|Posted by Ratin8tor on August 1, 2012 at 5:05 PM|
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
You know, I've written that opening line nigh near 200 times; and yet I still have no idea what popular culture actually is. Or culture in general. So join me as I unravel this mystery to see what makes a certain type of culture popular.
Firstly, what is culture? Well for one thing it's certainly not biological. We're not born having a culture already pre-installed into us like the latest Windows system upgrade. Nor do I think it's our ethnicity, though not in the way you're thinking of. I'm a white Western male, but if I had been adopted at birth in Asia or Africa, wouldn't it seem reasonable that I would grow up with the beliefs instilled by my adoptive family? I may be white, but if I grew up in Asia, there'll be ten to one odds that I'd participate in a lot of Asian customs. So culture isn't what we're born with, or something related to what sort of person we're like as we're born. So what is culture then?
Simply put, culture is the rituals and practices that surround you in your environment. Westerns have certain rituals they preform without them knowing it. I won't list any, since that's an easy way of quickly being very stereotypical. But a good example (if only a vague generalisation) is that Indian people eat curry. That is part of their culture. If I had been adopted by Indian people, then it is highly likely that I would participate in their culture by eating curry. But more than that, culture can come in all sorts of forms. Whether it's the religious symbolism within the house (for example a cross, or a statue of Buddha), whether the education I receive (since if I lived in England I'd be given the history of the United Kingdom, as well as the cultural background of the country), the arts that I enjoy (since I live in a Western society I'm far more likely to see something of Western origin than I am of another culture). Culture is something ingrained in the very environment in which we live, which in turn influences us greatly. If I didn't live in New Zealand, I wouldn't be ingrained into the New Zealand culture (for example saying 'yeah, nah, yeah' when we should be saying 'yes I see your point but I don't agree, understand?'. Quite a Kiwi thing to say). But there are two subcultures I belong to, which help reflect the culture I find myself in.
To start with the third one, I am a Brony. I am part of the group of people that enjoy My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Now perhaps here more then anywhere else we can see a culture in action. We have our own music, our own art, our own language (to a degree, since we use Derpy as an adjective for when things go wrong). We have our own rituals and practices within this culture. If you're not a Brony (or a fan of My Little Pony, lets not be sexist here) then this culture would seem strange and bizarre. From the outside it seems to be full of things that don't make a lot of sense. However once you emerge yourself into the culture, you start to gain a greater appreciation. We even call ourselves things like 'Bronies' to differentiate between those in this culture and those that are not. So Equestria Daily, the hub for all My Little Pony culture, shows just how easy it is for a culture to start and grow.
But there's a second, larger culture that is situated between the Western culture and that of My Little Pony. It is what I affectionately refer to as “Geekdom”. Basically, I am a Geek. I like traditionally geeky things like superheroes, science-fiction shows and fantasy novels. The examples are too numerous to list, but nevertheless they exist (and in another blog I might elaborate on just how unusual it is that this 'Geekdom' has become more accepted by the larger community). But the fact is that I identify far more with “Geekdom” things then I do with the culture I find myself in (that is to say, New Zealand culture). I relate a lot of what I talk about to this culture, I identify with it a lot more. I could give you an extensive history of Batman for example, but not be able to list more than five authors in New Zealand's literary history. So if I belong to any culture, it's “Geekdom”.
So what is popular culture then? Well I suppose I can make the same argument that Geekdom is popular culture, except that popular culture existed long before Geekdom. For example Shakespeare's greatest strength was that he was he was ingrained into the public pop culture of his day. So was other things like Frankenstein. Basically popular culture is what the masses like. Over the years it tends to move from popular culture to high culture, so one day they may try to study Transformers in university. Or Harry Potter, perhaps the more sensible option. Or superheroes, which some classes already do. So popular culture is whatever is, well... popular. If it's made for the masses and not the elite, then it's popular culture.
So there you have it. I answered a question that I didn't bother asking for almost two hundred blogs. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.
Categories: In Too Deep