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How do we study popular culture?  How do we balance the need for analyzing social impact (via ideology studies for instance) with a recognition of the productive power of consumers to make meanings and values differently from academics?  Where do you fall in the spectrum being debated in our final readings concerning populism vs. pessimism?

Almost Famous offers a number of representations of popular culture and its relationship to consumers, critics, and social norms. What theories have we studied this semester that deepens our understanding of the film, either in the world it represents or how the film itself functions in the more contemporary cultural moment?

To conclude our discussion of Manchurian Candidate, how do you respond to the book’s analysis of the film’s representations of race, sexuality, and gender? How do you characterize these approaches in the context of our course? And are there any issues from the film that you think the book neglects to analyze?

The first half of Jacobson & González’s book focuses on the contexts from which The Manchurian Candidate emerged. How do these contexts alter your understanding of the film? Are there additional contexts that seem missing in their analysis? And given the various approaches to popular culture we’ve studied, what theoretical models or ideas do you think are underlying their contextual analysis?

The readings by Stam and Hall focus on how we might study race as a category of analysis and differentiation within popular culture. What arguments from their essays seem most pertinent and engaging? What other theories do you feel they are building upon? And how might you apply these ideas to understanding Bamboozled?

Today’s readings explore a model of discursive analysis, exploring how a field of knowledge molds behaviors and social power within the poststructuralist approach following Foucault.  What do you think of this method of analysis for exploring cultural practices?  Where are the weaknesses or limitations of this approach?  Do you see other ways to explore these cultural issues, or other applications for this methodology?  [Note – just because one of the articles is written by Professor Mittell, don’t feel the need to temper your criticism or offer excessive praise…]

Great discussion in class today – feel free to continue it here!

I found the source for the tinkerbell economy quote – of course, it was Jon Stewart on April 10: “Our economy is like Tinkerbell. If we stop clapping, it dies.” But if you google tinkerbell capitalism, you’ll find a number of references, including this prescient one from 2007.

For more on the “reality-based community” comment, see the wikipedia entry that links to the original article by Ron Suskind and this quote:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

So what more do you have to say, in this virtual extension of our class?

Both of the episodes of The Simpsons and Twin Peaks we viewed could be considered postmodern.  What facets of these shows speak to the concepts of postmodernism as explored by Storey, Baudrillard, and Jameson?  How does postmodern theory help understand these examples of popular culture or our society at large?  What are the limitations of this approach?

As promised in class, here’s a place to muse on your own fan engagements. And I’ll start…

Obviously, my area of study allows me to immerse in pop culture that I love, and I see much of my teaching as an act of fan engagement – sharing the entire run of The Wire with a community of students, for instance! Being a scholar of popular culture is a perfect profession for a fan, as you can justify consumption as “research.” And while I’m not a fan scholar per se, some of my writing has focused on my fan interests.

Most centrally, I’d point to my writing on Lost. I’ve been an active fan of the show, and that fandom has led to a number of academic publications. If anyone is interested, you can read an article I wrote on the show’s “spoiler fans” (who try to discover what will happen before it’s revealed on the show); an essay about critical evaluation and Lost; and a draft of an article about Lostpedia (which you need the password namaste to access). Not to pile on homework, but just in case anyone is interested in the topics or how I create academic paratexts.

So what are your fan interests and how do they impact your life?

Today’s readings focus on the practices of fans of different forms of popular culture, from Star Wars to Twin Peaks to The Beatles. How do you see fan practices relating to broader issues of popular culture consumption? Are fans completely atypical consumers, or just extreme versions of “normal” consumers? And how does DeCerteau’s theories of everyday life help us understand fandom?

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