COMS 4604A Global Media and Popular Culture Midterm Assignment
Welcome to my creative blog about global media and popular culture. The goal behind this piece is to explore the themes as follows: histories of popular culture, the emergent forms of what is considered to be “popular”, the possibilities for self-production and politics, the potential for social change and the significance of media literacy. Ultimately, I will be demonstrating these themes by connecting different quotes to memes.
Throughout this post, I will be speaking of technology as a cultural text. I consider technology to be a cultural text because I am aware of the relationship between technology and culture. As time passes, culture continues to develop, and therefore, so does the innovation and use of technology.
As a millennial, I myself am apart of the newest form of popular culture, which involves digital technology, like never before. In other words, I live in the “digital era”. This “digital era” concept demonstrates the relationship between time, culture and technology quite nicely. Within this “digital era”, people are circulating blogs and memes on social media platforms constantly.
Of course, this digital era does not exist in every part of the world. Obviously, I will mainly be addressing examples of Westernized media and popular culture. But, that is not to say that the significant messages and concepts mentioned throughout this article cannot be simplified. Furthermore, they can still be useful when thinking of specific media and cultures elsewhere, as other cultures have adopted Western culture in certain aspects.
I have decided to express my thoughts on popular culture through the format of a blog post because blogs are becoming more widespread. In fact, what seems to be the newest trend of social media according to what I have noticed, is indeed, lifestyle bloggers. Why not use a medium that is reflective of what I am talking about?
Essentially, blogs allow you to tell a story. I love the idea of blogs because they are like journals, that allow for raw emotion and thoughts. Even further, being able to construct a blog is an extremely useful skill to have within the realm of communications and business. I like this Medium platform for blogging the most, because not only can you write your own blog posts, you can also follow others bloggers. The best part though, is that in your profile settings you can record personal statistics and see how many people scroll through your whole blogs, or how many stop halfway through while reading. In other words, there are helpful analytics involved!
To end this preamble, I will conclude that this blog is ultimately a textual analysis, as it connects quotes to memes. Aside from blogs, memes are another great example of popular culture, as they are also circulated amongst social media on a daily basis. I constantly tag my friends in memes on both Facebook and Instagram. Everyone can relate to a meme out there. Not only can memes be connectable, they are also really funny at times and visually appealing.
I hope that by the end of this read, that you are fascinated at how blog posts and memes can be so engaging, pedagogical and meaningful. Enjoy.
Quote #1 — “As automobiles became increasingly homogenous through mass production, even luxury cars eventually looked much the same and lacked the characteristic flourishes that once distinguished one robber baron’s car from another’s.” Jeremy Packer, p. 228
In the reading titled “MOBILITY WITHOUT MAYHEM”, Jeremy Packer uses the example of luxury cars to argue that products express social mobility. In other words, material products are a representation of your identity and position within society. They reflect your wealth, and how high you are within the patriarchal system, as well as your capability to move up the social ladder. Because, if you are rich, you are able to afford luxury items. These items also then act as a symbol of your race, as those with more exotic races tend to be looked upon as lower on the scale in contrast to rich white folks, especially when speaking about traditional culture years ago, and even Westernized communities now. And when a person of colour does have a luxury item, they may be questioned as to how, resulting in humiliation.
This quote spoke to me out of the entire reading because I was truly able to immediately connect with it. I myself only buy higher-end products such as clothes from stores like Aritzia, which are way over-priced, because I want to associate with a certain class. Aritzia is like the Bentley of cars. However, I love the paradox highlighted within this quote, which encapsulates a greater argument. Paradoxically, at the time, when you own a fancy car you are considered dominant. However, since so many people within society want to conform to the representation of these luxury items, they try to own them too, causing mass consumption and homogeneity.
Then, once homogeneity is reached, the luxurious trend fades. As times passes, the luxury car for example, loses its significance. Just like although I feel a sense of power for a period of time when I buy Aritzia clothing, I then later see a number of other girls attempting to do the same thing with the same clothes, eliminating the euphoric feeling altogether. You see, this is what popular culture marketers want. They want their products to have value, but a certain value that has a limited shelf-life, so that you will buy again and generate more profit for them again, cyclically.
I feel as though this quote is beautifully written because it uses key terms that are mentioned throughout our course, such as “homogeneity”, “mass production” and “luxury”. Being able to tie all of these concepts together and also achieve a deeper meaning involving social status and race all-together in one sentence is wonderful.
A contemporary example I thought of that perfectly illustrates the idea of a luxury item becoming homogenous, is a Blackberry. Just a couple years ago, before the iPhone has now taken over, Blackberry phones were extremely popular. They were associated with business’ and a wealthy corporate lifestyle. They were associated with business’ specifically because, those who worked for important companies would have a Blackberry as their work phone. However, even those who did not work in a business, wanted a Blackberry, to have this social status. Hence, causing homogeneity stemming from the desire to conform. I myself was one of them. My friends and I all had Blackberry’s in high-school.
