October 16 popular culture lecture:
50 first dates (peter segal, 2004):
- Film is about identity
- Barrymores character, Lucy, needs to have her sense of who she is reconstructed for
her every day.
- Henrys solution is videos
- Akin to our relationship with cultural text
- Our position as viewer whose place in the narrative and in wider culture is constructed
for us via the surrogate figure in the text.
- Our position as viewers or listeners is constructed for us by the styles and structures of
- These structures may echo the ideology of the system that creates them
- Our place as spectators is constructed by the text: we are led to follow what takes place
based on how it is presented to us
- Codes such as genre (romance in the case of 50 first dates) assist in this
- Content and style help reaffirm social normal or hegemony.
- Founded in 1923 as institute for social research at the University of Frankfurt in
- Election of Hitler in 1933 led to move to New York (Columbia university)
- Returned to Germany in 1949
- theories are a mix of Marxism and psychoanalysis
The culture industry:
- Concept developed (and title of book) by Theodor Adnorno.
- A means of considering both the products, but also the process of mass culture.
- Products have homogeneity and predict ability.
- We can predict out the end of a film right from the start.
- We feel satisfied as our apparent needs are met
- We have a familiar, happy resolution
- We are also entertained Politics:
- For the Frankfurt school theorist. This is a means of depoliticizing the working class.
- People are more interested in the immediate fulfillment, not long term goals
- So pervasive that it is difficult to challenge as it helps shape our norms.
OCTOBER 18 - CONTINUE:
- Today anyone who is incapable of talking in a prescribed fashion. That is of effortlessly
reproducing the formulas, conventions and judgements of mass culture as if they were his own,
is threatened in his very existence, suspected of being an idiot or an intellectual
- We still have notions of fitting in today
- Everything including culture is turned into a saleable commodity.
- Influence from Marx in the reference to commodity fetishism
- Exchange values deceptively takes over the functions of use value adorno.
- What do we actually get with a concert ticket?
- Experience, but nothing of actual physical value
- More we pay, we might actually get less!
Exchange value vs use value
- How is a cultural commodity valued?
- Marx distinguishes between exchange value (what people will pay) and use value (what it is
- Focus on this suggests political leaning of Frankfurt school
- For leavis and other mass culture theorists, threat is to social and cultural power of the elite.
- For the Frankfurt school, threat is from elite. Those in power
- It is a way of maintaining that power through forms of social coercion.
- Culture industry organizes leisure time in same way workplace organizes work time.
- escape from structured aspects of work is itself highly structured and standardized. Adorno: on popular music
- Written in 1941
- Defines role of culture industry in relation to forms of popular music (mainly tin pan alley at that
- Makes three key broad claims
- Interestingly, we see these echoed
- Adorno notes that popular music is standardized
- Once something becomes popular it is repeated until we are tired of it
- Parts of songs are so similar to be almost interchangeable.
- Pseudo- individualization make us think that there are unique elements, and opportunities for
us express ourselves
- Evident in fuck shit stack as it uses aspects of specific videos, and general trends and reworks
2. Passive listening
- We dont have to think when we listen
- We know the structures and styles
- Music is pre-digested for us
- Again, Reggie watts by making us think about the forms, and laughing, makes us more active as
3. Social cement:
- These standardized songs, passively listened to creates a social cement
- Both in tempo we dance away our cares and energy
- Social ideals are reinforced
- And in theme/lyrics- ideals of romance etc.
- Exposed in fuck shit stack: for instance in overt reference to gender roles in videos we now
question the norms
Culture vs mass culture-
Culture: Real, European, multi-dimensional, active consumption, individual creation, imagination,
Mass culture: false, American, one- dimensional, passive consumption, mass productions, distraction,
Politics and ideology:
- Stuart hall (in 1981) considers popular culture as constructed within the opposition between the
power bloc and the people
- It is a point of resistance and perhaps at the same time a point of enforcing some sort of
conformity. Power bloc:
- Forces of control in society
- Political legal moral, economic, aesthetic
- aesthetics of ideal bodies and fashions do not remain the same
- A far more diverse group
- We constantly form and reform our allegiance
- We have multiple identities to which we belong
Homogeneity vs heterogeneity
- Means of enforcing conformity and power ruling class were once far more direct and violent
- Now it is imposed in less direct ways
Surveillance and discipline:
- Michel Foucault suggest that rise of capitalism in 17 and 18 century led to new ways of
- Social control is more indirect
Royal salt works: designed by Claude Nicholas ledoux (circa 1775)
- Grande scale of the enterprise points to importance of salt as a commodity
- Tax (the gabelle) imposed on salt: everyone over 8 years old had to buy a set amount at
government imposed price
- One of the factors that led to the French revolution
- One of the factors that led to the French revolution