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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Popular culture (commonly known as pop culture) is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes,[1] images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, specifically Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century. Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society. By contrast, folklore refers to the cultural mainstream of more local or pre-industrial societies.

Popular culture is often viewed as being trivial and "dumbed-down" in order to find consensual acceptance throughout the mainstream. As a result, it comes under heavy criticism from various non-mainstream sources (most notably religious groups and countercultural groups) which deem it superficial, consumerist, sensationalist, and corrupted.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

The term "popular culture" itself is of 19th century coinage, in original usage referring to the education and "culturedness" of the lower classes.[11] The term began to assume the meaning of a culture of the lower classes separate from and opposed to "true education" towards the end of the century,[12] a usage that became established by the interbellum period.[13] The current meaning of the term, culture for mass consumption, especially originating in the United States, is established by the end of World War II.[14] The abbreviated form "pop culture" dates to the 1960s.[15]

Contents

Definitions

Defining 'popular' and 'culture', which are essentially contested concepts, is complicated with multiple competing definitions of popular culture. John Storey, in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, discusses six definitions. The quantitative definition, of culture has the problem that much "high culture" (e.g. television dramatizations of Jane Austen) is widely favoured. "Pop culture" is also defined as the culture that is "left over" when we have decided what high culture is. However, many works straddle or cross the boundaries, e.g. Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Storey draws attention to the forces and relations which sustain this difference such as the educational system.

A third definition equates pop culture with Mass Culture. This is seen as a commercial culture, mass produced for mass consumption. From a Western European perspective, this may be compared to American culture. Alternatively, "pop culture" can be defined as an "authentic" culture of the people, but this can be problematic because there are many ways of defining the "people." Storey argues that there is a political dimension to popular culture; neo-Gramscian hegemony theory "... sees popular culture as a site of struggle between the 'resistance' of subordinate groups in society and the forces of 'incorporation' operating in the interests of dominant groups in society." A postmodernism approach to popular culture would "no longer recognize the distinction between high and popular culture'

Storey emphasizes that popular culture emerges from the urbanization of the industrial revolution, which identifies the term with the usual definitions of 'mass culture'. Studies of Shakespeare (by Weimann, Barber or Bristol, for example) locate much of the characteristic vitality of his drama in its participation in Renaissance popular culture, while contemporary practitioners like Dario Fo and John McGrath use popular culture in its Gramscian sense that includes ancient folk traditions (the commedia dell'arte for example).

Popular culture changes constantly and occurs uniquely in place and time. It forms currents and eddies, and represents a complex of mutually-interdependent perspectives and values that influence society and its institutions in various ways. For example, certain currents of pop culture may originate from, (or diverge into) a subculture, representing perspectives with which the mainstream popular culture has only limited familiarity. Items of popular culture most typically appeal to a broad spectrum of the public.

Institutional propagation

Popular culture and the mass media have a symbiotic relationship: each depends on the other in an intimate collaboration."
—K. Turner (1984), p.4[16]

The news media mines the work of scientists and scholars and conveys it to the general public, often emphasizing elements that have inherent appeal or the power to amaze. For instance, giant pandas (a species in remote Chinese woodlands) have become well-known items of popular culture; parasitic worms, though of greater practical importance, have not. Both scholarly facts and news stories get modified through popular transmission, often to the point of outright falsehoods.

Hannah Arendt's 1961 essay "The Crisis in Culture" suggested that a "market-driven media would lead to the displacement of culture by the dictates of entertainment."[17] Susan Sontag argues that in our culture, the most "...intelligible, persuasive values are [increasingly] drawn from the entertainment industries", which is "undermining of standards of seriousness." As a result, "tepid, the glib, and the senselessly cruel" topics are becoming the norm.[17] Some critics argue that popular culture is “dumbing down”: "...newspapers that once ran foreign news now feature celebrity gossip, pictures of scantily dressed young ladies...television has replaced high-quality drama with gardening, cookery, and other “lifestyle” programmes...[and] reality TV and asinine soaps," to the point that people are constantly immersed in trivia about celebrity culture.[17]

In Rosenberg and White's book Mass Culture, MacDonald argues that "Popular culture is a debased, trivial culture that voids both the deep realities (sex, death, failure, tragedy) and also the simple spontaneous pleasures. . . . The masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial and comfortable cultural products."[17] Van den Haag argues that "...all mass media in the end alienate people from personal experience and though appearing to offset it, intensify their moral isolation from each other, from reality and from themselves."[17][18]

Critics have lamented the "... replacement of high art and authentic folk culture by tasteless industrialised artefacts produced on a mass scale in order to satisfy the lowest common denominator."[17] This "mass culture emerged after the Second World War and have led to the concentration of mass-culture power in ever larger global media conglomerates." The popular press decreased the amount of news or information and replaced it with entertainment or titillation that reinforces "... fears, prejudice, scapegoating processes, paranoia, and aggression."[17]

