Assess the effects of mass media on popular culture.

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Alfie West         10th September 2011

Assess the effect of mass media on popular culture

Popular culture is defined as social and cultural products that are there as a form of entertainment and for use by the mass culture, and are commonly short lived and acknowledged to hold little artistic value, such as movies or pop music. Alternatively, high culture is something that is considered unique, and different to everyday life. It is usually aimed at the upper and middle class, and is commonly approved of by the intellectual elite. Furthermore it usually takes place in environments that are significant in high class culture, such as the theatre.

There are several different arguments as to how the mass media has affected popular culture, for example Marxists argue that popular culture is the bourgeoisie’s way of dumbing down the proletariat, and thus controlling them. By promoting the false ideologies that popular culture bases itself off, such as owning an iPod, the proletariat are distracted from the poor working conditions and the exploitation that they are facing. Furthermore, Marxists also argue that the working class experience “false class consciousness”, meaning that they have come to believe that the capitalist system is a fair one that can benefits everyone equally, because the lower class are also able to obtain these false needs. Therefore they fail to notice the reality of their situation, that they are being exploited by a capitalist system that only benefits and small and powerful minority. This shows that the mass media’s only purpose is to do the bidding of the bourgeoisie, by promoting false needs so the proletariat are distracted from their low position in society and the mass exploitation that they suffer from.

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On the other hand, feminists argue that the traditional images of women are purposefully transmitted by the male dominated media to keep women oppressed into a small range of roles. They believe that the mass media deliberately fool women into believing in the “beauty myth”, meaning that they should conform to whatever image that males believe a “proper” woman be like, in terms of good looks, weight etc. For example Wolf (1990), says that the images of women that are used by the media present a “beauty ideal” through which they show women that they should treat their bodies as ...

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