The end of popular culture?

Posted by: | March 31, 2009 | Comments Off on The end of popular culture?

The reading of this week illustrated each an aspect of popular culture. The first one by Gomez-Pena showed how “el Sup” Marcos has been turned into a figure of pop culture, a super hero. The second one explained how Jennifer Lopez is a “crossover celebrity”. The last one showed insofar as Latinness could be recreated elsewhere than in Latin America. They showed new forms of popular culture, they displayed the revival of popular culture. They both present how Latin American culture (Indigenous leader, Puerto Rican body and salsa) could be mixed with modernity but also with the white culture.

The first reading is a perfect example of mix between tradition and modernity. In order to make his claims be heard, el Sup Marcos turned himself into a character, a super hero. He created like a myth around his real identity. He is a “performance artist”. All this mythology around Marcos created a kind of industry, as the author says: “At one point it became hard to draw the line between radical politics and pop culture, between solidarity and revolutionary consumerism.”  Popular culture means that culture is made by people so Marco’s myth has been constructed by people through what they watched on TV, what they read (for instance comics). The Superhero Marcos is a construction of the 21th century. He is not the hero of a traditional legend but he is a modern one which means both a political leader but also a commercialized figure. Popular culture can’t be separated from commercialization and mass culture even if one could not reduce it to that.

The second reading by Beltran dealt with the notion of “crossover” celebrity referring to the case of Jennifer Lopez. I would like to focus on two particular ideas: the tension between “Latinization and Latinidad” and the representation of coloured people of “evoking and denying race simultaneously”. Beltran aimed at showing that Jennifer Lopez was one of the only Latina to assume her body and refuse to conform to Hollywood standards. She wanted to erase the differences between the Latinos, the Blacks and the White just by being herself. She wanted to express her real “latinidad” instead of being the Puerto Rican girl who looks like a white that’s why Beltran speaks about a tension between “Latinization and Latinidad”. Latinization means how to represent Latinos inside the white culture so it means that Latinos have to fill the criteria of how being a good Latino according to the white audience which is not the expression of their real identity. It’s the same idea when Beltran quotes Judith Mayne: “African American characters in films often evoke and deny race simultaneously serving as projection of white anxieties about race”. In a sense, the dominant white culture shape the representation of “nonwhite ethnicity in US popular culture”. What Beltran wants to show that that Jennifer Lopez built her own publicity claiming her pride to be Latina. She tried to extract herself from the western standards.

Finally, the last reading by Velasquez shows insofar as Latinness is conveyed through music. Latinness is a felling, a way of singing, of playing salsa. It is tied to the body but it doesn’t mean that only Latin American people know how to do, on contrary it is a way of behaving accessible to everybody. Latin American culture could be recreated everywhere in the world. However, Velasquez shows that people can’t prevent themselves from having cliché about Latin American culture. For instance, women playing salsa have to be sexy.

It’s not the end of the Latin American popular culture but it is mixed with other cultures that is why it is precisely “popular”. People live in a global world. Borders are crossed all the times so people could pick their culture, they could reinvent it anytime.


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