Depth Study - Popular Culture

Table of Contents

The Nature of Pop Culture

The four distinguishing characteristics to of a popular culture are:


Demand develops and expands due to media, marketing and dissemination processes

  • Popular culture is directly related to capitalism.

  • Companies/corporations make a profit from popular culture by marketing and distributing products and paraphernalia.

  • These commercial products and paraphernalia give people a means of identifying with that popular culture. Consumers are able to directly participate in the making of pop culture

  • The commodification of things is now directly related to the media. The media is a ley socialising agent to commodification, and ultimately the creating of a popular culture


Experiences global acceptance with the progression and integration of technologies

  • The increase of globalisation and developments of transport and technologies has made this global acceptance incredibly fast.

  • A good example is K-pop which was specifically marketed from the local Korean level to the international level with specific marketing techniques


(Broad access is assisted by media and communication technologies*

  • Consumers of popular culture need to be able to access it effectively or the corporations that distribute it will not make a profit.

  • Popular culture is often formulated by corporations to adapt to a variety of societies so that it meets the needs of a global audience.

In a contemporary sense, think advertising through trends specified to teenagers through trendy apps like TikTok. (Dixie Damelio featuring in a teen film, 2000s teen film making a reccurence in references of different medias, like Iggy Azaelia’s ‘Fancy’ Music video and the Y2K trend)

  • Access has significantly improved overtime due to greater availabilities to streaming services and cheaper things
Factors affecting AccessExamples
Age + GenderOlder people may be limited to access as they may not be as tech savvy. There may be a stigma for males and older people to access teen film targeted to young girls
ClassPeople of low-socioeconomic status may not be able to afford to buy movie tickets/indulge in streaming
EthnicityDub/sub may not be available for foreign audiences/non-english speaking backgrounds
LocationCommunities geographically isolated may not be able to access communication technologies
Institutional PowerSome government restrictions on the type of film made available. For example, Anime movies such as Call Me By Your Name (2017) is banned in China for homosexuality.
  • Experiences continuity and change – influences society while simultaneously society influences the popular culture

  • in the interest of the producer of the popular culture to stimulate change, creating a greater ‘need’ to consume, generating further growth.

  • For example, the 1985 film The Breakfast Club reflected the 80’s concerns of stereotyping within teenagers, whilst 2009 film Jennifer’s Body and 1999 Ten Things I hate about you reflect the punk feminist atmosphere of the time.

  • If a popular culture is unable to change, evolve or adapt to current circumstances, related businesses will no longer make a profit.

  • Now, change of teen film relates to increasing diversity (see To All the Boys I’ve loved Before).

Focus Study: Teen Films

The Origins of Teen Films (Creation and Development)

  • The biggest surge of teen films begins in the 1950s, when they began to challenge the status quo and played an important role in the youth revolution.

Development from Local to Global

  • Globalisation and technology have allowed this to succeed in dramatic circumstances.

  • Teen films are largely produced in America due to the dominant culture that exists surrounding high school and prom.

  • The local themes of teen rebellion, high school prom and the American spirit have transcended into the global audience.

Mean Girls (2004)Local ideas of adolescent femininity
The Breakfast Club (1985)Local ideas of the critic of stereotyping
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)The American punk-feminist themes of the context were translated into film and reached the macro level. The appropriating of The Taming of the Shrew made these ideas even more far-reaching.

The Process of Commodification

  • The immediate causes of each individual instance of commodification vary very widely.

  • The commodification of leisure, in the form of film and TV, music and video games, is driven by the availability of technology that has allowed entrepreneurs to create new tastes and wants.

  • The way in which films are advertised, from posters to online advertisements. Digital consumption of teen films more popular than in person. Paraphernalia associated with teen films.

Role of Mythology

  • Mythology is ideas and beliefs that are created. They have some truth but are usually an exaggeration of truth. Mythology exists for commercial exploitation.

  • Teenagers can participate in the fun by projecting their own identity on the fun-loving protagonist. The mythology of teen movies is part of the suspension of reality. Movies are escapism.

  • The coming of age mythology and its perpetuation in almost all teen films is an example of how teens project themselves into the socially constructed adolescence.

  • Mythologies create suspension of reality, identity, idealism and inspiration. In a sense, mythologies either explicitly or subconsciously teach teens on what is to be expected/strived for.

  • Myths around teenagers set a social standard and the norms of adolescences and the expectations of teenage years, so young individuals will turn to teen films in order to gain insight into the lifestyle. Teenagers may consume teen films as it provides them with something to believe in or relate to.

The Breakfast Club (1985)The tension between parents and teens are normalised “Everyone’s home life is unsatisfying” The “Athlete” is the heroic gentlemen at the start. The myth of the outcast projected on the characters provides teenagers who feel like outcasts themselves a port of relatability.
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)The contrast between the brash Kat and girly Bianca perpetuate the dichotomies of femininity. The mythology of the brash feminist is perpetuated.

Continuities and Changes to Pop Culture

Story trope clichés, particularly involving love (bad/popular boy in TTIHAY and Mean Girls), social hierarchy and rebellionIncreased diversity and critique of popular culture by an increasingly socially aware youth causes increased representation of diversity (To all the boys I’ve loved before) in order to cater to a new market.
America/Hollywood continues to dominate the teen film industryTechnologies will continue to aid the globalisation of ideas and its merging will be present in teen films.
Continues to be in high demandTechnologies such as streaming services and social media will be dominate and change the consumption of teen film (Netflix).
Changed social values to be represented with taboo topics to be included more
Increased independence of teens to consume and be critical of teen films.

