American popular culture

American culture was well set since the 18th century since it was mostly adopted from the British and Irish communities that were present during the colonial era. In its initial stages it reflected the needs of society and the prevalent attitudes within it. This culture was mainly conservative and was greatly influenced by religion. However, as time passed this culture became more secularized with urbanization being its greatest proponent (Browne, 2005).

This is evidenced for example in American love affair with malls and automobiles. The originality can, however, be seen as TV Commercials are seen to portray women as only fit for cleaning or cooking. Commercials involve women holding pots and pans or wearing rubber gloves with soap bubbles all around them. Men on the other hand are portrayed as masculine individuals and are featured in commercials on tools and machinery.

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Rituals and the resultant stereotypes are mainly based on social, economic and political factors. Social factors such as gang affiliations have led to sections of society for example African-Americans or Mexicans to be perceived as violent. Also, tattoo art has been seen as a form of recognition in society. Economic backgrounds have also been used as a basis for stereotyping segments of society for example where African Americans are believed to have lower credit than their white counterparts.

This is seen where people don’t expect to see as many African-Americans in affluent neighborhoods. Men have also been believed to be providers in the society while women depend on men. Politically, men are believed to be natural leaders while women are good subjects. This is seen in elections where women find it hard to compete against their male counterparts and in the workplaces where management positions are the preserve of men.

Some of the popular art forms such as music, paintings and dance have not been spared since, as they developed and were adopted by different segments of society so were stereotypes adopted. Hence, some forms of art are believed to be violent, gang related affluent or loose.

In dance for instance, ballet is believed to be a preserve of affluent people in the society and predominantly white while ‘break dancing’ is believed to be a preserve of African-Americans in less affluent sections of urban centers. The use of paint to create art has its stereotypes too as art on canvass is considered affluent while other forms like graffiti believed to be a preserve of less affluent societies. Tattoo art is considered loose and mostly gang related.

Personal stereotypes are also prevalent in contemporary American popular culture and they exist to justify individual’s group affiliations, ego, or the system. According to Petracca and Sorapure, (2009) personal stereotypes are based on individual idiosyncratic beliefs.

These are mostly through personal experiences for example if you got mugged in a neighborhood dominated by African-Americans your perception of African-Americans would never be the same as you will always associate them with insecurity. Similarly if certain foods gave you stomach upsets one day, even though this may be due to unhygienic conditions in that particular restaurant, your perception of the same will forever be different.

Stereotypes have been persistent in our societies due to our historical interactions. Some of the most historically prevalent stereotypes are the gender based and racist ones where women are believed to be weaker than men or blonde are believed to be dumber than brunets. These have been passed down through generations and can be evidenced at places of work where men or brunets get appointed to positions of management while women or blondes are believed to be suited for secretarial jobs.

A business perspective has also arisen in fighting these stereo types as best selling books and magazines are those that emphasize the abilities or powers of women. In music women are finding it easier to sing about their strengths to counter the perception portrayed by male musicians of a perfect woman being an emotional being who waits for him at home after he is done with ‘masculine’ activities. However, government and various civil society groups have slowly been fighting this through affirmative action.

Summary

Stereotypes are popular conceptions or beliefs about a certain type of individual or segment of society. These conceptions are often supported by some prior assumption and these are often simple and standardized. Rituals are practices of symbolic value performed by communities and are often dictated by the traditions or religion prevailing in that community.

As much as stereotypes are seen as favoring one section of society against the other, it doesn’t mean that the group that appears to be unfairly judged doesn’t propagates these very same stereotypes. An example is a question put forward that why don’t women vote for their fellow women and appear to believe the same stereotype that they are weaker than their male counter parts?

Affirmative action was adopted to encourage women to fight for senior positions as due to a culture that propagated stereotypes they were less motivated to do so. Since stereotypes are human nature we can only learn to live with them and as much as stereotyping is evident in commercials they still seem even more appealing to us.

References

Browne, R. (2005). Profiles of popular culture. Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press.

Petracca, M. and Sorapure, M. (2009) Common Culture. New Jersey: Prentice Hall