Rethinking pop culture: Why do we all like Luis Miguel?

For some months now family gatherings follow their usual course with the typical awkward silent moments….up to the moment when someone brave asks; and what do you think about Luis Miguel’s last episode? This is enough for the tone of conversation to become more harmonious. Everyone wanting to share their point of view, talking about the memes, speculating about what will happen in the next episode. Talking about Luis Miguel is like talking about the weather, because we all experience it.

Luis Miguel has become a sort of glue for a fragmented Mexican society due to the elections and a thousand other issues. The series arrived to our lives when we most needed to find common ground. Let´s think about it…there are few things that help us to connect with our grandmothers, our aunts, taxi drivers, your boss, your house keeper, your mother, your friends, etc..

What makes Luis Miguel continue to be a phenomenon?

1. He has something for everyone: nowadays generational differences are increasingly stronger; we don’t have referents that speak to us all on the same terms. Technology has practically turned the generation gap into an abysm between the young and the old. We are moved by different things, values change excessively, but with Luis Miguel it seems to be different. Like it or not, we all identify with him from different places, we all have history with his life, his songs. The meanings are complex: the boyfriend we always wanted to have, the talent that we always admired or envied, he’s the one that has accompanied us to serenade our girlfriends.

2. His humanness unites us. He has an international and cosmopolitan side, but at the same time he defines himself as a Mexican and defends this definition linking himself with the mariachis. He has always belonged to a higher socio-economical level, but he is also tormented with family problems just like everyone else. He was innovative for years, but he also established himself in traditional music. He is a hard worker and very demanding with himself, but at the same time he reached a “comfort zone” doing the same thing as usual. He is charismatic, charming and unbearable as well. He is aspirational because he has always seemed unreachable, but at the same time he seems like one more member of our family and our personal history. Like us, he hasn´t always done things perfectly but he hasn’t done everything badly either. Finally, the series demystifies him, and places him in a place where we can appreciate the contrasts, the multidimensionality, and the humanness. On paper, it may seem like a person cannot be everything at the same time, but the series shows us that there is always a side B, an alternative version of what we always thought we could be. The series reflects humanness perfectly, without worrying about what people think, exposing him and at the same time staying on the sidelines of controversy.

3. He links tradition with sophistication. We humans tend to label and classify things as good or bad and limit our tastes to a very narrow box. Whether it be for acceptance or because we really learned to enjoy things this way: if you like reaggeton you can’t like pop music. Luis Miguel is breaking these limitations. In his book Mainstream Culture how mass phenomenon are created, Frederic Martel talks about how the mainstream is able to “to break down barriers between European aristocratic culture and pop entertainment (high/ low culture).” Luis Miguel is a symbol of elegance (he has style, class and a “heart throb” background) but he also puts boleros and mariachi music on the table, which are part of the Mexican folklore.

4. He moves us to come out of the closet. Although we have pretended or been silent for many years, the series’ popularity enables us to let go and sing his songs at the top of our lungs in our car; to gossip non-stop as if we were entertainment journalists. General approval makes it possible to experience that very human desire to talk, criticize, sing and enjoy out in the open with no inhibitions. When something is accepted by everyone we have less fear of being judged. We let ourselves go and share our passion. (In the future we will talk about Asch a social psychologist who in the 50´s conducted many experiments that showed that human beings tend to conform and give in when everyone else seems to agree on something, even though we don´t fully agree).

Luis Miguel is causing us to rethink the concept of popular, of mainstream; not the connotation of popular which is related to a connection with the lower classes, but the meaning which conveys that popular belongs to a majority. This is a country with very powerful social inequalities. It is pop culture because it has something for everyone, it touches human fibers, and it isn´t classified as something specific, it invites us to get rid of our preconceptions in order to agree on something.

In the end, “El Sol” is such an iconic figure that it is one of Mexico’s best personal brands, and he carries the name of this country with pride. It is also interesting to rethink this and reflect on what characteristics something would have to have in order to be accepted by everyone, even in such polarized environments. I wonder if this happens in other countries with this or any other referents. Any comments from our Spanish, Colombian, Argentinian friends……. ?