The Pop Culture/Media Chokehold

In one of the many presentations we had last week, someone described their target audience as: these are the people who don’t wear traditional clothing themselves but appreciate it when a celebrity does because it means their culture is being acknowledged.

This thought is centered on the idea of subcultures seeking confirmation and validation from mainstream media, thereby making it the authoritative source on granting relevance. When mainstream media broke away from being the mouthpiece of pop culture to become the purveyor is when it started to understand how much weight it had to throw around.

Pop culture/media preaches conformity and the reason why it even bothers to acknowledge subcultures from time to time is to keep us complacent and trick us into accepting that change takes time. Change takes time? No it doesn’t. Suffering takes time. And revolutions start as a result of prolonged suffering and those only take a few years. So while mainstream media will drop something on everyone from time to time, it’s only enough to sedate us into thinking it is progress. At the same time, if we go back to the bit from class, pop culture takes the power of representation away from the subcultures and subjects them to the whims of giant corporations.

Consider this example I found in my coursepack. In 1996, Nike was preparing to break into the skateboarding market. However, this anti-establishment culture sees Nike as the ultimate enemy because it was so corporate. The ad agency then created a campaign that glorified skaters as misunderstood athletes. The results were considered great as the skaters used the spots to champion their cause and the general perception of skateboarding changed among the public (which is still debatable).

The problem here is that if Nike didn’t want to sell more shoes to this demographic, then they might still be persecuted today. It’s the idea that if they don’t get “sponsored” by big media and pop culture, they will forever be doomed to persecution. If they don’t get “sponsored” they have to sacrifice bits and pieces of their identity to fall in line with the norms- possibly changing the entire composition of the subculture itself.

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One response to “The Pop Culture/Media Chokehold”

  1. monica says :

    it seems to me like you’ve just described a lifecycle of a subculture. it’s sad that at some point every subculture is prey for big corporations to take under their wing and eventually become mainstream pop culture fodder. this nudges even the most anti-establishment cultures (i.e. punk rock, mods and the like) to evolve into something else.

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