What is popular culture? | Journal #1 | WGST 250

What is popular culture?

When I think of popular culture, I typically think first of cultural products: film, television, music, books, etc. Then my thoughts extend to things like slang, fads, trends, fashion, sports…things that large numbers of people participate in.

The reading made distinctions between several different kinds of cultures: mass culture, folk culture, popular culture, and subcultures. It reminded me of the Crash Course video below, which looks at all of these. In talking about culture, it doesn’t assign particular kinds of culture more or less value. It is an example of another thing the reading talked about: popular culture entering the classroom (as Crash Course videos are often shown in classes).

One thing I’m interested to learn more about in this course is the way that popular culture evolves over time and how things that exist in smaller subcultures are adopted over time.

Another thing I’m interested in exploring, because popular culture is so often tied to mass media, is how changes in the way media is disseminated might have changed our definition of “popular” or changed how things become popular. For example, popular music is still heard on the radio, but may also be discovered by the public at large if the music video goes viral or it’s featured on a popular music streaming service. And as the systems of production and distribution evolve, do they carry the gendered and racial biases of old systems? Could a Netflix-produced and -distributed film become part of the culture like a Hollywood film? Is it free of the systemic biases of the Hollywood studio system, does it reproduce them, or does it have its own biases?


“Chapter 1: Introducing Popular Culture,” Popular Culture: A User’s Guide, Susie O’Brien & Imre Szeman

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