What popular culture and mass culture are, their significance to society and how they are consumed are very multifaceted questions that have been subject to wide debate is the fields of Sociology and Cultural Studies. Many theorists have chimed in on the debate to answer these questions. Two notable theories on this topic are that of Dwight MacDonald in his work “A Theory of Mass Culture” and John Fiske in his work “Popular Culture”. MacDonald argues that mass culture is a phenomenon that is detrimental to society. He believes that although mass culture is something that produced “by and for human beings” that is ultimately is what leads to the loss of individuality and individual thought and expression in favor of groupthink. Fiske describes mass culture as a commodity that is created to be both widely distributed and widely appealing. However, Fiske asserts that popular culture is created after a negotiation between the creators of mass cultures and those who will consume it and that popular culture is something that is consumed in whatever manner that consumer desires. Although there is merit in MacDonald’s assertion that mass culture is something that gives way to group think and dilutes individuality, his assertion ignores the choice that goes into that conformity. In my experience, Fiske’s interpretation of what popular and mass culture are and how they work is more accurate.
The main point of Fiske’s assertion is that mass culture is a production of culture commodity meant to appeal to a wide scope of people and to be sold to the public. When looking at television and its trends it becomes obvious that this is true. When a show or genre of shows gains a lot of popularity and appeals to a lar...
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... it. Although mass culture and the very peer pressure like influence it has can be very hard to deviate from, but the choice is still there and MacDonald ignores that choice. When faced with the commodity of popular culture we as consumers have the power to deny it as individuals and to change it as a society whether or not we chose to use that power or to even realize we have it.
Mass culture is made with its consumers in mind and is marketed towards them and when it makes its way into popular culture it does push people into conformity. However, there is a choice about whether or not to conform and those with strong and opposing values are often the ones to deviate from pop-culture and become part of the counterculture. Fiske’s description of mass and pop culture as a product that is being sold to society is a more accurate explanation of how mass culture works.
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