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Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives is a brave attempt by Marcel Danesi in tackling the hugely intimidating and puzzling topic that is popular culture, or pop culture. Danesi takes the clever approach of organising his chapters via the media that pop culture has been transmitted and shared over to the public, such as print, television and even advertising. Taking a look through the history of the medium and the subsequent pop culture phenomenons of each era that happened or spread through the masses as a result of the medium, Danesi attempts to link why some trends became popular with the crowds.The book was definitely informative and very detailed, giving a plethora of pop culture examples (where there are thousands to choose from) that defined an era or time during the last two centuries. Danesi also takes note of the increasing homogenisation of pop culture across the world due to globalisation and fundementally the proliferation of similar media across the globe, although each country or localised area still has their individual celebrities and pop culture trends that are unique to them. The use of media to organise the discussion of pop culture was neat but it left some questions unanswered. While the media certainly spreads the idea of what is desirable or cool to the public, who decides on these ideas? Clearly those who control the media are capable of determining the next trends but what sticks with the public and what doesnt? Danesi offers the reasoning that why we enjoy pop culture was that it was cathartic and allowed to us enjoy in the profane or what traditional society deemed as vulgar or undesirable. It gave us a pathway into exploring areas like emotion and sexuality which seems to explain most of what catches on with the public. As to why trends change over the years, such as the transition from disco to punk, Danesi credits it to the youth (arguably the largest influencers or determinants of the pop culture trends of any era) outgrowing their phases and the next generation deeming old trends as uncool. It is a decent enough explanation though it becomes counter-intuitive when retro trends take place due to nostalgia or other ideals. The best part of the book was the introduction where Danesi gives a good discussion about the impressions and general views of pop culture. It is largely looked down upon, deeming it as low-class or inferior to high-brow culture like classical music. What I found really thought-provoking was that pop culture is actually a way for the masses to determine their own taste and choose their own likes and dislikes, freeing themselves from the control of those in power. This is true when trends like punk were essentially counter-culture, going against the general norm set out by tradition or those on top in society. Also, those who usually deem pop culture as inferior can be seen as an elitist mindset, such as university professors who slam it. An ironic part of pop culture is that it is deemed inferior to things like classical music or opera which is linked to more cultured or refined tastes. However, when these things were first introduced way back in the 1700s or 1800s, they were meant to cater to the public tastes and wide demand. Composers who tried to be part of pop culture are now looked as superior to pop culture of the present. This was definitely eye-opening and odd to think about as well.Overall, this book had a great opening but across the chapters, it started to feel as if Danesi was giving a look at pop culture across the ages and more could have been offered as to why they caught fire across the public. Some of his explanations were weird or perhaps overthought, such as his examination of rap music or slang. It was a good attempt in general to tackle this behemoth of a topic and it is an introduction after all so he cannot be faulted too much. 3/5
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