Critics of television and film have argued that the quality of TV output has been diluted as stations relentlessly pursue "populism and ratings" by focusing on the "glitzy, the superficial, and the popular." In film, "Hollywood culture and values" are increasingly dominating film production in other countries. Hollywood films have changed from creating formulaic films which emphasize "...shock-value and superficial thrill[s]" and special effects, with themes that focus on the "...basic instincts of aggression, revenge, violence, [and] greed." The plots "...often seem simplistic, a standardised template taken from the shelf, and dialogue is minimal." The "characters are shallow and unconvincing, the dialogue is also simple, unreal, and badly constructed."[17]

Folklore

Adaptations based on traditional folklore provide a source of popular culture.[19] This earlier layer of cultural mainstream still persists today, in a form separate from mass-produced popular culture, propagating by word of mouth rather than via mass media, e.g. in the form of jokes or urban legend. With the widespread use of the Internet from the 1990s, the distinction between mass media and word-of-mouth has become blurred.

Although the folkloric element of popular culture engages heavily with the commercial element, the public has its own tastes and it may not embrace every cultural item sold. Moreover, beliefs and opinions about the products of commercial culture (for example: "My favorite character is Ryoma Echizen") spread by word-of-mouth, and become modified in the process in the same manner that folklore evolves.

Popular culture in popular culture

Owing to the pervasive and increasingly interconnected nature of popular culture, especially its intermingling of complementary distribution sources, some cultural anthropologists literary and cultural critics have identified a large amount of intertextuality in popular culture's portrayals of itself. One commentator has suggested this self-referentiality reflects the advancing encroachment of popular culture into every realm of collective experience. "Instead of referring to the real world, much media output devotes itself to referring to other images, other narratives; self-referentiality is all-embracing, although it is rarely taken account of."[20]

Many cultural critics have dismissed this as merely a symptom or side-effect of mass consumerism, however alternate explanations and critique have also been offered. One critic asserts that it reflects a fundamental paradox: the increase in technological and cultural sophistication, combined with an increase in superficiality and dehumanization.[21]

Examples from American television

According to television studies scholars specializing in quality television, such as Kristin Thompson, self-referentiality in mainstream American television (especially comedy) reflects and exemplifies the type of progression characterized previously. Thompson[22] argues shows such as The Simpsons use a "...flurry of cultural references, intentionally inconsistent characterization, and considerable self-reflexivity about television conventions and the status of the programme as a television show."[23] Extreme examples approach a kind of thematic infinite regress wherein distinctions between art and life, commerce and critique, ridicule and homage become intractably blurred.[21]

