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Does popular culture change how society views an idea? Or does popular culture reinforce dominant ideas, thereby slowing the pace of change?
This week’s Discussion is broken into various threads, each of which focuses on a specific social issue. Your main post should be in the thread that corresponds to the artifact you have chosen for your Final Project. This will allow you to get a good start on your research. However, feel free to respond to classmates in any thread that interests you. Reading about how others approach their selected issues can inspire new ways to think about your own.
To prepare, read through this week’s Learning Resources.
For this Discussion, your Instructor will either assign groups to threads or direct you to choose one thread from the choices listed for this week. If you are directed to choose a thread on your own, follow these instructions: Each thread is limited to a maximum number of students based on class size. A thread will close if the limit is reached. If a thread is closed to new posters, select from the open threads.
Discussion Prompts for Each Thread:
Popular culture has played a significant role in how gender and sexuality have been viewed over time. The term gender refers to masculine and feminine and includes transgender issues. The term sexuality refers to relations between people, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
One significant popular culture sexuality moment occurred when the title character on the TV show Ellen, Ellen Morgan, played by Ellen DeGeneres, came out in a 1997 broadcast as gay. She became the first openly lesbian actress playing an openly lesbian character. Several other TV shows today include openly homosexual characters.
Consider how audiences over time have received TV representations of gender and sexuality. Have popular culture representations of gender and sexuality pushed the issue forward? Or have they reinforced dominant ideas of what is “normal” and thereby slowed down society’s acceptance of a broader understanding of gender and sexuality?
Popular culture has played a significant role in how race has been viewed over time. Different races and ethnicities have frequently been portrayed as stereotypes.
Popular culture can have a profound effect on how an audience views racial issues. For example, The Cosby Show, which aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, was the first time that a successful U.S. television show had portrayed an African-American family as upper middle class.
One of the show’s premises was that it did not deal primarily with race issues. Although themes such as the Civil Rights Movement and African-American art and music were present, it was the representation of an African-American family as professionals with the same family issues as white American families that shifted perceptions of race. What about Latin Americans and South Americans? What about Romani, sometimes referred to as “travelers” or “traveling communities”?
Have popular culture representations of race and ethnicity pushed the issue of equality forward? Or have they reinforced stereotypical ideas of race, thereby slowing down society’s acceptance of a broader understanding of racial and ethnic equality?
Popular culture has had a significant influence on how social and economic class have been viewed over time. Some consider the United States to be a classless society. After all, the U.S. does not have an obvious aristocracy.
Several myths exist about social and economic class, including the American Dream: the idea that anyone can get rich, or be famous, through hard work alone. A well-known rags-to-riches tale is the Cinderella story, in which a wealthy romantic partner rescues the main character and lifts her from a hard life into a higher social and economic class. Most cultures around the world have a version of this tale.
Consider how audiences have received such representations of social and economic class. Have popular culture representations of social and economic wealth slowed down society’s engagement with economic and social issues? Does the perpetuation of the myth that anyone can succeed through hard work prevent society from addressing issues of poverty?
- Violence/Indecency/Free Speech
Popular culture frequently has been accused of being too explicit, showing too much violence, pushing the boundaries of acceptable language, and displaying excessive nudity.
A watershed moment in American television history is the infamous half-time performance at the Super Bowl in 2004 in which Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing. During the performance, a brief wardrobe malfunction occurred when Timberlake accidentally moved the fabric covering Jackson’s breast. While Jackson’s nipple was not exposed, most viewers believed it had been. This led to a crackdown by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the governmental body in charge of indecency on the public airwaves. The incident has been described as both an important moment for maintaining decency on the airwaves and so trivial as not to deserve comment.
Consider how audiences have perceived indecent or violent behavior within popular culture. Have popular culture representations of violence or indecency pushed boundaries? Or have they reinforced societal ideas of what is appropriate?