Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Uncomfortable Uses of Popular Media

Posted by Sean Hull on April 10, 2017

Though I would not argue against corporate media in its entirety, damning people for their discussion and enjoyment of such properties, there comes a point when the intrusion of popular culture into all aspects of life becomes disturbing, and the examples of activism given in today’s reading represent such a line to me.

For example, when the book asserted that the American Left where somehow disadvantaged by failing to make use of popular culture in their activist attempts, it contrasted it with instances of Right-leaning groups making use of aspects of popular culture as means of conveying their messages. What is to be taken from this? That the Left ought to stoop to do the same? I believe this to be an unsatisfactory course of action.

Though useful as a sort of shorthand to quickly get concepts across, I believe that embracing the use of popular culture as a tool of activism and civic participation is risky, due to popular media’s general lack of nuance. Though generally illustrative, is it wise to dress up as Na’Vi from Avatar to try and make a point? Yes, the book addresses the fact that such efforts are not meant to present a nuanced view of the issue, and are instead meant to try and spread general awareness to a larger group. Even so, it concerns me that, instead of relying on any shared standard of ethics or basic human decency, it would ever be considered that enjoyment of a media franchise would be seriously considered as a tool of drawing attention towards activism: what does that say to our moral standards as individuals, if we need an absurd stunt based on a media franchise to provoke interest from us? Should it be acceptable for popular culture to have such power, direct or indirect, over things such as activism and politics? Though its integration may be inevitable, I nonetheless often find it distasteful;.


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