Long-running television series The Simpsons routinely alludes to mainstream media properties, as well as the commercial content of the show itself. In one episode, Bart complains about the crass commercialism of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while watching television. When he turns his head away from the television, he is shown floating by as an oversized inflatable balloon. The show also invokes liberal reference to contemporary issues as depicted in the mainstream, and often merges such references with unconventional and even esoteric associations to classical and postmodernist works of literature, entertainment and art.[citation needed]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ http://library.thinkquest.org/C004367/ce6.shtml
  2. ^ "Teens for Jesus want wholesome pop culture". AuburnPub.com. 2008-02-15. http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2008/02/15/lake_life/lakelife05.txt. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  3. ^ "truthXchange Articles > Spirit Wars in the Third Millennium". Truthxchange.com. http://www.truthxchange.com/article/spirit-wars-in-the-third-millennium/. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  4. ^ Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace. "Rebecca's Reads - Darrell L. Bock & Daniel B. Wallace - Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture's Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ". Rebeccasreads.com. http://www.rebeccasreads.com/Reviews/ReviewBockDethroningJesus.html. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  5. ^ "Calvin College: Calvin News". Calvin.edu. 2001-03-15. http://www.calvin.edu/news/2000-01/eyes.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  6. ^ "7 Things From Pop Culture That Apparently Piss Jesus Off". Cracked.com. http://www.cracked.com/article_16619_7-things-from-pop-culture-that-apparently-piss-jesus-off.html. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  7. ^ "Christotainment: Selling Jesus Through Popular Culture: STEINBERG SHIRLEY R. : 9780813344058 : Book". eCampus.com. 2009-02-21. http://www.ecampus.com/book/9780813344058. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  8. ^ Tucker, Austin B.. "Christian Living In A Pagan Culture". Preaching.com. http://www.preaching.com/resources/from_the_lectionary/11550972/. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  9. ^ "Book Review- Jesus Made in America – Irish Calvinist". Irishcalvinist.com. 2008-10-14. http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=1841. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  10. ^ "Japan’s increasingly superficial pop culture? | Bateszi Anime Blog". Bateszi.animeuknews.net. 2007-01-18. http://bateszi.animeuknews.net/2007/01/18/japans-increasingly-superficial-pop-culture/. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  11. ^ Per Adam Siljeström, The educational institutions of the United States, their character and organization, J. Chapman, 1853, p. 243: "Influence of European emigration on the state of civilization in the United States: Statistics of popular culture in America". John Morley presented an address On Popular Culture at the town hall of Birmingham in 1876, dealing with the education of the lower classes.
  12. ^ "Learning is dishonored when she stoops to attract," cited in a section "Popular Culture and True Education" in University extension, Issue 4, The American society for the extension of university teaching, 1894.
  13. ^ e.g. "the making of popular culture plays [in post-revolutionary Russian theater]", Huntly Carter, The new spirit in the Russian theatre, 1917-28: And a sketch of the Russian kinema and radio, 1919-28, showing the new communal relationship between the three, Ayer Publishing, 1929, p. 166.
  14. ^ "one look at the sheer mass and volume of what we euphemistically call our popular culture suffices", from Winthrop Sargeant, 'In Defense of the High-Brow', an article from LIFE magazine, 11 April 1949, p. 102.
  15. ^ Gloria Steinem, 'Outs of pop culture', LIFE magazine, 20 August 1965, p. 73.
  16. ^ Shuker, Roy (1994). Understanding Popular Music, p.4. ISBN 0-415-10723-7.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "dumbing down". Nomuzak.co.uk. http://nomuzak.co.uk/dumbing_down.html. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  18. ^ Van den Haag, in Rosenberg and White, Mass Culture, p. 529.
  19. ^ On the Ambiguity of the Three Wise Monkeys A. W. Smith Folklore, Vol. 104, No. 1/2 (1993), pp. 144-150
  20. ^ McRobbie, Angela (1994). Postmodernism and Popular Culture. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07712-5.  Cultural anthropologist and feminist discourse on cultural studies.
  21. ^ a b "Ralph Dumain, Cultural Sophistication and Self-Reference On American Television". http://www.autodidactproject.org/my/northexp.html. Retrieved 2007-04-22.  An essay on self-referentiality and American television.
  22. ^ She is the author of Storytelling in Film and Television. Her other publications include Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (Harvard University Press, November 1999); Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis (Princeton University Press, August 1988); and, as a co-author with David Bordwell; Film Art: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill College, January 2003); Film History: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill College, August 2002)
  23. ^ Thompson. Available at: http://www.kamera.co.uk/books/new_hollywood_cinema.html

References

  • Bakhtin, M. M. and Michael Holquist, Vadim Liapunov, Kenneth Brostrom. (1981) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series). Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: University of Texas Press.
  • Storey, John (2006). Cultural theory and popular culture. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-0-13-197068-7
  • Hassabian, Anahid (1999). "Popular", Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture, eds.: Horner, Bruce and Swiss, Thomas. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-21263-9.
  • Seabrook, John. NoBrow : the culture of marketing the marketing of culture, New York: A.A. Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-375-40504-6
  • Williams, Raymond (1985). Keywords: a Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520469-7. Cited in Hassabian (1999).

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Mass culture article)

From Wikiquote

Mass culture

  • "In general they are intoxicated by the fame of mass culture, a fame which the latter knows how to manipulate; they could just as well get together in clubs for worshipping film stars or for collecting autographs. What is important to them is the sense of belonging as such, identification, without paying particular attention to its content. As girls, they have trained themselves to faint upon hearing the voice of a 'crooner'. Their applause, cued in by a light-signal, is transmitted directly on the popular radio programmes they are permitted to attend. They call themselves 'jitter-bugs', bugs which carry out reflex movements, performers of their own ecstasy. Merely to be carried away by anything at all, to have something of their own, compensates for their impoverished and barren existence. The gesture of adolescence, which raves for this or that on one day with the ever-present possibility of damning it as idiocy on the next, is now socialized."
    • Theodor Adorno, quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith, 1978, ISBN 0094602204
    • "In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them, (2) Public communications are so organised that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against – if necessary – the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.-In a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. (2) The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realisation of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organise and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorised institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion". C. Wright Mills, in The Power Elite (1956)


Simple English

Popular culture is culture enjoyed by some Westernized people. It can include Hollywood, Bollywood, Broadway, video games, computer games, music, or other concepts and ideas for young people to experience. Compared to plain culture, popular culture is often controversial and objects of popular culture have been banned in non-Western countries like Malaysia, for example. Most popular culture involves complex art and sometimes violence and/or profane language are used to appeal to a young adult male audience raised on watching R-rated movies with a parent or supervising adult at any much earlier age than the Baby Boomer generation.

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