In this essay I intend to explore what is meant by the terms popular culture and high culture. I will also look at how the relationship between these two terms has become distorted and blurred over time. In order to reinforce what I am saying about popular and high culture I will be using a range of examples from the music industry to show how the line between high culture and popular culture has become ambiguous. I will also call upon the work of John Storey to give my work an academic foundation. Although Storey is the main academic I will be looking at, I will also include references to a number of other academics who have written about popular culture and high culture.
The term ‘popular culture’ is a particularly difficult one to define. The word ‘culture’ alone is, according to Ray Williams, “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (Storey; 2006, 1). Popular culture must also be a term that is equally hard to define. Popular culture is an ambiguous phrase in cultural theory. In its simplest form: popular culture can be seen as the culture of the working class and minority cultures such as; folk and youth culture.(Brooker; 2003).
Popular culture is often referred to as being produced by the mass media ‘for’ the public, who are seen as consumers. An example of this would be the television programme ‘The X Factor’. The X Factor is produced by a large television company which is owned by a multi millionaire music mogul. The programme is shown extensively throughout the winter months, when people favour staying indoors to going outside. The concept of the show is that it entices people in during the first couple of week. This is done by showing the contestants’ auditions. The reason for this is because The X Factor wants the viewers to feel like they have built a relationship with the contestants. Once this is established, the format of the programme changes and viewers are coaxed in and persuaded to vote for the contestant that they wish to stay in the competition. Even when the show has finished, the viewers are urged to buy the records of the winning contestants. The person who benefits the most from this is Simon Cowell, who takes a certain percentage of whatever the show makes financially. This is also known as mass culture and sometimes commercial culture. Mass culture is a form of culture which is produced purely to make a profit. The profit is made by exploiting the mass members of the public into consuming a product (e.g. The X Factor). (Strinati; 1995)
This is a contradiction to the types of popular culture which are made ‘by the people and for the people’. An example of this would be the services which are provided by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). T o start with, the BBC is a non profit organisation; in effect the money which it makes is put back into the corporation and consequently used to make the services that the BBC provides. Also, the BBC takes the majority of its...