Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Excerpt

One of the curious things about popular culture is that, though almost everybody spends his life immersed in it, nobody seems able to agree about what it is. We glance at the comics daily. That's popular culture. We watch television a good deal. (Statistics reveal the average family television set is on about five hours a day.) That's a heavy dose of popular culture. We go to the movies, buy rock and roll records, eat snacks, and dress in certain ways. All of this is popular culture, as I think of it.

Some people make a distinction between popular arts , such as detective stories, westerns, and situation comedies, and mass media , such as radio, television, film, newspapers and magazines. But since so much of the media is full of the popular arts, the distinction between the two doesn't seem to be that important.

Some people talk about mass culture, which suggests they are interested in the "culture" of the ordinary man (as contrasted with the "high culture" of the elite). But the title of an important collection of articles on mass culture, published in the mid-fifties, was Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America , which suggests that mass culture and the popular arts are the same thing.

In the absence of agreement on what popular culture, the popular arts, or mass culture may be, I will offer my own definition. (I prefer the term popular culture not only because it is the most widely accepted description of what we are talking about, but also because it seems to me the most accurate.)

Popular culture, to me, is broader than the popular arts. It is the culture of the people -- their behavior, values, and, in particular, their entertainments, and not just certain art forms which appeal to large numbers of people. Perhaps the best thing to do is to indicate what popular culture generally is not. It is not the classic works of literature and philosophy, though curiously enough much popular culture is related directly to the same myths as Greek tragedy, for instance. It is not highly sophisticated art which appeals only to a person of highly cultivated and discriminating tastes. This kind of person may enjoy modern poetry as well as roller derby and professional football, but the average roller derby and football fan probably doesn't enjoy esoteric poetry or the novels of Henry James.

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