Popular Culture Cultural Expressions

What is "Popular Culture"?

Popular Culture can be defined as the culture of the people, and is accessible by the masses. High culture, is not accessible to everyone, and is seen as belonging to the elite.

History & Development

  • Term coined in the 19th c. -meaning the culture of the non-elite
  • The Industrial Revolution and the creation of the middle class gave popular culture a new respect
  • Post-WW2 in North America, the idea of popular culture began to merge with mass culture, consumer culture, image culture, media culture and culture for mass consumption.
The new middle class!

Theories of Pop Culture today....

  1. Popular culture is used by the ruling elite to control those below them by dulling their minds and making people passive. (Crossman, 2016)
  2. Popular culture is the means by which the people rebel against the ruling elite. (Crossman, 2016)
"a hopelessly commercial culture [that is] mass-produced for mass consumption [by] a mass of non-discriminating consumers. Popular culture is “formulaic [and] manipulative"

-from "Cultural Theory and Popular Culture" by John Storey "

Britney Spears is a good example of this definition; her road to stardom and place in popular culture were based on marketing strategies to build look along with her fan base. As a result, she generated millions of fans, her songs were played frequently on numerous radio stations, and she went on to sell out concerts and garner the public's fascination through her meltdown. Like the creation of Britney Spears, pop culture almost always depends on mass production for mass consumption because we rely on mass media to get our information and shape our interests.

(Crossman, 2016)

Popular Culture as a "Funhouse Mirror"

It reflects our values and beliefs back to us, but alters our own image in doing so.

For example...

  • An increasing level of violence in movies may reflect an increasing level of violence in society.
  • That may lead this society to be more accepting of violence
  • Which in turn, may result in more violent movies.

So, what happens when pop culture stops reflecting society?


Created with images by thingsworthdescribing - "Masterpiece, Roy Lichtenstein, 1962" • Joe Crawford (artlung) - "AmigaMTVLOGO2"

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