The advent of a cyber society has changed the world as we know it. It has ushered an era of transparency through sharing and exchanging. It has given rise to a global society and of course, conjured the pop culture. One of its many fallouts, we hear things being said about pop culture and how it’s influencing our society and its individuals in the most unprecedented ways, but at the base of it, what is pop culture. A textbook definition of it would be a modern culture which is transmitted among the youth by the medium of mass media. Some popular examples being television shows, books, music, sports, news, technology, fashion, lingo, etc. So how is this so-called culture penetrating the society and what aspects of it is it altering? Let’s find out.
To understand the many influences pop culture has on the people of today individually and collectively, we need to explore a couple of instances that we have seen so far.
Harry Potter started us on the path towards having open conversations about discrimination and some formerly hush-hush and frowned upon issues
For those of us who have read Harry Potter in our growing years, it has made our childhood special in ways we cannot sum up in words. The popularity of the series soon transmuted into a culture wherein it became a part of our lifestyles. Harry Potter-themed drinks were the first to get the trend started. Soon we had Harry Potter t-shirts, glasses, backpacks, and of course figurines.
Countless other imports from the entertainment world, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Disney cartoons, American sitcoms entered our lives at different points of time each becoming a cult among the young generation. But that’s only one half of the picture.
At a much deeper level, these pop culture references nudged us in a direction that was formerly virgin. Somewhere caught in the fads, we learned to freely have discussions on topics that were previously taboos. They taught us to be more open as people, to talk about certain things that were socially embarrassing or awkward or uncomfortable before.
Harry Potter for example taught us to live uncloseted, literally and metaphorically. It taught us to face social ills like discrimination and alienation head on. Conversations ensued, both in social groups and on the Internet, and what came of those endless discussions? An openness of the mind to not cringe at the mention of things that are pressing, but not explored due to some imagined stigma associated with them.
We, as a people, learned to be more global in our thoughts, and though it took many years for those changed thoughts to reflect on our actions, they did little by little. That change can be measured in the mood of our time. Women empowerment, sexual liberation, equal rights, gender sanctions, free mixing, freedom of speech, democracy, these topics were never deemed with such seriousness or delicateness as they are today.
The growth spurt we are all experiencing in our adulthood
There is only so much we can grow physically, but mentally, the opportunity of growth is infinite. At a personal level, pop culture has made it possible for the younger generation to grow on the inside. It has made people more accepting of otherness of different communities and the complexities of genres that were formerly lingering in the shadows.
As surreal as it sounds, reports state that students in colleges are taking an acute interest in Chemistry after watching Breaking Bad and in technology after seeing science fiction shows like Star Trek and Dr. Who. That’s how things stand on the side of the common people.
On the other side, which is the trendsetting side of pop culture, actors are finding it easier to connect with their audience by studying the influences of pop icons on the crowd. Influenced by this new culture, people are becoming more accepting and imaginative, thereby making room for creative projects that were formerly unthinkable.
Pop culture’s greatest gift of all to us, a voice to every mouth
One of the greatest influences of pop culture on our society is the culture of protest. There were never as many marches and demonstrations in our history as today. Protests were common before too, but not in the frequency as we see today. Nor did the young generation participate so actively in these demonstrations any time before today.
Social issues, hot button topics, scandalous discussions are rampant now. Pride parades, peace parades, green revolution, the moral messages of these causes are plentiful. These protests are edifying the generations of today and elevating them to the state of being more vocal, more benign and more dynamic. It has inspired and motivated people to address injustice and issues with a vehemence and on a scale that is unforeseen.
The Consumption Boom in the Retail Industry
When pop culture trends started to show through in the early days, it were only the hardcore fans that went for merchandises and collectibles. That avenue has widened enormously in the past few years. Now buying goodies and products of a certain genre is everybody’s thing. There are more goods in stores now than ever before.
The retail industry is experiencing a major boom of consumerism right now. Superhero merch, cartoon merch, bestselling novel merch, the streets are practically flooding with fandom merchandise right now. The sales have hit a record high that’s first ever in the history of the industry.
Experts and retailers are both on the same page about the longevity of this hype. They believe it is going to continue on the same scale, if not higher, for at least the next two decades without showing any sign of sputtering. This has helped generate business for the trade community and that has in turn revived economies and propelled industries forward.
So while pop culture pushed us into a frenzy of consumerism, it also salvaged the better selves in us giving them better scope to expand and express. The influences are now doubt mixed, but it is upon us, individual members of the society which ones we want to harvest and which ones we want to elide.
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