While pop culture has hundreds of millions of fans around the globe, many would be at a loss to define it. Wikipedia has as good a definition as any. “Pop culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture. . .“ Not specifically confined to Western culture (North America and Europe), pop culture is influenced by local and mass media, while infused into society.
Although almost any subject can be included in current pop culture, there are some items that dominate the pop culture landscape. These are the most common.
• Entertainment and celebrities, including —
o TV shows,
o “Hot dances,” and
o Games, particularly digital games.
• Sports, professional, college, and (every 4 years) the Olympic Games.
• News, particularly people and/or places making news.
• Politics, particularly in a presidential election year.
• Fashion and style, including “what’s in and what’s out.”
• Technology, both cutting-edge and historical.
• Slang, particularly “new meanings” for words already in the dictionary.
Pop Culture Sometimes Dissed
Sometimes, pop culture suffers impassioned criticism from non-mainstream sources for being –
• “Dumbed down,”
• Mainstream-oriented, and
• Anti-religious or anti-spiritual.
At the same time, pop culture supporters would argue that the mainstream IS society, making popular culture important to the most people. Pop culture is interwoven into the fabric and foundation of most societies—for better or worse.
When Did Pop Culture Become Important?
History indicates pop culture became an important factor in the mid-1950s, after World War II ended with an Allied Forces victory. Before the war, pop culture was non-existent as an entity. The term pop culture only became a phrase in the late 1950s as an item as “something” that appealed to the masses.
The multiple definitions of pop culture all state “what it is” differently. But, there is little question that pop culture is a dominant influence on today’s society. Pop culture is not only an American creation as Western Europeans consider pop culture to be an authentic “culture of the people.” Non-supporters will claim that pop culture is a “commercial and mass media” creation, targeted to sell products to the masses.
Pop culture fans stress the widespread popularity of celebrities, fashion trends, lifestyles, and sports heroes as the driving forces behind the impact this state of mind has on contemporary society. Similar to a great Sci-Fi movie or outstanding TV mystery, many people can “suspend disbelief” for a while to forget their daily challenges and lose themselves in an exciting, albeit fictional, environment.
The Mainstream Is the Majority in Western Cultures
Even pop culture critics should admit that a democracy functions at the wishes of the majority. In most Western societies, the mainstream is that majority. Therefore, if pop culture is targeted to the mainstream, its popularity displays the wishes of the majority.
Do not discount the influence of digital social media, as Facebook and Twitter attract more followers, the important role played by pop culture should only expand in the foreseeable future. Pop culture websites and magazines will continue to be objects of choice for the majority.