The popular culture perspective


  1. The popular culture perspective analyzes popular culture as an artifact that is reflective of a society’s culture, values, beliefs, attitudes, and identities of a specific time. The popular culture perspective embraces a broad conception of rhetoric; it reviews rhetoric as a meaningful social function. Popular culture isn’t subject to an individual, rather it achieves an extensive view on societies and explains the symbolism behind cultural artifacts such as words, images, and moving pictures (Hoerl, ch. 17). Artifacts that exist within popular culture shapes mass identities and communities. It allows critics to consider various cultural forms through the inclusion of film, television, music, and social media. Engaging in popular culture is having the means to participate in a worldview; it allows an insight on politics and social issues. The popular culture perspective views rhetorical acts as a conscious decision. It offers open interpretation for audiences to consider and discuss rhetorical issues that are embedded in culture. Popular culture is a “frame” for criticism and an object of analysis.
  2. It is assumed that popular culture communicates and hosts qualities that have mass appeal. Popular culture is successful in its relatability; it is unifying in showcasing and representing a certain culture. The relatability of pop culture could stem from external and internal qualities of a culture, whether it be aesthetics, political issues, social stances, or diverse identities. It is also assumed that those/things who become popular culture is reflective of the standards a society has at a specific point. The popular culture perspective’s intent is to understand and make conclusions of cultural identity. Because it is reflective of what a whole society values, the various forms of popular culture gives rhetorical critics different faucets in observing culture in broadness, rather than through the analysis of individual, composed rhetoric. Operating from the popular culture perspective not only captures who the audience is but gives them a definitive identity that is in direct relation to the speaker. This perspective also seeks to explain how mass media confirms and challenges social hierarchies.
  3. Some key terms from the popular culture perspective are cultural studies, ideologies, interpellation, hegemony, social order, and panmediation. Hoerl defines cultural studies to be an “interdisciplinary field concerned with the relationship between culture and power” (Hoerl, ch. 17). Because popular culture’s discourse is positioned with those who have power, it is self-reflexive of the society who accepts those in power. This is because of certain ideologies. Ideologies are a collective system that reveal the structures of which a society understands and interprets social experience. It is a collective invention rather than individual. Interpellation is the process in which ideological discourse allows specific positions for individuals and groups to create a subjective experience. Interpellation concludes that societies are products of their ideologies (Hoerl, ch. 17). Hegemony follows interpellation as the discourse within social changes. For example, hegemony could explain why lip fillers are more common amongst younger generations because of those in pop-culture power like the Kardashians. Social order refers to the social system: hierarchies, relations, customs, and values that correspond with ideologies. Panmediation refers to the influences brought by the interactions of mass media.
  4. In order to conduct an analysis from the popular culture perspective, I must first identify a text that captures a widespread ideology of a culture. Then, I must analyze its significance by asking questions such as “What are significant symbols within this artifact?” Then I must make a denotative or connotative conclusion to reveal the context behind the artifact. Lastly, I review the intertextual information regarding the context and figure out the political, social, or economic purposes.

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