The article, “The Politics of Culture” by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, provides a variety of perspectives and definitions of what popular culture means. Some argue that capitalism gives birth to popular culture with the use of media and advertisement. Thus, popular culture is under the jurisdiction of those in power who usually belong to the upper class. It is difficult to ignore how factual the article is considering the existence of gender stratification, social oppression, and ethnic/racial discrimination. In popular culture, each of the three categories is given a definition that develops a sense of social stigma as well as stereotypes. The stereotypes and social stigmas create labels for certain people of each category. In effect, people act as that of what they are labeled. Thus, they are dehumanized and become the product of the popular culture in a capitalist society.
At the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, Stuart Hall and his team worked together to reveal the manner in which the media used “economic crises” to organize the perceptions and attitudes of the population in crisis. Even in contemporary times, the method of organizing the ideology of people during economic crisis appears to be a common method used. Economist Milton Friedman once said “Only in a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change,” which in other words meant that crises serve as opportunities to organize the approaches of treatment to a crisis. Thus, using the media to advocate the methods of solutions for an economic crisis would usually result in greater benefits to those who are economically wealthy.
Much of popular culture today also serves to arrange people into categories that in some way oppress their social and economic progress in society. The article reveals Susan Borgo’s argument of the representation of women in popular culture. The representation of women in popular culture is a method of gender stratification because it depicts women to act and think a certain way. Though men are also targets in popular culture in a capitalist society, women tend to be a primary target of discrimination through ideal body entities, facial complexion/appearances, expected roles, etc. It also permits others to think that those representations are the roles that women and men are supposed to carry out.
Social oppression and ethnic/racial oppression tend to be under the same thumb since the lower and working class are particularly populated by minorities. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu believes that the “social system tends to reproduce itself through culture and through schooling.” Thus, the upper social class is more likely to mold culture and begin materialistic trends for the lower social classes to follow. The materialistic trends serve as labels, logos, and brands that help identify what class system a person belongs to. In effect, consumers buy these forms of identification which “reproduce” the social class culture, and carry out those identifications through their roles in society.
So then the question arises, what really is popular culture? Is popular culture the puppet of politics? Those in power set the agenda for everyone and so we obey those set of rules. When people follow popular culture and they become puppets or products of something then they lose their sense of being human. They act as robots and do as they are programmed. They also lose their ability to think intellectually since they obey their identification and live along those expected roles. Though popular culture has many negative effects that involve discrimination, many groups continue to find popular culture very attractive. The ideologies that linger about popular culture are very powerful. Being aware of how popular culture can manipulate society is a start to breaking those powerful ideologies and begin more positive ideologies of how to approach popular culture. It also helps to break stereotypes of men/women, ethnic groups, and social classes.