What is popular culture? It is very difficult to define this word, isn’t it? Many ‘people’ have spent plenty of time to give definition of this word. In order to define popular culture we first need to define the term ‘culture ‘. “According to Raymond Williams, culture is ‘one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language’. Williams suggests three main categories in the definition of culture. First of all, the ‘ideal’, in which culture is a general process in human perfection, intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development.
We could use as an example, great philosophers, artists and poets (referring only to intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic factors in Western Europe). A second use of the word ‘culture’, the ‘documentary’, can be referring to particular way of life of people, a period, or a group. These are referred to, as cultural practices or lived cultures, e. g. Christmas. Finally, there is the ‘social’ definition of culture which can be referred to the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activities such as poetry, ballet, film, etc”. (Idea from Storey, 1998,p.
2 and Storey , 1994 ,p. 56) “An obvious starting point in defining popular culture is to say that it is one widely favoured or well liked by many people. That can be proved from a quantitative index would meet the approval of many people” (Storey, 1998, p. 56). We could examine sales of books, sales of CDs and video, also attendance records at concerts, sporting events, festivals and of course preferences for different television programs. But we might find things are so well liked that they become useless as a conceptual definition of popular culture.
Such counting would almost certainly include the officially sanctioned high culture which in terms of book and record sales and audience ratings for television dramatization of the classics, can justifiable claim to be popular in this sense. “A second way of defining of popular culture is to suggest that it is the culture which is left over after we have decided what high culture is. Popular culture becomes a residual category, one that accommodates those things which is failed to meet the required standards a high culture. In other words, popular culture as interior culture.
Such distinctions are often supported by claims that popular culture is mass – produced commercial culture, whereas high culture is the result of an individual act of creation. The division between the two is absolutely clear”. (Storey, 1998, p. 7) Moreover, there are many problems especially if the division is dependent and supposed essential textual qualities. Can we say when popular culture is good or bad? For example, William Shakespeare is now seen as epitome of high culture. In the nineteenth century he wrote for the masses, for the ordinary people. He was not considered as a high culture.
He was popular and worked for the popular theatre. And also film noir started as popular cinema and is now the preserve of academic and film clubs. “And finally one recant example of cultural traffic moving in the other direction is Luciano Pavarotti’s recording of Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. When Pavarotti’s, in 1990, managed to take ‘nassun dorma’ to number one in the British charts, such commercial success on any quantitative analysis would make the composer, the performer and the song popular culture. “A third way of defining popular culture is as a ‘mass culture’ it is similar to the previous definition.
The first that those who refer to popular culture as mass culture want to establish is that popular culture is a hopelessly commercial culture. It is mass produce for mass consumption. (Storey, 1998, p. 8) “. According to Fiske and Frith, “80 and 90 per cent of singes and albums lose money. Such statistics should clearly call into question the notion of cultural consumption as an automatic and passive activity”. For some cultural critics, mass culture, is an imported American culture and operates under the term ‘Americanization’ but two things we can say with confident.
First, as Andrew Ross said, “popular culture has been socially and institutionally central in American for longer and in more significant way than in Europe”. Second that the influence of American culture worldwide is undoubted. “Popular culture is understood as collected dream-world”(Storey, 1998, p. 8). “A forth definition contents that popular culture is the culture which originates from ‘the people’. This view takes issue with any approach that insists that popular culture is something imposed upon the people from above.