In this critical review we shall analyse and critic Fiske John’s (1990) article “Understanding Popular Culture” and “Defining Popular Culture” by Jenkins, Henry, McPherson, Tara, and Shattuc, Jane (2002). These two articles seek to discuss the emergence, causes and effects of popular culture among the subservient communities. In essence, the articles both ascertain the fact that popular culture is as a result of sequestration of the less powerful communities which are not happy with the persons in power at the time, hence coming up with various norms that seek to reduce the sway of hegemonic forces. As such we shall critic the various arguments posed by the authors of the two articles in this paper.
Theory and Concepts
Fiske (1990) seeks to adequately discuss the nature in which popular culture actually became popular. In his article, he asserts that popular culture only becomes popular if there are two diverse classes involved; the highly influential persons and the subservient majority. In a bid to maintain the status-quo, popular culture only evolves from within and below and not from without and above s most cultural theorists may seek to argue. It is only through inside influence that a prevalence in certain norms and cultures may be developed, hence affecting those affiliated to such communities or otherwise. In this argument it is therefore clear that culture is only created primarily via certain means such as: media and social relations. It is relatively impossible to create or pass on cultural values via text and therefore, human social interactions are essential to the popularization of culture.
Jenkins, Henry, McPherson, Tara, and Shattuc, Jane (2002), in their article, associate the ideals promoted by popular culture as an act of proprietary political inclination. From the historical concept of use of the term popular culture, it offered a sense of liberation of the oppressed majority and growth from an era that trod upon the rights of the less fortunate in the community. Popular culture then morphed into the ideals upheld by those in positions of power in terms of: music, art and social progress. Those tendencies that were initially depicted by the allegedly refined persons in society went on to be defined as popular culture, since those who could not initially attain such standards, went on to work towards realizing them, thereby feeling accomplished in that regard.
Argument, Evidence, Method and Values
I found Fiske’s concept of the emergence of popular culture thoroughly questionable. He asserts that, “Popular culture is made by various formations of subordinated or disempowered people out of the resources, both discursive and material, that are provided by the social system that disempowers them.” Subsequently, this thesis suggests no room for natural creativity by a person or a group of persons in whatsoever field they delve into, which creates a general liking for their craft; thereby leading to an emergence of popular cultural tendencies. As is the case in various parts of the world today, media and influential personalities have single-handedly created a culture for their viewers and followers. Such tendencies become well-liked by many people as a result and form a culture that is revelled and adhered to by many. In this respect, Fiske’s article fails to concede to the inimitability of such occurrences.
According to Jenkins et al (2002), critics such as Clement Greenberg viewed popular culture as “kitsch”. In essence, this implies that Greenberg considered popular culture as, lacking in taste but ironically appreciated by the masses. In this respect, he preferred the ‘serious arts’ rather than the ‘lively arts’ of the mass media which were idyllically more entertaining. Such claims, blindly rule out the beauty and general calm ambience created by the ‘serious arts’, whilst promoting popular culture and ‘lively arts’. It is imperative to realize that some people would rather enjoy the raw live performance of a play, or read the book itself, than watch its film adaptation. Art is dynamic in various aspects and the tastes and prevalence of a certain group should not eclipse the evident beauty of contrary forms of art.
Literature, Contribution and Style
These two articles offer a point of reference for learners or readers who may seek to find out the essential concepts of popular culture, its origins and the strides the world has taken to appreciate its existence and growth. The authors of these articles offer a reliable source of knowledge on the subject of popular culture. Despite their inadequacies, as is the case in all forms of written content requiring a personal critical analysis, they still managed to provide concise information relevant in the advancement of knowledge on popular culture. The authors’ language in these articles is good to most extents, save for a few instances of excessively long sentences that are tiring to read making the reader digress from the major point of concern. The information given in the article, majorly consists of cited works from various authors and therefore takes up too much of the reader’s attention without clearly highlighting the major point of concern. The articles do not also clearly show the authors’ stand on the subject of popular culture, thereby leaving a lot to speculation. However, the articles still offer invaluable knowledge on popular culture.
The above discussed two articles offer differing perspectives on the subject of popular culture. While one bases its argument upon historical facts and exponential human evolution, the other offers inferences obtained from research and theses from various popular culture critics. These two articles offer substantive information relevant towards the understanding of popular culture which is a widely studied subject in the world today. That notwithstanding, they both also contain some limitations in terms of a one-sided analysis of the amassed information. I think that popular culture is not simply a subject what is or is not in style and who caused what, but a matter of gratitude to our immeasurable diversity and appreciation of beauty in the dissimilar states of nature.
Fiske, J., 1990. Understanding Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, pp.1-42.
Jenkins III, H., McPherson, T. and Shattuc, J., 2002. Hop On Pop. Durham: Duke University Press, pp.26-42.
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