The end of popular culture?

Posted by: | March 30, 2009 | Comments Off on The end of popular culture?

Definitely enjoyed the readings for this week!

Although I now understand that folktales, folk art & theories of mixture can and should be considered in discussions of popular culture, I feel like the subject matter of this weeks readings (Zapatista movement, Latina celebrity and salsa music) are what most people consider to be Latin American pop culture, myself included. This was my perception of L.A. pop culture at the beginning of this course; however, having now arrived at the end of the course, I have a much broader view of it!

At times I found it a bit humorous to be reading about J.Lo’s butt in such an academic context. However, I felt that these 3 articles analyzed pop culture elements, which we may not give much thought to, in a way that gave light to the underlying social struggles that they may represent. For example, the article on salsa music argued that as salsa music crossed borders from Latin America to England, certain social constructs were perpetuated through the music. For example, racial stereotypes on rhythm and movement became an issue. Caucasian players were stereotyped as being musical, and therefore played horns in the band whereas Latin musicians were stereotyped as more rhythmic, and therefore played the drums and percussion instruments. In the article on Jennifer Lopez’s North American cross-over, issues of gender stereotypes were raised. Jennifer Lopez’s success and “sex symbol” status in North America challenged conventional views of “beauty” in North America as being unnaturally thin. The fact that Jennifer Lopez was considered beautiful with her large butt challenged these views.

I feel that all 3 articles stressed the fact that popular culture, and perhaps culture in general, are constructed by a people. The leader of the Zapatista movement created a character to represent himself in the public sphere and the movement was described as a “performance”. Jennifer Lopez’s success in Hollywood was constructed by the media. Salsa music is a construct in that anyone can learn to play salsa music, and it is not necessarily something that certain people can do better than others simply because they are born into it.

Lastly, all 3 articles provided instances of Latin American popular culture crossing borders. The Zapatista movement became known worldwide. Jennifer Lopez, a Latina actress, found success in the United States. Salsa bands can now be found all over England, as well as almost anywhere else in the world. The question is: does this mean the end of popular culture? I don’t think so. I believe that it is exactly this crossing of borders, with new meanings being created, that makes popular culture interesting, exciting and dynamic. The ability to be contemporary and change with the times is essential to the definition of popular culture.


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