Popular Culture: An Introductory Text

Popular Culture: An Introductory Text

Popular Culture: An Introductory Text

Popular Culture: An Introductory Text

Synopsis

Popular Culture: An Introductory Text provides the means for a new examination of the different faces of the American character in both its historical and contemporary identities. The text is highlighted by a series of extensive introductions to various categories of popular culture and by essays that demonstrate how the methods discussed in the introductions can be applied. This volume is an exciting beginning for the study of the materials of everyday life that define our culture and confirm our individual senses of identity.

Excerpt

Each of the four essays selected to introduce the serious examination of popular culture is an attempt to unlock a deeper significance or meaning from an artifact which is usually accepted at face value by the people who experience it. Kevin Lause discovers that the top ten American box-office hits are about much more than flying bicycles, sliming ghosts and Empires striking back; Marc Crispin Miller looks at an advertisement for liquor and sees a basic American drama of loneliness and longing; Jan Harold Brunvand shows that the tale you tell your friend about the babysitter you heard about who was trapped in a house with a killer upstairs may actually alert us to enemies more threatening than maniacs on the loose; and Alison Lurie finds that Dr. Seuss' fantasy beasts carry very real messages.

While each author presents an interesting analysis of his or her artifact, it is especially important at this stage of the study of popular culture to focus upon the techniques and skills applied by each writer in revealing the meanings of his or her chosen subject. What questions does each author ask as a beginning point to their analysis? What types of evidence does each offer for his or her conclusions? Can any of the various rooms in the House of Popular Culture be recognized? Try to imagine how each author's conclusions can be extended to apply to other examples of their selected artifacts. Are any of the themes Lause identifies in the top ten box-office hits also present in recent movies? Are there other advertisements which carry messages similar to Miller's liquor ad? Heard any "urban legends" lately, and thought about what they might signify?

Ultimately, it should become clear that the "serious" study of popular culture has an ironic effect: it makes popular culture more fun. It enables one to become a detective with the world's most interesting mystery to solve—the hidden mystery of a culture's beliefs and values. The clues are all around—let's begin looking at them.

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