Popular Culture: A Worthy Matter

Michelle Barbero, Staff Writer |

In today’s society, it is nearly impossible to evade popular culture. Living in a world that runs on mass and social medias, this phenomenon is brought into households, schools, shopping malls, and other establishments all across the country. Popular culture can be communicated to audiences in the forms of music, television, books, movies, and more.

People may just consume these messages being channeled through the media and look at them as no more than forms of entertainment. But, there are several reasons as to why people should continuously challenge their perception of popular culture. On that point, popular culture is worthy of serious study. Since media is designed to appeal to what people, especially the youth, desire, it is a fitting way to learn about our society and where it is heading.

For example, the film “Natural Born Killers” is meant to display America’s apathetic, violent, and sensationalist culture. Since the movie’s release, several people have committed murder, claiming to have been inspired by the movie. In this case, a piece of media both represents a culture and perpetuates what it is representing.

Consuming popular culture has an influence on how relationships are formed between people, given this activity segments groups within a population.

The magazine Philosophy Now explained that, “Popular culture allows large heterogeneous masses of people to identify collectively.”

People begin to bond and gravitate towards others who find enjoyment in the same variety of popular culture. For example, when it comes to watching sports, fans will identify with a certain team. If someone identifies themselves as a Pittsburgh Penguins NHL fan, they will find comfort in the company of people who also regard themselves as fans of that team. This can be observed in sports bars, online chat rooms, and fan clubs.

In addition to influencing relationships, popular culture also has the power to shape the views and behavior of young audiences absorbing information through the mass media. Popular culture is constantly changing, and impressionable audiences are taking it all in just as quickly.

The New York Times article, “Americans Despair of Popular Culture,” referenced a New York Times’ poll showing that, “Half of those surveyed said they believed portrayals of sex and violence on television, in movies, and in music lyrics contribute ‘a lot’ to whether teenagers become sexually active or violent.”

Regardless of your personal beliefs, it is clear that popular culture does, to some extent, influence the minds of those who consume it. Even if it doesn’t pertain to sex and violence, the impact can be observed in choices of fashion and vocabulary. People tend to dress or talk like characters who they admire. Popular culture even has the power to reflect the views and values of our country. If a person or idea is respected or appreciated, it will be portrayed in a positive light in the mass media.

For example, it is an old trope in horror movies that people are murdered during or after having sex. In the same vein, a virginal female is often the sole survivor at the end of a horror film. This reoccurring theme shows America’s admiration of chastity and condemnation of promiscuity.

By studying what our population is consuming, one can predict what younger generations will grow to value. For example, if a theme of patriotism is shown across all different aspects of popular culture, young audiences may develop patriotic values. Oftentimes, this may be caused by making the film’s villain or antagonist be someone from another country, causing Americans to unite against the foreign threat; this is seen in movies like “Rocky,” “Die Hard,” and “American Sniper.”

Popular culture is a topic that is not only surrounded by controversy, but is also a source of valuable information that can be used to observe trends in human behaviors. Because of this, popular culture is more than just a form of entertainment and it is worthy of serious study.

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