In this work, Storey attempts to explain the several ways that popular culture can ultimately be defined and described. Throughout the chapter he presents multiple ways popular culture can be defined, and why there is difficulty settling on just one definition.
The meaning of the phrase “popular culture” can be contextualized and interpreted in many different depending on the person describing it and their ideologies. Storey begins the chapter by stating that popular culture “is an empty conceptual category” which can be filled using many different ways or ideas since there are so many ways one can interpret what it really means.
The first description Storey presents is that popular culture means “widely favored or well-liked by many people”. This may be the simplest of definitions. This can be measured by things like “number of records sold”. Definitely a more quantitative approach to the phrase, though this description may be too broad. As Storey continues the chapter, he presents more in-depth definitions of pop culture.
Storey’s next example (which I believe to be one of the most relevant) describes popular culture as “culture that is left over after we have decided what is high culture”. This is referring to the more favorable items of a specific culture that are more popularized than other less favorable pieces of culture. A good example would be Japanese culture in the United States, specifically anime and sushi, which are undoubtedly some of the most popular forms of Japanese culture in the west. But these pieces of culture became popular due to it being widely considered as “high culture” or “more favorable” compared to other forms of Japanese culture to a general audience/consumer. Another way he describes this is that popular culture comes from “the people” and is “chosen” by “the people”, which also eliminates the approach that describes popular culture as being imposed onto the people.
Describing popular culture as “mass culture” does infer that the popular culture is imposed onto “the people”. This can also be described as commercial culture in which the culture is mass-produced for mass-consumption. A good example of this would be fast food commercials popularizing fast food in the past, though this approach has become less and less dominant in the present day. This describes a pop culture as formulaic and manipulative while also requiring passivity. This is a more bleak view on pop culture, but as Storey describes, it is not the most dominant definition of pop culture, at least anymore. Another way to describe this would be using hegemony, where a dominant person or group can popularize something easily through winning the consent of the passive or subordinate groups.
An incredibly recent example of something becoming popular culture would be the Netflix documentary series Tiger King, which over the past handful of days has become one of the most discussed and watched pieces of media as of recent. Almost everyone I had talked to after the release of this series has recommended it to me or others, spreading this medium rapidly.
11 thoughts to “What is Popular Culture Facilitation (Storey)”
After reading “What is Popular Culture,” I can actually relate to how popular culture come in all forms as well as having multiple definitions. What stood out to me the most was that this term was described to be a “mass culture” because it reminded me of my days of online and window shopping for clothing and makeup products. This is my personal example for commercial culture and manipulation, making people want something that was being produced right before their very eyes. Another thing that interests me was when the author (Storey) mentioned that ideology was defined to how “certain rituals and customs have the effect of binding people to the social order.” Marriage is definitely a perfect example for ideology because it is a milestone tradition for people in the United States and one of the most notable rituals in our society.
Storey’s “What is Popular Culture” presents a deep look into the nature of popular culture and shows through multiple definitions why it is hard to pin down what exactly is popular culture. What I found to be the most interesting aspect of Storey’s explanation is that the view of what popular culture is may have changed in that the postmodern sense of their no longer is a distinction between “high” and “low” culture. This idea of “high” and “low” culture being a major aspect of several definitions that are mentioned. This notion makes it seem to be that there is not clear line for culture based upon class or depth but rather its popularity. Which I feel can be argued in favor well since what can be deemed as popular culture shifts constantly. What comes to my mind is the recent rise of Dungeons and Dragons. With its appearance in recent popular shows like Stranger Things and endorsement by several celebrities, the hobby was largely out of the public eye. However, now it is seeing a surge of popularity that is shifting it toward popular culture.
Great point – there was a major backlash in the 80s against D&D that seemed to nearly annihilate it out of popular culture, so to see it making a resurgence is fascinating.
