The content of all you are saying makes good sense, Sheelah. I only want to clarify our terms. I’ll grant that mimesis is an aspect of human nature that “just exists, and can have a good or bad influence.” I don’t, however, feel it is accurate to say the same for peer pressure. Peer pressure is mimetic; but not all mimesis is peer pressure. You provide helpful examples of everyday mimesis, but they fall short of pressure among peers. I agree that Beyonce is an effective spokesperson/model, but it would seem that this is precisely because she is so easily taken to be living an existence far elevated above the livestyle typical of the audience targeted by the advertisements in which she features—not because she is representative of everywoman and just like us. And _Citizens United_ be damned: corporations are not equal to people. So when big business marketers succeed in convincing me to by something, it is not an example ‘like’ exerting pressure on ‘like’. Those are instantiations of mimesis—but not peer pressure.
Perhaps it’s cynical of me to take this stance, but I still maintain that peer pressure—i.e. the pressures exerted back and forth among parties who are equal in all relevant respects—will inevitably be bad. Excessive similarity leads to violence.
Reconsider your familiar scene from the Westerns: the solitary figure successfully quelling the angry lynch mob. It is certainly an example of good mimesis when others begin to take on the level-headed desire for a fair trial to precede any steps toward a hanging. This, however, is not peer pressure. If there is one and only one advocate for justice, he is anything BUT a man among equals. Quite the opposite, in this context, the voice calling for circumspection in the administration justice is a peerless and unique voice. Our white-hat hero is taking an advantaged position over those he influences, and yet—let’s not fail to notice—he does so by looking out for the “little guy.” He is not trying to spite the mob—as if to say “Nope! I know y’all really want a lynching right now but I’m not going to let you have what you want!” He’s not spiting a mob to exert power; he’s joining ranks with the downtrodden. I tried to get at this point before when I referenced the beatitudes. The most “disadvantaged” position is actually the most advantaged position for seeing the truth of the matter—and it is as far from a position of equality as you can get. [I have never seen this more viscerally communicated than in Raoul Peck’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s voice in the conclusion of _I Am Not Your Negro_.]
But back to your point: isn’t the Western hero resisting peer pressure? Isn’t it good that he resists peer pressure? Of course he does a good thing, but the courageous hero is not resisting peers. He is transcending those he accompanies! He is not pushing back against what is already there; he is bringing something altogether new into view. If he were merely resisting the mob as one person pushing back against equals, then he could do nothing more than yell “No, no, no, don’t kill him … y’all got the wrong man! You need to string up that guy over yonder. There is the REAL bad guy. Get HIM” This is the only sort of resistance available to a peer who wants to disagree with peers. A peer can’t actually say anything his peers aren’t already saying, because they are the same in all relevant respects. The movie hero isn’t responding to his peers; he’s leaving their game behind and starting a new game by voicing the pleas of the victim.
If my peers all want blood, then I’ll want blood too … because we are the same in all relevant respects.
If, while I call for forbearance, everyone around me calls for blood, then I am not situated among peers … because we are fundamentally different.
It just so happens that the most iconic scene-type of all Western cinema gives us a glimpse of how equality gives way to violence. I’m referring to the showdown … so often at high noon. Everybody knows how it goes: two men with guns and gruff looking each other dead in the eye—and then one of them ends up dead. I said it gives us a “glimpse” because we can only see the truth with a critical eye. The uncritical eye guided by Hollywood sees in a showdown one who is good and another who is bad. The movie’s narrative either shows us how the good guy always draws quicker and shoots straighter than the bad guy, or the movie reinforces this position by subverting our expectation. All of this Hollywood shtick, of course, is a lie. Better guys aren’t always the better gun slingers, and we shouldn’t at all be surprised when bad guys manage to win a decisive gun fight. The fearsome truth under the trite storyline is that absolute equality is attained ONLY by those who regard one another and think nothing but murder.