Popular culture, also known as pop culture, may refer to a myriad of cultural communication channels ranging from print based media, television, advertising, radio, movies, novels, pop music, jazz music, and even comics. At the turn of the twentieth century, “high art” was the reserve of the affluent and educated in society which ultimately led to the emergence of a “low art” (also known as popular art) for the benefit of the lower classes. The stratification kind of fizzled out in the 1950s when pop culture became more popular across the different societal divides. By the 1960s, artists began combining pop culture with forms like imagery, advertisements, comics and even movies that were adapted from high art.
Over the years, many theories on pop culture have emerged. For instance, the aristocratic theory seeks to equate pop culture to moral degeneracy. Subscribers to this school of thought believe that pop culture is a threat to the modern day civilization. Some argue that pop culture blatantly undermines the important values that are taught by religion, civilization and art in general. Ironically, high art also has its fair share of the very same backlashing.
The other interesting theory of pop culture is the dialogic theory. This theory portrays pop culture as an amalgamation of a number of culture industry creations. That would imply that various communities engage in production of both culture and counter-culture elements, which ultimately make up the pop culture. The theory also looks at the consumers of pop culture as textual poachers since they are quick to adapt the text to fit very different scenarios as occasion demands. This, as Jenkins observes, is the reason why the consumers easily craft their social identities via borrowing and modifying mass culture and thereby championing causes that would otherwise be ignored by mainstream media.
The subversive culture is arguably the most interesting of pop culture theories. It stipulates that pop culture has intrinsic ability to challenge the norms in society. A great example is the Dixie Chicks political protest which led to coining of a new verb “to be Dixie Chicked.” Another good illustration is Avatar, a movie that is anti-mining, anti-corporate and anti-military and yet has raked in over 2 billion dollars. The movie challenges the norm and instead promotes nature spirituality and environmentalism.
Pop culture is just that- popular. If history is anything to go by, then we can safely state that pop culture is a force that cannot be stopped - especially since it is very amorphous. Over the decades, pop culture has mutated taking different forms and influencing thinking in society. Not only has it shaped our thinking but it has shaped our belief system too. However, whether pop culture will continue to grow stronger over the years is subject to debate and only time will tell.