Monday, January 14, 2008

Are We Eating or Feeding Pop Culture?

The implication is that ‘mass culture’ and ‘mass media’ – in appealing to the masses and turning a profit for media proprietors and their advertisers – compromised culture’s quality and value.(Green: p.155)

The above quote is from Lelia Green’s book Communication, Technology and Society. In her chapter titled “Constructing Popular Culture” Green discusses the old versus new meanings for what constitutes popular culture. For example, what had determined popular culture was what the elite classes found culturally worthy such as the ballet. However, in our modern day we would like to believe that what determines popular culture is the sheer number of people who make it popular. This is what I want to talk about in this post. In America is it the people who determine what is popular or is it the entertainment companies that make us believe what is popular? This posts sounds a little conspiratorial but I have to believe that it is not the sheer number of people who care what happens to Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, I have more faith in humankind than that.

At first when Brian and I discussed the issue of pop culture we tried to think of how pop culture affects our lives if it even does. We sat around forever thinking of ways that it affects us. Brian brought up the fact that Jessica Alba is pregnant and he somehow felt that it affected him personally. We came to the conclusion that the reason this affected him/us is because this heart throb who is now impregnated by some other guy ruins our fantasy of her but still it is not something we wish to be televised on the news because it does not affect us that much. We then proceeded to ask one of our female friends why pop culture was important to them. She replied that when she reads magazines about pop culture she reads them for the mere fact that it is mindless entertainment. Our friend went on further by saying that at her job at a local school the teachers during their break time constantly talk about pop culture and what is going on in primetime television. For me this struck as odd. For some reason when I think of pop culture the first thing I imagine as an audience member for pop culture is a white, teeny bopper, somewhere between the age of 15 to 18. However this is not the case in this instance, these are grown up professionals discussing what was going on in A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila.

The conclusion that I have come to of why grown people would sit around and talk about pop culture is that either they feel their lives are not interesting enough to talk about or they maintain a professional relationship and instead of crossing the threshold into their own personal live they maintain their relationship by avoiding personal things and instead discuss others. If this is the case then I would like to think that it is people who are determining what is popular in our culture. Unfortunately a lot of the content that is discussed is what is being presented to the masses and not what is controlled by the masses. What I mean by this is that though the teachers on break are discussing pop culture they did not make it pop culture. Instead what is happening is that they see and hear the content and then discuss it, they are in fact the medium.

It is my belief that a person is in fact smart and capable of making their own decisions but as people, as a mass, we are dumb and instead feed off of what ever is given to us. The corporations know this and they are in fact the ones that decide what we want to know and feed the content to us. They then leave it up to the people to spread their content amongst one another. For this reason I would say that alone and by yourself you don’t care if Britney Spears is on the news or not but when left to make idle conversation with others you use those stories as ammo to start conversation.

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