Dominic Strinati and Stephen Wagg
It used to be the case that popular culture wasn’t taken too seriously. Now the opposite seems to apply. Whereas once popular culture was dismissed and condemned as mass culture, without the specific characteristics of distinct and subtle forms being given their due and required consideration, now nearly every manifestation of popular culture, every nuance, every gesture, is made to bear an interpretational load it cannot always carry. Once popular culture was important enough to condemn but not important enought to take seriously. Now its importance is such that, on occasion, it may be taken too seriously.
As the study of popular culture has become more legitimate, and popular culture has become more central to modern western societies, the old distinctions upon which the old certainties rested have begun to be questioned or to break down. Culturally, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish satisfactorily between serious and trivial culture, between high and low culture, between popular and mass culture, between authentic and inauthentic culture, or between popular culture and art. Theoretically, it is increasingly difficult to analyse popular culture in terms of such conceptual distinctions as those between base and superstructure, reflection and autonomy, and production and consumption. So the invitation to ‘come on down’ no longer has the force it once had, partly because so many have been pleased to accept it, and partly because the topographical references are no longer so fixed and unambiguous. Hence the question mark in the book’s title.
This situation has led to the emergence of a diversity of theoretical perspectives and re-evaluations which are reflected in this book. For one way of working through the problems and uncertainties, the lack of clear theoretical divisions and the