Chapter 3 – A Critical Approach to Popular Culture

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Transcript Chapter 3 – A Critical Approach to Popular Culture

Lesson 16
SOC 86 – Popular Culture
Robert Wonser
1
SOCIAL
CLASS AND
POPULAR
CULTURE
THE INVENTION OF
CLASS CULTURES
150 years ago Americans enjoyed the
same national popular culture
consumed and experienced
collectively by the masses, by people
from all social classes.
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• What happened? Industrial Revolution
Created a new upper-classes American
elite of successful entrepreneurs,
bankers and businesspeople.
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The nouveau riche descended
from common backgrounds,
not aristocracy like in
Europe.
So initially they drew on
trappings of European
nobility (family crests, French
cuisine, classical art and
music)
THE INVENTION OF CLASS
CULTURES
Conscious efforts at boundary
maintenance and social
exclusion.
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Including “serious” culture for
upper classes (classical music,
opera etc.)
CLASS STATUS AND
CONSPICUOUS
CONSUMPTION
Conspicuous consumption status
displays that show off one’s wealth
through the flagrant consumption
of goods and services, particularly
those considered wasteful or
otherwise lacking in obvious utility
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Upper classes distinctly avoid
associations with working class; this
reverse is not true.
CULTURAL CAPITAL AND CLASS
REPRODUCTION
Cultural capital one’s store of
knowledge and proficiency with
artistic and cultural styles that are
valued by society, and confer
prestige and honor upon those
associated with them.
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• Unevenly distributed and usually
inherited
• E.g. the hipster
CULTURAL OMNIVORE
The ‘omnivore thesis’ contends that there is a
sector of the population of western
countries who do and like a greater variety
of forms of culture than previously, and that
this broad engagement reflects emerging
values of tolerance and undermines
snobbery.
What do your music tastes say about you?
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Poorer people are likely to have singular or
“limited” tastes. The rich have the most
expansive.
EVERYONE ON TV AND MOVIES IS
MIDDLE/UPPER CLASS
So while it's hard to say exactly
what that eclectic apartment
would be worth today, Trulia's
research shows that the median
cost of a two bedroom, one
bath apartment in the West
Village is $5,100 a month.
8
According to the real estate
website Trulia, the iconic home
used in exterior shots on Full
House in San Francisco's Western
Addition neighborhood sold for
$2,865,000 in 2013.
‘New girl,” “it’s complicated”
Then there’s that movie from a
couple years ago, "It's
Complicated," where Meryl Streep
plays a baker who somehow lives
in a House Beautiful-worthy home - literally, it was featured in the
magazine -- in Santa Barbara,
where the kitchen alone looks like
it cost a fortune. Oh yeah, and the
plot of the movie centers around a
remodel of said kitchen, so
Streep’s character can finally get
a “real” one.
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Think about the TV show "New
Girl," where a bunch of 20somethings on teacher,
bartender, research assistant and
“junior lead marketing associate”
salaries, live in a gorgeous loft in
L.A.
This disconnect was made painfully clear to a set decorator named
Rosemary Brandenburg several years ago, when she was working
on the set for "Castaway." Before Tom Hanks gets in that plane
crash and has to survive on a desert island, there's a scene at his
girlfriend's parents house, eating Christmas dinner.
“We were asked to make a ‘typical middle class’ dining room/ living
room,” Brandenburg remembers. “And I was too shy to go to our
director and ask him which middle class he really wanted.”
That’s when Brandenburg made her mistake.
“I made middle class in my life, which was old fashioned granny
lamp shade, print couches and a La-Z-Boy chair, printed wall
paper.” In short, a working class version of a "typical middle class
home” -- well loved, a little bit shabby.
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When Rosemary had the set ready, the director came to see. “He
walked in and just hated it. Said ‘What have you done here? I
mean this looks like grandma's house!’ He had in mind someone
with much more upscale tastes, and up-to-date furnishings.
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CASTAWAY
“Knocked up”/”this is
40” house
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The house has 6
bedrooms and 6,500
square feet. Houses
on the street in
Brentwood sell for
between $8 and $20
million.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. And
Hollywood never pretended to be anything but
pretend. But consider this observation, from Damon
Silvers, a labor lawyer for the AFL-CIO. When he
watches this stuff, he thinks about how it shapes the
collective image we have of ourselves.
And yet, a lot of us try to afford it. Often by getting in lots
of debt.
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“There is a tendency to imagine that we live in a country
where the typical family makes $150,000 a year. But
half of all American households have incomes less than
$55,000 a year,” he says. “So there's a kind of a
cognitive problem here. We don't live in the country
we think we live in. The world that is projected as
middle class in the media is a world that no more than
something like 15 percent of America can afford.”
WHICH CLASS DO YOU
BELONG TO?
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How come we
don’t have an
accurate
picture of which
social class we
belong to?
WHAT KIND OF STEREOTYPES DOES
THE MEDIA PORTRAY ABOUT SOCIAL
CLASS?
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What
functions
might
this
serve?
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