In General Knowledge

Defining Pop Culture Today

What Does Pop Culture Mean?

Pop culture is a shortening of the phrase “popular culture.” To this you might ask, “what is popular culture?” The implication therein is that the stuff that falls under the pop culture umbrella is the popular culture that the youth of today are experiencing. Pop culture can come in a wide variety of different forms. ranging from:

Video games
• Film
• Comic books
• Music
• Television
• Novels

Examples of pop culture in video games

Video games have exploded onto the scene in the last 10 years, becoming one of the biggest industries in the world. Here are some games that have dominated the video game pop culture space…

• Call of Duty (1990s) – There are a lot of shooters out there, but Call of Duty is the leader of the pack. Focusing on real wars as well as fictional ones, it gets you hooked with its single-player story mode, and keeps you hooked with its engaging and fast-paced multi-player.

• Pokemon (1990s) – Pokemon is very much a darling of multiple media, and it shows. Pokemon exists in a variety of forms, including film, TV, trading cards, and of course, video games. Since its 1996 debut, it’s been lighting the world on fire. When you get to be this popular, you don’t get away unscathed – it received huge criticism from various religious figures for its influence on children.

• Super Mario (1980s) – The face of video games, Mario has never fallen out of the public eye. Starting in 1981 with Donkey Kong and still going in 2014 with Mario Kart 8, Mario has earned billions and is the most successful video game series to have been created.

• Sonic the Hedgehog (1990s) – Sonic was created in part by SEGA to establish a counter to Mario, but that does not mean that he was just a copycat. Where Mario emphasized a wholesome, safe character, Sonic was all about speed and attitude. He was quite successful for SEGA, too – it helped the SEGA Genesis almost beat the Super NES, after all.

• Gone Home (2010s) – A recent game that has made a real uproar. A lot of people have had positive thoughts about this title, but also negative. The positive thoughts came from people who praised it for its interactive storytelling method about a story that you don’t see too often in video games, while the negative thoughts focused on the claims that it did not count as a game, or that the developer had bribed people for good reviews. These negative critics are generally considered very, very silly.

• The Sims (1990s) – The Sims was a big game for the casual gaming market. In effect, the game was designed as a smaller-scale version of SimCity (a city management game), where instead of managing an entire city, you were managing a single home like a doll house. Expected to be a flop by its publisher (who only did it because the creator had some pull from within the company), it turned out to be a financial juggernaut.

• Wii Series (2000s) – The Wii Series is a brand that encompasses titles such as Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and Wii Play. These games were considered highly successful entry-level video games for casual players who were just getting into video games, and in the end, it became one of Nintendo’s most successful brands in the company’s history.

• Final Fantasy (1980s) – It was not the first RPG of its kind, but it certainly was arguably one of the most important and famous worldwide. Ever since it debuted on the NES, it has become one of the most well-known story-based video games in our history, filled with rich characters, worlds, and stories.

• Grand Theft Auto (1990s) – In spite of the high levels of controversy that accompany any discussion about this game series, it can’t be denied that it’s one of the greatest examples. Hugely successful and with biting commentary on society and pop culture in and of itself, this series has plenty of allies and enemies.

• Pac-Man (1980s) – It stands to reason that the video game that features the first “named protagonist” in video games should be on this list. One of the more notable things about this title is that where video games typically were aimed at men and focused on stories about spaceships and aliens, this was about a guy named Pac-Man fleeing from ghosts, and was actually aimed at women – and rather successfully.

Examples of pop culture in film

Films are a big part of pop culture, and have a good number of examples, including…

• Star Wars (1970s) – Star Wars has become so popular that it is hard to call it just a movie series – it has video games, comics, novels, songs, television shows, and a powerful industry of toys. Everyone knows the characters – Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca… it’s just an icon of pop culture.

• Die Hard (1980s) – One of the premier action flicks of the 80s, it starred Bruce Willis as John McClane, and it’s still a go-to series for action buffs.

Examples of pop culture in television

• The Simpsons (1990s) – The Simpsons is one of the longest-running TV series, and it’s debatable whether it should still be running. To just about everyone, The Simpsons had one of the best 10 years of any show’s life. Hilarious and biting, it resonates even with people who never watched it.

• Law & Order (1990s) – The definitive crime drama – perhaps the most definitive crime drama ever created. It may have been cancelled very recently in the 2000s, but its spin-off series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is still going quite strong.

• All in the Family (1970s) – A great TV show created to highlight racism and homophobia by using a character who exemplified those features. Both the actor and the writer tried to make Archie dislikable, but when people seemed to become fans of him due to his bigotry, they took it in a new direction and emphasized him to learn to accept different people.

• M*A*S*H (1970s) – M*A*S*H followed the events of several army and regular doctors who are forced to deal with the strifes of the Korean War – balancing itself out between comedy and tragedy.

Examples of pop culture in novels

More so than the rest of the media being discussed, novels rarely fall into “pop culture.” There are certainly examples of pop culture novels, but they aren’t as common as in the other media. Some examples include…

• The Lord of the Rings (1970s) – The Lord of the Rings was a huge fantasy book many years back, and maintained a healthy fanbase going into the future – especially thanks to its renewed fame in the form of its cinematic features. The series follows several characters, most notably famous characters Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Aragorn as they quest to destroy the “one ring” and save their world from the evil Sauron.

• Harry Potter (1990s) – Practically everyone has read Harry Potter, or at least know that it exists. Harry Potter follows the adventures of a young boy who descends from great wizard parents (unbeknownst to him). It’s generally considered one of the great written series of the 90s and 2000s.

• Twilight (2000s) – Not everyone loves Twilight, but it can’t be denied that it has a place in popular culture. A unique take on the romance novel, it follows a teenage girl as she gets entangled in the lives of vampires and werewolves who just want to exist in the world and mind themselves, specifically a handsome vampire for whom she has fallen.

What is American Pop Culture?

American Pop Culture generally refers to media created by people or organizations in the United States. While some media in other countries will emulate the style of American films – particularly, films such as Die Hard or Star Wars can expect to be followed by other film industries – but generally speaking, it’s a lot more common to see American pop culture creators to emulate styles of foreign media, such as French romance or Japanese samurai.

Hatred towards pop culture

It is not uncommon to see people who absolutely abhor popular culture. The reason for this is generally due to both the desire to focus on overlooked media, as well as the annoyance that popular culture works could cause less popular culture to fail as a result of its popularity. Common examples of popular culture that people like to criticize or otherwise avoid include Call of Duty for video games, The Simpsons (modern episodes, anyway) for television shows, and Twilight for both film and novels. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re bad.

In closing

Pop culture has been around for ages, and will be around well after we are gone. I can only hope that after you read this, you will have a better understanding of the question of “what is pop culture?”

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