In the twenty-first century, we are living in the environment that is completely surrounded by the media and under the strong influence of the mass media. The day of the most people in modern times starts with turning on TV and ends with turning off it. In this way, contemporary men live encountering the media that is represented by TV in any place for most of the day. It is inconceivable for us to be away from the media. That is a worldwide stream and phenomenon. In the rapidly changing digital media society, we need to think some controversial issues about culture.
TV, movie and newspaper is called ‘pop culture’. But what is ‘pop culture’ on earth? Is pop culture an opposite of ‘elite culture’? How is pop culture different from elite culture? Is Elite culture the best artifact that human beings created and is pop culture primitive raw stuff? Isn’t the meaning that the line between pop culture and elite culture already became blurred because of popularization of elite culture which is represented by literature and opera and is easily distributed within the specific class when we saw the figure of appreciating a lot of art forms that had belonged to the territory of elite culture meanwhile through TV or movies?
A few months ago, I met a friend who originally majored in classic and changed her major to popular music. We had a very vigorous argument about pop culture and cultural industry. The major point was as in the following. Movie was the completed media at last when the audience saw it on the screen. And even though it is an excellent as a musical viewpoint, if the public don’t hear the music, it is useless. Even if it is a beautiful piece, the reality is so miserable so far as to launch forth in front of the public. Because cultural industry in modern times was dominated by huge media companies.
Cultural industry in contemporary society is controlled by a few companies from production and distribution to sale of the cultural goods. It results blunting one’s critical thinking about society making them standardize the cultural diversity and also decreasing the choices of the consumers. Even though the same style of the music was released and it was the repetition of the simple scale, the public glowed with enthusiasm. We need to agonize about whether we loved the music or the image. Consumption and creative acts cannot absolutely be free from the process of the production. The cultural taste of the public who has to lead busy and tired lives is easily liable to be a superficial one that they pursue only suggestive, sensible and funny thing rather than following the predominant value that elite groups set up. For example, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ was a popular image and she was consumer goods in 1950~60s. She was like an icon, highlighting the sexual attraction. I think her image represents the process of producing and distributing popular stars because her articles and photos came out in the papers or magazines everyday at that time. Though that kind of pop culture looks vulgar, nevertheless, the public might be comforted more from the pop culture. Cultural use pattern of the public proceeds from the social conditions. They enjoy finding the greatest hedonic contents because their real life is subordinate. Besides, all the producers of creating pop culture and consumers of consuming pop culture cannot help being subordinate to principles of economy of capitalism. Eventually, all of these become entangled and pop culture commercializes the public thoroughly under the name of cultural industry.
The art exists in the society and we have to think all the activities actively in order to research the relationship appropriately when we see the form of modern human beings. In 1950~1960s, the US was a consumer society in which consumption was thought to be a virtue. And we got accustomed to bulk production and our thoughts and lifestyles were mass-produced like the image of ‘Campbell’s soup’ that symbolizes mass production by imitating and displaying cans. While the cultural industry of former society is one-sided one from top to bottom, the one of digital society is a quite interactive. The public became to have a critical view a little more by choosing their culture through a variety of channels by oneself. The world is changing day by day. I think it would be right that pop culture which is an ordinary culture by leading by most of people in constant variations and new trials is the ‘cultural processes’, not the ‘cultural products’.