the world?

I was Googling around for some information on the U.K.’s equivalent of the Miranda warning, the caution, for my Life on Mars blogging, and I came across a most interesting tidbit from Neal Stephenson’s essay “In the Beginning… Was the Command Line” (via Metafilter):

[P]olice in many lands are now complaining that local arrestees are insisting on having their Miranda rights read to them, just like perps in American TV cop shows. When it’s explained to them that they are in a different country, where those rights do not exist, they become outraged. Starsky and Hutch reruns, dubbed into diverse languages, may turn out, in the long run, to be a greater force for human rights than the Declaration of Independence.

(You can download the essay in its entirety at Stephenson’s site Cryptonomicon.)
I had never heard this before, but it sound eminently plausible. And it got me wondering:

What aspects of widespread pop culture can help save the world?

As another example, research is showing that soap opera characters have been influencing — in a positive way — attitudes about the role of women and how many children women have in places as diverse as Turkey and Brazil (and it’s not just imported American soap operas having that impact but local productions, too). Soaps appear to be having a similar impact as education: Just as more education influences women to have fewer children, so can wanting to emulate wealthy female soap characters, who typically have few or no children.

What do you think? Can TV and movies save the world?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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