Remember when blackberry’s were popular and associated with high culture?As you can see in the meme above, there is a girl freaking out and telling everyone to add her “BBM PIN”. A “BBM pin” is essentially a phone number that people must add in order to converse with said person over Blackberry Messenger. Conclusively, Blackberrys were associated with luxury, but, since everyone wanted to own one and be noticed as a member of the high-class category, the Blackberry became homogenous over-time quite quickly.
And with explanation of this concept now illustrated and finished, I think it is important for people to remember that they should not allow products to completely define them, since the so called significance of such material items evidently decrease over time. To become noticed, it is better to be unique and stand out.
Quote #2 — “Respectability was at its core a gendered concept.” Richard Bustch, p. 375
In the reading, “Bowery Boys and Matinee Ladies: the regendering of nineteenth century American theatre audience”, Richard Butsch argues that there are evident gender roles and societal norms within creative production industries. Furthermore, these stereotypes have translated from traditional culture to popular culture. Back then, when traditional theatre and art was widespread, women were looked upon in the audience for respectability and innocence. Whereas, males seemed to be run the production and have the ultimate power.
However, as time passed, and industrial capitalism rose, women became a threat to traditional forms of Art, because they began to feed into consumer demands. This, is essentially the re-gendering of the nineteenth century. Moreover, it demonstrates how the relationship between technology, time and culture transforms and constantly evolves. Since females began to support mass culture with their spending habits, Art was established as masculine and popular culture as feminine. Ultimately, these associations highlight the existence of gender roles and societal norms which Butsch explores.
This quote resonated with me right away, because it simply states that women were at a time, associated with respectability. And after reading the sentence, I quickly began to wonder how women lost their respectability over the years throughout various media platforms. I also began to ask myself why women have become so easily exploited. And why are women respected the most when they have manners, remain quiet and conform to the power of males? Why are women held subject to any certain expectations at all? Just this one quote ignited so many questions.
Think about it even now. Women are the ones typically associated with shopping as a communal activity, as well as beauty. For example, when I think of gender expectations within the film industry, I think of Penny, in “The Big Bang Theory”. As a character within the series, Penny is the typical blonde attractive girl next door, who exists within the show mainly to act clueless while Sheldon holds all the intelligence, ultimately to cause a sexual relationship between her and the guy across the hall, Leonard. This is just one example of gendered stereotypes, out of so many. These expectations are also portrayed in romance novels, movies and music videos, which are spoken about in class.
However, needless to say, I do positively believe that social media platforms which exist today also allow for females to gain the respectability they deserve. When I think of the fight for feminism, Emma Watson immediately comes to my mind. Personally, I always knew about Emma Watson as an actress, but I did not know about her pursuit for gender-equality until I saw a tweet of hers on Twitter recently. Thanks to social media, I have gained a serious amount of respectability for Emma Watson as she works effortlessly as a celebrity to advocate for feminism. As an activist, Emma Watson places books all over New York city when she can for people to read at their leisure. These books aim to educate people on the equality that feminism attempts to achieve.
Of course, these female stereotypes found within media platforms that continue to exist have to be addressed and protested. Stereotypes in regards to males having to oppress their emotions, should also be spoken about too!! However, I hope that by adding this blurb of positivity at the end, I successfully prove that as civilians, we must use media platforms within popular culture to our advantage, to try and stray away from these gendered-norms as much as possible.
Quote #3 — “There is no hegemony- nor counter hegemony — without cultural circulation.” J. Martin-Barbero, p. 6
In this meme above, it is quite obvious that this guy does not want to hear about the positive side of mass production, or cultural circulation for this matter. He clearly looks unimpressed and unwilling to learn about this topic. Similarly to the ways in which I was stubborn about cultural circulation before taking this class!
In the reading titled “Communication, culture and hegemony: from the media to mediations”, Barbero aims to argue that — essentially, nothing cannot exist without culture circulation. Without the circulation of messages, stereotypes, and ideologies, there is no hegemony, or counter-hegemony within culture. In fact, without the existence of stereotypes, subcultures would not exist, because then members of subcultures would not know what stereotypes they are opposing. In other words, circulation is a key component in regards to the relationship of technology, time and culture. This relationship is so complex and has many vital components that are all intertwined to exist. And, without the circulation of these aspects, many people would not consume, contribute or be educated on these topics. It is so to say that, although many people who are apart of minorities, do not like the idea of having those above them with a higher amount of power, there has to be some sort of system for society to exist and continue.
Without certain stereotypes, interesting story topics for music videos, films and novels would not exist. There would be a limit to the amount of entertainment put forth by media corporations. Of course, this is not to eliminate the fact that stereotypes should be looked at more carefully, they just realistically give people more options.
