The American Popular Culture
Popular culture refers to sports, music, and other forms of entertainment. It is disseminated across different forms of mass communication, such as magazines, newspapers, televisions, radio, movies, cheap novels and books, music, cartoons and comics, as well as advertising. It is different from the high cultural art forms, including traditional theater and literature, opera, as well as classical music and artworks. The emergence of the popular culture can be traced back to the early first half of the nineteenth century. After the industrial revolution, most people had extra leisure time. This condition led to a higher demand for entertainment and amusement, which, consequently, led to growth of the mass media. Additionally, the high supply of goods after the industrial revolution necessitated the need to advertise in order to attract clients. Since mass media wanted to reach as much people as possible, the urge to manage the content disseminated arose. However, many inventions, as seen today, would have rarely been graspable to many people a century ago, as they perceive them today.
Why Popular Culture is a Concern
The lifestyles adopted by many communities presently emanate from the popular culture. This is a major reason why most people would be interested in learning more about it. More importantly, America is perhaps leading in terms of popular cultures, and, therefore, anyone concerned about his or her life, as well as that of his or her family and friends will be curious to know more about it. Another factor that would raise people’s concern about the popular culture is that it reaches the entire public. As such, if there are no efforts made to ensure that young children and teenagers are protected from illicit materials, failure to which they will undoubtedly be affected.
It is also indubitable that the media influences the way people act, think, and dress. Therefore, it is obvious that when violent materials are availed on the media, viewers are likely to think and act violently. Another important factor is that popular culture has an economic impact on the media. This perception follows the notion that media houses depend on popular culture; therefore, the higher is the demand of the material displayed, the higher the income. Popular media is also of great interest to many people because it tells more about cultures; for example, it may show how ethnic minorities and women are depicted in a film or on TV (Curtis 6).
Before the emergence of the mass media, two forms of art were eminent – elite art and folk art. Whereas elite art comprised more complex works produced by artists who were after recognition, folk art was less complex, natural, and localized, and was produced by unknown artists. Before art was available in writing, the entire community accessed oral performance. However, after adoption of writing, social classes evolved over centuries: literature of the elites could be distinguished from the folk art of the ordinary people. Likewise, the other forms of complex and unsophisticated art genres evolved over time.
The constant development of the mass media resulted to a popular culture known as kitsch. Kitsch is used as a euphemism for simple, trashy, unsophisticated, junk, or trivial. It includes all the works thought to have no artistic merit, have a bad taste, and have low intellectual demands. It includes all that is found in the modern media: magazines, newspapers, paperbacks, television, movies, and radio. The products of lower intellectual demand tend to drive out both the higher culture and the elite art. Since modern media provide kitsch, it deprives the public of chances of developing advanced tastes. Additionally, the media makes huge profits from the audience. It is obvious that the lower middle class controls the media, as well as much income to buy the media-advertised goods. This class includes the white-collar workers, most of which are college-educated. This fact makes the media present only what is appealing to this social class.
Various elements are associated with the popular culture. To start with, all privately owned media endeavor to maximize their profits. This objective is achieved by airing materials that will attract huge numbers of people. A common characteristic among most people is that they are attracted to entertainment that calls for limited intellectual demand. Consequently, the media provides such content – kitsch. Eventually, the continuous production and consumption of the kitsch content overpowers other forms of art, resulting into financial exploitation of the audience, annihilation of the elite and folk art, as well as reduction of the real-life heroes.
The change of real-life heroes happened since the growth of mass media started. Before media inventions, celebrated heroes included people who had made significant contributions in the real life. Such included Neil Armstrong, Daniel Boone, Martin Luther King, and George Washington, among others. However, the media have adopted media-created heroes from the entertainment industries, including cartoon figures. Presently, very few people show any interest in the individuals who have made discoveries that have impacted the people’s lives. Some consider scientific endeavors, such as going to the moon as a waste of time, despite the fact that such activities have benefited humans (Spirkin 15).
Sports the Popular Culture
A sport refers to a well organized contest of skilled activity with all its performance governed by preset rules. Sports are played in public on a set program for an audience, commonly known as fans. Sports are a part of the American popular culture, deeply rooted in the contemporary society’s culture. They have been eminent in the American culture for over a century. There is a significant relationship between the media, sports, and the expansive social issues, including gender, sexuality, class, nationalism, and ethnicity. Actually, media coverage of sports offers a window into the political, social, and cultural experiences of different groups of people. Sports usually have an extra meaning beyond victory. For a sports journalist, preparing a well-written story does not only involve the score or the sport process activity but also the people who were in the event.
Racism and the Popular Culture
The idea of race in America is a concept that is under continuous contestation, providing it with no fixed meaning in identifying racial hierarchies, images, and boundaries. Despite such variability, both historically and presently, concepts about race have dictated perceptions about the Caucasian superiority as much as they have done about the black inferiority. Despite the fact that ideas concerning race are in their fresh forms, they have very meaningful consequences in terms of economical, social, and psychological factors. For over a century, popular culture has had a history of displaying racist depiction of blackness in America and other Western society, as empowered to shape, distort, and create reality, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Of course, such productions never exists without affecting people’s lives, they saturate all aspects of the modern society (Hoffman and Sklar 79).
Popular culture has been a part of the material and ideological apparatus of the social life since its origin. Many theorists object the claim that popular culture only serves the function of pure and innocent amusement. Instead, they assert that it is a powerful tool for regulating political and social discourses. Its power lies behind the fact that it has power to shape, distort, and produce realities that dictate the way humans live and relate with each other in the social world. This quality of the popular culture has constantly been used in America to maintain the social inequalities evident today. Such fluidity is a major disadvantage of the popular culture because it causes unfairness in the society, making some people appear inferior (Dirks and Mueller 2).
As already stated, popular culture refers to sports, music, and other forms of entertainment. Throughout the American history, the popular culture has been used for different reasons, including shaping people’s lifestyles, making commercial benefits from them, as well as perpetuating racism. This fluidity follows the popular culture’s ability to shape, distort, and produce reality. In conclusion, the popular culture has been a double-edged sword, playing both the positive and the negative role.