I really enjoyed the breakdown of Storey’s article through this facilitation. I believe the multiple definitions of “culture” provided makes it easier to comprehend how it is displayed in our society. Furthermore and as mentioned in this facilitation, Storey does proceed to define pop-culture as brought fourth by “the people”. One specific example that came to mind is recurring fashion trends. Especially in women’s clothing styles, you tend to see bell-bottom jeans and plat form shoes circle back into popular demand. This demonstrates how the people of our society “chose” to expresses their creative aspects through fashion.
Nevertheless, the second definition of culture brought into play incorporates “a particular way of life”. Here, the article includes traditions, sports, and religious holidays. Although I am not of the Catholic denomination, I am aware of the many imperative rituals within the faith community. These can consist of reciting the same blessing before every meal, baptisms, and confirmations when you become an adult in the church. These are just some examples of the ways culture can be integrated within a certain group of people.
I think pop culture can take many forms of interpretations and really depends on the point of view of the audience or writer. Story argues that pop culture is something that is “widely favored or liked by many people,” but I believe that pop culture can be the opposite. I think that pop culture is the agreement of a certain view on a particular subject or topic. For example, Pepsi had released an ad which there slogan was “live in the now,” which stirred a lot of controversy, which left an agreement that this ad was widely hated. Before I had even seen the ad, I already had this idea installed in my head, that this ad would be terrible. I do believe that this is pop culture as it was the mass amount of people in agreement that a certain thing was bad.
Interesting – meaning created through a negative/absence/inverse. We could probably collect a wide array of “not that” aspects of our popular ideology.
Something I found interesting in the facilitation and expressed by Storey, was the distinction between low and high culture. I believe that there are ways to impose low culture into high culture. For example, in the movie Ratatouille, the presentation of a farmer’s dish to a high-class food critic, in the eyes of the higher culture (viewers) Ratatouille is now perceived as a dish of high culture rather than a peasant dish. This is true about high end restaurants, the over pricing adaptations of low culture food and selling it to high culture increases the popularity of the lower into the higher. In a similar way the market for modern art, certain artworks that seem to be created out of no thought, when viewed and interpreted by high culture, the artwork strangely increases in monetary value.
The definition of pop culture that stood out to me the most in Storey’s article reads “culture that is left over after we have decided what is high culture”. I think this definition resonated with me the most because of how I identified with the example in the facilitation about how Japanese culture is viewed in the west. Ironically, the first thing that usually comes to mind when I think of Japanese culture is sushi. I think that we are unaware of how big of an influence that pop culture can have on our perceptions of certain cultures, and it is kind of scary. Pop culture can make us more narrow minded because our views and understandings of people that are different is limited to associations. An example that came to mind is the way that Africa is portrayed in the media. Growing up, I’d always here someone say “are you sure you want to throw that away, kids in Africa would love to have it” and so, naturally, after hearing this over and over, and then seeing only the poorest parts of Africa being shown in movies, I assumed that everyone in Africa was poor or homeless. The reason that I thought like this was because all that I knew about Africa, I’d learned from the media. After doing some of my own research, I’ve learned that there are developed cities in Africa that are quite similar to where I live. This confirms that we often take certain aspects of a culture, and use it to define them, when there is usually always so much more.
A solid point, and it makes you wonder what other ideas we’ve just internalized through repetition over time that are partially or completely inaccurate….
“Despite this problem, what is clear is that any definition of popular culture must include a quantitative dimension. What is also clear, however, is that on its own, a quantitative index is not enough to provide an adequate definition of popular culture.”–Storey
Obviously, for something to be pop culture, it has to be consumed by a lot of people
I think the second sentence is an important point to make because the difference between what is pop culture and just culture can be unclear if only a quantitative index is used because it would be hard to set a universal number for what is pop culture and who would set the quantitative index between what is popular culture and just culture. Also, just because something reached the quantitative index does not mean it is still part of pop culture like old movies, old TV shows, and old songs and just because something has not reached the quantitative index does not mean it is not part of pop culture.
[A solid summary of the reading: this gives the reader a useful level of detail about Storey’s argument in the chapter. Tiger King is also a potentially helpful example; there just is not much here about it or how it connects to the reading.]