Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pop Culture vs Authentic Culture

            For this blog post I wanted to talk about something that is stated in the Frankfurt School text by Storey. There it states: “But as Adorno (1991b) points out, mass culture is a difficult system to challenge: Today anyone who is incapable of talking in the prescribed fashion, that is of effortlessly reproducing the formulas, conventions and judgments of mass culture as if they were his own is threatened in his very existence, suspected of being an idiot or an intellectual.” (pg. 64)
            I found the last part of this entry particularly interesting. The part that states: “suspected of being an idiot or an intellectual.” So, my post is two part. One I want to make sure that I understood this correctly and two if I did to get insight on what is being communicated here. I would agree with Adorno on this point. We as humans have a tendency to consider someone an idiot if they do not seem to fit in with what we consider normal. On the other hand, we might also say that they are not an idiot rather they are an intellect, elevating them either higher or lower than themselves. So, if I understand this correctly Adorno is comparing pop culture to the norm. He is saying that we as humans view pop culture as the norm and that anything different is either higher or lower than that.

            What is interesting about this is that if I understand the text correctly, Adorno says that pop culture is not a threat to culture and social authority, which he mentions in the text on page 62. So, pop culture is not a threat to authentic culture but here we see that the norm according to Adorno and the public is pop culture. So here springs my question. If I am understanding the text correctly do you agree with Adorno that pop culture is not a threat to authentic culture? Or do you more side with Arnold and LEavisism that popular culture is a threat to culture and social authority? This was a hard question to answer myself. I would agree that popular culture does not pose a threat to culture or social authority. It is rather a part of the system and elevates authentic culture to something that isn’t popular culture. I think something else interesting to mention is that what once was pop culture is changing and that is something else to keep in mind as well.


  1. Hi Brett,

    It's interesting because I was struck by that same quote because of the contrast between being an idiot or an intellectual. That Adorno has some passionate views!

    Today's inauguration of President Trump has filled my ears and mind. Over the past year, I just assumed that Trump's divisive words were a splash in the pop culture frying pan of celebrity, and that when it came down to the authentic needs of our culture, the citizens would choose a candidate based on intellect. I do not believe that occurred. Even for those who voted for Trump, I think they may have done so because of passion.

    I offer that pop culture has indeed taken over the political culture, at least for the next four years. The authoritarian who fired contestants on The Apprentice has not morphed into something new. Our country (at least the electoral college) voted for a character that thrives on pop culture...for proof, examine his Tweets.

    So, is President Trump a threat - either to authentic culture or social authority? Perhaps it depends on which culture a person espouses and how the words are defined. There is a different culture among factory workers in the rust belt than among the entertainment industry in California. While Texans may not see the Trump administration as a threat, there are people in New York that are very concerned about the future. As was discussed in our first readings, the definition of culture can apply to vast continents or to apartments within a building. One neighbor celebrated today while another watched in shame. I may feel our society is in danger while my parents feel our society has regained its strength.

    I think that Adorno needs to lessen his judgement and tighten his tongue. He writes in such a definitive manner, when human communication and culture is far from being so easily contained. Society is ever changing -- perhaps Adorno sees that as a threat.

  2. Brett, I do not agree that pop culture is a threat to authentic culture. Although I do understand Adorno's concept, I do not agree with it. I prefer the notion that pop culture is a threat to social authority, and this is what makes it both "popular" and unique.

    If something as extraordinarily ordinary as a Campbell's soup can, as Andy Worhol depicts, can be considered iconic to even the iconclast, certainly the concept of pop culture is intended to be rebellious in its very nature. It is my belief that pop culture takes the ordinarily mundane, identifies it, and propels it to a status of rebelliousness. For example, the exploitation of star wars to the nth degree. Consider the ultra classic child's toy, Mr. Potato Head. In recent years, Mr. Potato head has assumed the persona of a handful of Star Wars characters. From Darth Vader to Luke to Princess Leah, my teenagers have been excited to collect them all.

    The convergence of classic and modern overexposure is perhaps the very definition of pop culture.

    The idea of taking a child's classic toy and converting it to a mainstream, modern mega trend is perhaps a bit shocking. Like Worhol's incredibly artistic depiction of a can of tomato soup. The fact that in mundane we can find the most authentic juxtapositions is evidence that pop culture intends to commit an attitude of irreverence.

    Adorno would perhaps be belligerent in effort to be first to disagree. Such depictions, he might say, are not a threat to authentic culture because they are capitalizing on and even disrupting the idea of authenticity.

    I, however, believe that the irreverent and purposeful clashing of classic and current trent are the epitome of pop culture. In this conjecture, I agree with Arnold that pop culture is a threat to social authority - that a Mrs. Potato Head toy can pose as a princess, ruler of the universe and win with millions in toy sales is evidence.

    Pop culture is rebellious - a threat to social authority indeed - though playfully. The more playful and extraordinarily juxtaposed, the more permanent in the annals of pop culture history.