In his much misunderstood magnum opus The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama writes of a time when a combination of material prosperity and physical security sound the death knell for culture. While comprehensively examining such a proposition is probably beyond the scope of this blog, it is interesting to note that in certain aspects of popular culture, the US and UK – countries which not so long ago were regarded as being culturally prolific – seem to be experiencing, at the very least, something of a hiatus.
Comedy is one area where this trend is manifesting itself. Seinfeld and Friends, the cultural wallpaper for so many in the Anglosphere in the 1990s remained so in the 2000s; adequate replacements for the ten post-Nietzschean New Yorkers have not yet been located. The former program even made a comeback for one episode within another series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, in 2009, eleven years after its original finale. Meanwhile, in the UK, Only Fools and Horses has been repeated to the point where it is virtually omnipresent.
A similar tendency is apparent in pop music, where the 1990s and 2000s saw the art form cannibalise itself to the point where poor facsimiles of the three previous decades – with additional portions of narcissism heaped on top – became the new cutting-edge. Arguably the most emblematic band of the era – Oasis – were also the most self-consciously indebted to their influences.
In an era when YouTube gives us an almost unfathomably complete archive of music and comedy, are we in the UK and US fulfilling Fukuyama’s prophecy by being curators of the past, as opposed to creators in the present? Or will music in the Anglosphere be infused and rejuvenated by English-language compositions from countries from the rest of the world, particularly linguistically-similar countries such as Sweden and Germany, and will we find it within ourselves to laugh at life once more?