Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Transformation: The heart of pop culture studies

According to the Merriam-Webstar dictionary, transformation, noun, is an act, process, or instance of change, conversion, or modification. According to Stuart Hall, "'transformations' are at the heart of the study of popular culture" and occurs in many instances. In the last 200 years, these instances have directly affected what pop culture is in the modern era. Within the popular British TV series Downton Abbey (2010), many transformations occur between the social classes.

Hall goes on to say, that, "transformation is the key to the long and protracted process of the 'moralization' of the laboring classes, and the 'demoralization' of the poor, and the 're-education' of the people." Hall himself notes that there was a profound transformation of culture that happened throughout both the 1880s and 1920s.

The television series, Downton Abbey, takes place at the heart of this process of mass media change and epitomizes transformation and change in social classes and pop culture itself.

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Set in the early twentieth Century, this well-known series takes place in an upper class manor. The storyline follows different characters on the social ladder and demonstrates their own processes of modification. Within the dynamics of the house there are a variety of social statuses, for example, English gentlemen and ladies, kitchen maids, and butlers. The lines between these social distinctions become increasingly blurred as the show goes on.

Carson, the butler to the Earl of Grantham, said in once instance, "The world is a different place from the way it was...", then adds, "Downton Abbey must change with it." Many culture defining changes happened around the world at this time and the Earl was reluctant to adapt with the times.

With the advances in technology, the household of Downton Abbey had to adapt.

The Earl of Grantham reads the newspaper everyday, but media transformed radically during the early 1900's.

The Earl's niece wanted a radio for the house in order to listen to the King's message. Once convinced, the Earl adapts and allows for a radio to be installed in the house. Once the changes were fully accepted, the Earl of Grantham's habit of reading the newspaper died out.

There are many examples of social change and modification in media that are presented in this particular TV series. It presents great examples of all types of social classes and the adaptations they had to make throughout their life to adjust to the shift in culture, as well as technological advances, and the merging of social constructs. Since Hall says that transformation is at the heart of pop culture, we can use this series as an example for popular culture modifications that are ever present in the changing modern society.

What transformations have you seen within social classes in your favorite television show?

In relation to modifications within pop culture today, what are some things that you find may be hard to adapt to? (i.e. race, gender norms, sexuality, technology, etc)

1 comment:

  1. I love this example in terms of transformation. Since we are a part of the continual change in popular culture (which we can see in many different media forums), we may sometimes forget that we are a part of the change. We grow and move forward, so we don't often look back to see what changes we were a part of. But shows like Downton Abbey help us realize what changes have occurred and humble us, in a sense, to our progression.

    My generation, and those younger than me, grew up with WiFi, cell phones, and touch screens. Because we have the latest and greatest, we take the technology for granted and expect advanced improvements. We want more, and we want it now. Downton Abbey is a throwback to when something as simple (in our day, at least) as a telephone or a radio or even electricity were new advancements that were the technological pique of the day. This is an obvious (yet still valid) change from 1912 to 2017, and other examples that hit close to home can be shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, One Tree Hill, or even Supernatural. I chose these shows off the top of my head because each one was popular and ran for a period of time that ran through technological and media advances. In the first episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina didn't even have a cell phone. By the end of the series she was using a flip phone and texting. With Supernatural and One Tree Hill, the characters went from flip phones, to the Motorola Razr (the iPhone of the day), then to smart phones in the blink of an eye. Younger generations seem to adapt to these new modifications with relative ease, while older generations have a harder time adapting to these forms of technology. I have explained what a hashtag is to my grandma eleven times (yes, I counted, and she is still struggling to understand what it is.

    I'm using phones since they are a readily available example, but there are many other examples of progression and transformation that directly correlate with Hall's ideas. AS of right now, I think younger generations who are raised with current popular culture and technological advances don't recognize the struggles of advancing and transforming times, but as these advances speed past us, we will soon have greater struggles with adaptation, and it will be interesting to see that shift.

    I know I veered from your discussion questions a bit, but I enjoyed the thought-provoking topic you presented and just ran with it. Thank you for shedding some light on Hall's ideas with this reference.

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