Monday, January 14, 2008

On Pop Culture

JD and I have been talking about popular culture in America. The topic has raised a number of questions about popular culture, such as, if the influential power of the mass media given to the creators or is it imposed onto the public? Also, what purpose does popular culture serve?

What is an interesting cultural conversation is whether or not current popular culture represents a dilution of American culture. In “Communication, Technology, and Society”, Green describes a “‘fall from grace’ whereby mass culture replaced an indigenous folk or organic culture created by ‘the people’ from their own experiences and artistic resources” [155]. While I have not put particular thought on this subject in the past, I would say that popular culture generates and molds our personal experiences. The use of the term “personal” is rather loose because our personal experiences become standardized by profit making firms. They are all experiences which we can share, and where we most likely project similar feeling towards. Therefore, they become a way to connect with almost anyone. I rarely talk about pop culture when I’m at home because I can talk about what is happening in the lives of my family. But when with people I do not know, pop culture and sports is something I can turn to.

I believe that part of the creation of popular culture is making the public feel as if it is important. New outlets are constantly giving the public news of Britney Spears and other celebrities. Why do people feel that the life of Britney Spears has any impact on their lives? After speaking to JD, I feel that understanding popular culture is a part of integrating oneself into society. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who has been working in a primary school. During break sessions, she said that the teachers often spend the time talking about celebrity news or television show plot lines. Immediately, I felt that knowing about these things is a part of making an easy connection with someone. That people do not wish to impart information on themselves, and as a result, resort to speaking about irrelevant material. However, it is interesting how such media is created to make itself attractive to a wide audience.

Shows like American Idol are interesting as there is a voting system which incorporates the massive audience (a 2005 season reportedly totaling 360 million votes according to Telescope). This keeps people feeling that they are a part of the activities and able to discuss their feelings on the topic with others. In terms of the focus everybody seems to have on celebrities’ lives, it is the magazines and television programs which perpetuate the importance of these topics. Green also brings up a point originally made by Radway in 1984 where she finds that “it seems clear that we must rethink our notion that all mass culture consumption perpetuates isolation and anomie between people with similar interests” [156]. However, in today’s society it seems that popular culture is what holds people together and gives the masses a common interest. I believe Radway’s point is still valid in that those who do not participate in popular culture become isolated. Not only do people become isolated, but those who are producing the content in pop culture are inviting the masses to join. There are several examples of this, starting with game shows to voting for your favorite singer on American Idol.

1 comment:

Dr. Brand said...

you asked if pop culture was "a dilution of American culture" and I'm not sure you answered - you said that it serves as a way to connect with anyone, so i think that means it doesn't matter what you're talking about, even if it dilutes "American culture"
When I asked Kit what American culture was he said that we were a conglomeration of cultures - but that apathy and hatred of government were unifying features of American culture, under a blanket of patriotism. What does pop culture do to this definition of "American culture" - it perpetuates our apathy of world events.