The High Five as Metaphor For the Continued Advancement of Pop Culture
posted Oct 18 2013 11:13PM
The high five. Has it run its course? This correspondent says yes. Like many postmodern fads appropriated from the world of sports, this one has gone through a series of transitions through its use by everyday people, and these days is most often seen in an ironic context, most often by so-called hipsters expressing disdain for those who use the gesture earnestly. One school of thought holds that the exposure brought about through the use in media, specifically by the character Barney Stinson, portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris in the American sitcom How I Met Your Mother, has led to the decline of the high five as an honest expression of jubilation. My own feeling is that this use, while widely known, is not itself the cause but rather one of many effects of this increasingly maligned sign of positivity. In short, the high five has been dying for years, and no single television show is to blame. No, this is nothing more than a systemic failure of the type that TV and movies are frequently known to catalogue simultaneous to their demise. You have most likely noticed that in the days prior to the ubiquity of social media, trends known to young people generally did not appear in mass media until after they were no longer relevant. This phenomenon gave the world one the most bemusing movie subtitles of all time: Electric Boogaloo, the meaning of which remains obscure even thirty years later. The same can be said for countless movies in the 80s and 90s, as producers crassly attempt to exploit cultural trends even as these trends gave way to new ones, frequently accompanied by a backlash that hurt the performance of these works rather than helped them. Social media has helped to alleviate this situation somewhat. As popular trends become much more widespread faster than ever before, it is easier for the tastemakers to capture the zeitgeist as it happens. As a result, sometimes fads explode at the same time in reality as they do onscreen. However, such synchronicity continues to be the exception, rather than the rule, as writers and producers continue to try to play catch-up. In the coming years it will be interesting to see how this pattern develops. Cheers.