Maybe this is just my cynical nature, but Dr. Jim Taylor’s blog post resonated very well with me. I agree, most of what is considered popular culture is, in my eyes, not very popular at all. While it is true that the media plays a big role in creating popular culture by telling their target audience (i.e. young people like myself) what to consume, it is clear from the following examples that companies and corporations play a much bigger role in mandating popular culture.
Just like when I said that what is considered popular culture may not actually be popular, there is a noticeable difference between the most popular television shows and the most searched television shows. According to Deadline.com, some of the highest ranked television series in the 2012-2013 season included Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Two and a Half Men, The Voice, and 2 Broke Girls. Many of the shows on this list are considered comedies or dramas, while shows like The Voice gives us a chance to see who is the next star and also gives us something pleasant to listen to (depending if we like the singer or not). This supports the idea that much of our popular culture serves to entertain us.
However, the Huffington Post tells us that the most searched television shows in the same time frame included Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, X Factor, Big Brother 14, and Dance Moms. In fact, a majority of the top-searched television shows were reality shows. Shows like Big Brother and X Factor involve fans searching for who gets eliminated each week. In fact, Big Brother has become so popular that there are blogs and fan sites dedicated to giving daily updates to followers from the Big Brother house (Note: This artifact was added 4/22/2014). As for the other shows on the list, though, there was much controversy around them. Honey Boo Boo and her family are always in the news, especially because of their “redneck” lifestyle, as some would call it, as well as the controversy surrounding child beauty pageants.
Other shows on this most searched list, such as The New Normal and Switched at Birth may have garnered attention for dealing with sensitive family issues that not many television shows deal with.
Why do I bring this up? It all goes back to corporations. Advertisements, including commercials and billboards, tell us that shows like Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls are the TV shows we are going to find funny and, in turn, the TV shows we should watch and care about. News media like broadcast TV and magazines, however, attempt to sway us in a different way. They see people like Honey Boo Boo and the stage parents on Dance Moms and think these are the kind of shenanigans people will want to see. Then a cycle begins: If we air this story about Honey Boo Boo acting silly on her show, people will watch the show more, then come back to us to see what else we have to say about Honey Boo Boo.
Then again, like I said, this could just be my cynical nature.
Disney is a notable example of corporations controlling popular culture. The Disney Corporation started out with their famous film cartoons, which soon made the leap to television and movies. These movies, especially their animated ones, soon became valued among parents as wholesome entertainment for their children.
But it did not stop there, as we all know. Add to it the theme parks, the television channel, the radio station, the toys, the books, the games, the store, the live shows on ice and on Broadway – Disney is all over the map! All these aspects of the Disney empire are valued in today’s pop culture. Football teams say they are going to Disneyland after winning the Super Bowl, young kids watch the Disney Channel and listen to Radio Disney, and there is a Disney store in just about every mall in my area. Plus, Disney is always releasing re-mastered versions and “special anniversary” editions of their classic movies.
Social media is no exception. Let’s take Twitter, for example. When Twitter first came on the scene, not much was known about it. This even sparked a newscast devoted to figuring out what this site really is.
Today, I hear from many people – including Twitter users – that Twitter is (and I’m paraphrasing here) a stupid waste of time. Still, the media is telling us to value Twitter. Celebrities are always on it; there are hashtags in music videos, commercials, and TV shows; and there are even news stories completely devoted to what people are talking about on Twitter.
Popular culture is everywhere, but knowing who really controls it can make you question its purpose. While most people say pop culture is there to entertain, there is always some other company or corporation involved in the media messages we see in pop culture.