Forms of Popular Culture
Three prevalent forms of popular culture are fads. fashions. and leisure activities. Afad is a temporary but widely copied activity followed enthusiastically by large numbers of people. Most fads are short-lived novelties. According to the sociologist John Lofland (1993). fnds can be divided into four mnjor catcgories, First, object [ads are items that people purchase despite the fact that they have little use or intrinsic value. Recent examples include Harry Potter wands, SpongeBob SquarePants trading cards, and oversized sunglasses. Second. activity fads include pursuits such as body piercing. “surfing” the Internet, and the “free hugs” campaign. wherein individuals offer hugs to strangers in a public setting as a random act of kindness to make someone feel better. Third lire idea fads. such as New Age ideologies including ‘The Secret.” as advocated by Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities. Fourth arc personality fads. such as those surrounding celebrities such as Paris Hilton. TIger Woods. 50 Cent, and the late Michael Jackson. thinking. or appearance that is longer lasting and more widespread than a fad. Examples of fashion are found in many areas. including child rearing. education. arts. clothing. music. and sports. Soccer is ‘In example of a fashion in sports. Until recently. only schoolchildren played soccer in the United States. Now it has become a popular sport, perhaps in part because of immigration from Latin America and other areas of the world where soccer is widely played. Like soccer. other fonns of popular culture move across nations. In fact, popular culture is the United Stales’ second largest export (after aircraft) to other nations (Rockwell, 1994). Of the world’s 100 mostattended films in the 1990s. for example. 88 were produced by U.S.-based film companies. Likewise. music, television shows. novels. and street fashions from the United States have become a part of many other cultures. In turn. people in this country continue to be strongly influenced by popular culture from other nutions.
For example, contemporary music and clothing .in the United States reflect African. Caribbean. and . Asian cultural influences. among others.Will the spread of popular culture produce a homogeneous global culture? Critics argue that the world is not developing a global culture; rather. other cuI.!- becoming westernized. Political and religious ~ some nations oppose this process. which they view as cultural imperialism-the extensive infusion of one nation’s culture into other nations (see Box 3.3). For example. some view the widespread infusion of the English language into countries that speak other languages as a form of cultural imperialism. On the other hand, the concept of cultural imperialism may fail to , take into account various cross-cultural influences. For , example. cultural diffusion of literature. music. clothing. and food has occurred on a global scale. A global culture. if it comes into existence. will most likely include components from many societies and cultures.