Cultural commentators frequently discuss the death of the monoculture in the digital age – the loss of shared cultural artifacts that span regions and generations. When Americans only had a few black and white channels to chose from, it was easier for them to experience the same cultural phenomena at the same time.
No matter how many YouTube views Justin Bieber gets, it’s not the same as a nation transfixed by Elvis’ swivelling hips on the Steve Allen Show in 1956 or overwhelmed by Beatlemania when the band performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. Today, there are precious few events (the Superbowl, a high profile presidential debate, maybe the finale of American Idol during its heyday) that can bring us together that way.
While the fragmentation of culture makes it impossible to have another Elvis or Beatles or Michael Jackson, MTV proved the monoculture isn’t as dead as we thought Sunday when they attracted a record 12.4 million viewers for the annual Video Music Awards. And America didn’t just watch – they talked about it too. VMA commentary dominated Twitter trending topics. Beyonce and Jay-Z’s baby announcement broke a Twitter record with 8,868 tweets a second being sent out about Beyonce’s baby bump.