I really like this quote because, although I am a part of feminist culture, I am often times very negative about the idea of hegemony. However, now, after reading this quote, I realize that the existence of hegemony has allowed me to be aware that I do not want to succumb to having less power or being oppressed as a woman. It encourages me to want to own an extensive amount of power one day myself to thus advocate for equality and overall positivity. I believe that this overall notion ties well into our course as it encapsulates the fact that there is not only one correct answer to the majority of open-ending questions we have discussed within class in regards to popular culture. There are multiple opinions that all exist, which cultural circulation allows for. It is from there on out that one can then choose to form their own ultimate opinion, as well as respect that of others.
Quote #4 — “To uncover the ideological dimension of signs we must first try to disentangle the codes through which meaning is organized.” Dick Hebidge, p. 14
In the reading titled “Subculture: the meaning of style”, Dick Hebdige addresses the idea of hegemony within popular culture. He explains that subcultures develop primarily to rebel against the power that certain institutions hold within popular culture, along with the ideologies they push upon society. Moreover, they aim to deter from these certain ideological messages. For example, feminist groups such as “The Riot Grrrls”, which we have discussed in class, aim to deter from sexist views. “The Riot Grrrls” do not agree with how women should be looked upon as less-talented in comparison to males within the music industry. They went against the masses who proposed masculine power, because it reached a point where women who stay home in fear of getting killed at clubs. “The Riot Grrrls” have made an impact that still lingers on today, as their zines are still circulating. Other great examples of subcultures include bikers and goths. They are becoming more and more popular and successful.
However, I would like to propose somewhat of an argumentative question in regards to subcultures. The question(s) being — “Can subcultures ever be completely alternative without adopting some mainstream values? And could they be more successful if they actually became mainstream to voice their message?”. Going back to “The Riot Grrrls”, people started to believe that they had failed as a subculture because when they began to be pushed into mainstream newspapers, they opted out, and sold their zines only, to remain as alternative as possible. If they had chose to stay in these mainstream newspapers to voice themselves, maybe they could have had more of an impact?
This quote stuck out to me the most out of the whole reading, because it signifies the importance of knowing who creates the messages that you receive on a daily basis. Once you know who has created the message, you are more able to understand the motives behind the message. Through knowing the motive behind the message, you are better to completely understand it as a whole. By this, you can receive and accept the message in an educated way. In other words, you are an active member, because you are aware of these crucial components. Members of subcultures are obviously active, as they are aware of the messages that they want to stray away from and protest against. They have spent time studying those who have made certain messages, what they believe and why they want the majority of society too as well. Conclusively, this quote contributes to the importance of not being a passive consumer within society, and remembering that the creator is a huge part of the message.
Example for Quote #4
For example, when watching the News, it is important to be aware of which news channel you are receiving certain messages from. CNN may have different predispositions than Fox News. Donald Trump is an interesting case, because political communication in general has transitioned to social media platforms, and has gained codes, which has influenced the field of politics to focus more and more on the candidates public image, rather than actual public interest. By disentangling these codes, one can then make their own personal opinion of the messages they are receiving, rather than just receiving it directly. This way, people can live more of a life that they want to live, not one scripted by the ones who organized the message and care the most about an unauthentic image, for example.
Quote #5 — “Media culture provides access to a society’s dreams and nightmares, and contains both ideological celebrations of the status quo and utopian moments of transcendence, moments of opposition and rebellion.” Douglas, Kellner, p.1
I believe that this final quote is a great way to end this blog post. Ultimately, Kellner is stressing that popular culture has both its strengths and its weaknesses in regards to how it shapes society. This quote spoke out to me right away, because it highlights the fact that media culture is not just negative. Media culture also has a positive side to it, which people must aim to recognize. Although at times, media culture can be an absolute nightmare, it can also oppositely be used as a platform for moments of rebellion. This is because social media platforms allow for widespread circulation. Within popular culture, researchers are always questioning whether the capability that media technology has in regards to reaching audiences on a greater scale and in a shorter time span, is either more beneficial or negative. This quote is the answer to this question. Everything, whether good or bad, requires circulation to be prevalent. If people choose to use media to promote ideologies that actually have public interest solely in mind, the media culture can be beneficial and cause a revolution.
I also enjoy this quote in particular because, before taking this class, I had a very negative view towards our media culture. I always believed that media technology shares such an extensive amount of negative news filled with unfortunate motives, that it is always in my face. However, this reading has allowed me to realize that as a female, I have access to protest for femininity. I have been provided with the opportunity to search for knowledge. As a student, I have access to protest against tuition fees. As a 21 year old, I have the ability to protest against agism. I truly can rebel and open myself to moments of transcendence if I use media culture to my advantage. We may not have the power to shut down certain websites, or immediately and completely stop certain sexist television shows. However, we CAN decide if we actually want to look them up and spend our time watching and feeding into them.
Below, is a reflective meme of how Malala Yousafazi has used social media to her advantage to fight for the right for females to have access to education in less-fortunate countries. I believe that on this note, I can conclude my whole blog post by saying, the relationship between media technology, time and culture co-exist. Popular culture is nor good or bad, rather it has it’s advantages and disadvantages. It is up to civilians to gain proper media literacy and use these platforms accordingly, to the best of their ability. Thank you so much for reading.