Popular Culture

When studying culture is it apparent that 'taste' and quality are constructed with binary opposites- High vs. low, us vs. them.

Taste is an expression of individuality, or group status. People of high culture usually have niche audiences in contrast low culture has a mass audience. The X factor is still highly popular although it may be thought as 'fixed' and creating a bad image for music. However much this is known people of high culture still watch it as we have the freedom to. The media focus on giving negative aspects of the X factor, the singer Sting recently deemed the x factor as a fix. Opinions like these may be seen as an elite culture.

The Marxist sociologist Pierre Bourdieu challenges how logic of taste and preference work. He does not agree that we are born with innate taste we learn it from our social culture, with family and through education. Therefore taste is socially constructed; this can be seen by different groups to gain status.

Cultural capital can be invested into acquired taste and consumption practices. Some tastes can become symbolic and powerful. Cultural taste is organised as hierarchies, the middle classes distinguish themselves from the working class through their distinctive taste. However the value of taste is not fixed.

Manet's - The picnic painting was first seen as disrespectable as image of a naked prostitute posing calmly shocked people. Cultural capital changes with society, this piece of art is now deemed respectable and of good high class art. However in the 50's artist Maplethorpe used the same shocking techniques as Manet did. His art is however banned due to the bizarre continuity that many people's reactions would be disgusted and class it as pornography. Maplethorpe challenged what art is just like Manet once done. However Maplethorpe's artwork is still viewed as taboo in a society that does not accept his work. But taste is not fixed it is forever changing with time.
Theorist Stuart Hall argues that cultural artefacts can shift from high to low culture. From something that had a small confined niche audience can change to gain a mass popular audience. This usually makes the original idea that the taste changes from high culture to low because more people passively know something. The opera song 'nessun dorma' initially was consumed by a high cultural capital from the elite upper classes, sung by Luciano Pavarotti. Given time the songs associations have changed and rather the song being associated with the highly technical opera singer Pavarotti it is now known as a football anthem with a much lower cultural capital. And then with 'Britain’s Got Talent's' Paul Potts claiming to sing opera thousands of people in Britain had shown him the same respect that Pavarotti had once received. Even though he hadn't any trained and techniqual complexes that Opera requires society had passively accepted him to associate to the opera world by giving him an album, which in consumerism a handful of people believed they had to buy and this has to the Nessun Dorma song losing it's hierarchy.

In Britain high culture is supported, with the Arts council of Britain being formed after the world war two's CEMA proving that high culture can be consumed by all audiences.

However the crisisim of 'bad media' has dismissed the other audiences.

''Culture is ordinary, there are no masses, there are only ways of seeing people as masses''- Raymond Williams (1958)

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