Updated: Jul 28
A great question to ask is if there is a relationship between pop culture and politics? The answer is yes. Pop culture is just that, the popular culture in society. Popular culture is usually defined by elites or societal leaders who determine what will and will not be popular. Politics and politicians are a part of that system of elites and societal leaders who can determine pop culture. Likewise, pop culture can change politics and politicians.
When it comes to popular culture, it is connected to mass culture, which includes agenda-setting. We described agenda setting as when celebrities want people to focus on an issue or issues (paraphrased to an extent). Here we have elites of popular culture-defining what politics will or will not focus on. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement. Social leaders demanded media and political attention to the cause; as a result, not only did citizens participate in the civil protest but also politicians. This inspired political change, such as the George Floyd Police Reform bill, which was passed by the 117 United States House of Representatives from the pressure of pop culture and political culture.
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Pop culture relations with politics vary in more ways than one. One of the ways is that pop culture reflects political culture. The hit show Saturday Night Live has used political themes as content becomes very popular, which would be one of many examples. Even recently, after Donald J. Trump’s presidency, SNL’s popularity grew even more than it had in the past. As well as other shows in movies like White House Down, Veep, Vice, Olympus Has Fallen, and Madam Secretary, to name a few.
Another relation of pop culture and politics is political socialization which we defined in the class as a learning process where we acquire their political beliefs from socialization (paraphrased). This happens when people take note of celebrities’ political views and make them their own. If someone really likes Beyoncé and she says Barack Obama is the best president is ever, they may be heavily influenced to take on that same opinion. Another example would be when Arnold Swarzenegger ran for California governor. It is widely accepted that a portion of those votes came from people who liked how he was as a celebrity and were influenced to take on his same political beliefs because of that.
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The connection between pop culture and politics seems to be quite noticeable. This course has taken us as young people on a ride through all of the similarities, differences, possibilities, and relationships of the two topics. It can be logically concluded that these two topics are indeed related and more often than not go hand and hand together. Is this a bad thing? That is debatable; we know that the relationship is relevant and is something we should try to be conscious of.
Television impacts political attitudes and behavior indefinitely. For years now, people have received their information via televised news. As with most media, the news has some biases attached. This led to multiple stations with different preferences, like CNN for democratic views and FOX for republican views. Moreover, television further intensifies people’s political attitudes and behaviors. After watching something that you believe is the reality for so long, it is only a matter of time before it begins to change the way your think about specific topics and issues that the nation currently faces.
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As I mentioned, television impacts people’s attitudes, even young adults, teens, and children. The Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) has recently caught fire for promoting vaccination to young children in their hit show Sesame Street. While medical facts should not be subject to political approval, the opposing political party has found that it influences their children’s political ideology in today’s society. We talked about how PBS provides programming that may not be profitable for the private sector in class. Therefore, it is a government entity and is typically (at least before the Vaccination incident) considered a trustworthy place for information.
Now, people are starting to view the political message on television and take note of the influence it can have on the young and the old. Speaking from experience, most older people I know believe mostly the first thing they see on TV no matter where it comes from. This further proves television’s significant influence on citizens’ political behaviors and attitudes.
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While television may not be the only factor in a person determining their political views, it is indefinitely a mitigating factor in the process. People spend a significant amount of time on some device accessing television programs, and there are political messages in lots of those programs. In order for our political climate to change, we must take in account our own research. The only way for anyone to form a true political stance is by researching both stances.
My call to all who read this is find the time to learn about the important causes in our popular culture and what is important to you. Once you research booths sides develop your own stance and be able to defend. These two actions make not only a more informed voter, but a positive contributor to the future of our society.
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