Consumption and its Nature

  • Due to the palatable nature of Teen films, Children, teens, adults, elderly, all genders and ethnic backgrounds watch can easily watch teen films. However, teen films are obviously mainly marketed towards teens.

  • Older teen films like The Breakfast Club (1985) may feel give adults a sense of nostalgia when consuming teen films as they were teens at the time and related to the ideology and values presented.

  • Children and younger teens may primarily consume films such as The Kissing Booth which has themes that are relatively light.

  • The nature of teen film’s consumption has significantly changed from simply watching a film in a cinema perhaps once or twice, to the parasocial interaction of being able to buy a DVD, or more recently stream a movie to be able to keep re-watching.

  • Regarding the consumption of teen film, more dramatically we can see the impact of technology.

Relationship of Mythology to Media

  • Traditionally, myths have taken the form of stories, which instruct and entertain. They contain moral messages – lessons – which support the existing social order in society.

  • Heroes and mythology assist the continuity of teen film to be consumed due to these ideals.

  • Mythologies create a standard/the ideal for the coming of age seen quintessential to adolescence

  • Heroes assist in consumption by creating a cult following and as an idol

  • Media portray heroes and mythologies that teens specifically, however open for all, will readily consume due to the collective identity and sense of cohesion it creates

Mean Girls (2004)The mythologies of high school stereotypes present a collective identity within each social group where everyone is more or less included. The redemption arc of each mean girl means that the plastics are heroes in their own way. Their comedic portrayal contains the moral message for teen girls.
The Breakfast Club (1985)The tension between parents and teens are normalised “Everyone’s home life is unsatisfying” . The “Athlete” is the heroic gentlemen at the start. The myth of the outcast projected on the characters provides teenagers who feel like outcasts themselves a port of relatability
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)The contrast between the brash Kat and girly Bianca perpetuate the dichotomies of femininity. The mythology of the brash feminist is perpetuated. Kat is the hero for being the brash feminist in the punk feminist atmosphere of the time, however as she develops as a character, she shows the moral lesson of love and friendship.

Influence of Globalisation/Technology on Consumption

  • America currently is the cultural capital to produce teen film, the influence of globalisation and technologies have thus substantially influenced the consumption and production of this market.

  • The domination of America and overall globalisation has led to fears of cultural homogenisation of the teen film market.

  • Globalisation means that teen film has been successfully commercialised and consumed internationally. The American ideals of coming of age and adolescence have been consumed and perpetuated within other countries, such as Australia. This may influence the consumption of teen film as teens from other countries may refrain from consuming certain films that they are not able to relate to.

Mean Girls (2004)Cult following
The Breakfast Club (1985)Considered a classic
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)Highly popular, studied in schools

Access and Consumption for Minorities

  • Age: teen films are primarily marketed towards teenagers due to relatability

  • Class: teen films is mostly consumed by upper- and middle-class teens in western cultures. Income allow the access that appeals to western consumers. Rich = access

  • Teen film is mostly consumed in western cultures; makes

  • Ethnicity: most teen films portray white middle class characters; this lack of diversity may limit the consumption of teen films by POC. Opposing this is the rise of diverse teen films such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved, which has met mass success and revere by POC for its Asian lead. Representation is becoming more and more important for consumption

  • Gender: teen films largely centre around female protagonists and are thus, typically targeted to female audiences. This gender bias in marketing and plot lines may discourage males from consuming teen films.

  • Location: locations might limit the availability to consume teen films. Locations which oppose cultural values of America may not wish or may even censor these films.

  • Sexuality: LGBT+ community is still underrepresented however in the contemporary era, this community is being represented more and more and films such as Jennifer’s Body (2009) are gaining mass traction for the queer themes that match the contemporary atmosphere of queer undertones (contrasting to it flopping back in 2009 when such themes weren’t so accepted).

Mean Girls (2004)Gender = the various representations of girls from being girly to being emo. Gender is treated in an exaggerated way almost as a satire
The Breakfast Club (1985)Gender roles are clear. May create sense of cohesion for those watching. Also critiques gender, Sexuality and concept of virginity is critiqued.

Consumption and Identity

  • Paraphernalia is associated with the marketing, merchandise and moneymaking aspect of a popular culture.

  • Paraphernalia reinforces the target market’s enjoyment of the film.

  • Allows people to share common interests and ideas to be unified in a way that creates a community or platform to associate with. individuals feel a sense of ownership of popular culture.

  • Paraphernalia can be tangible or intangible. Tangible can include DVD’s and shirts. Intangible can include fanfiction. These inadvertently means that individuals contribute to the broader ownership and community of a popular culture. Gives active participation in a culture

  • Paraphernalia = outward expression of self

  • Through this, consumers can participate in a community and relate to a group.

  • Ultimately establishes a collective identity

Control of Pop Culture

Tension between Consumers and Producers

Ownership –

  • Consumers own the experience and paraphernalia which contributes to the success

  • Government have ownership through censorship

  • Actors and individuals have limited ownership due to the ownership by companies and writers

  • Media has ownership over advertising and promoting

  • Companies have ownership over distribution

Tensions between consumers and producers –

  • Films such as Mean Girls and Breakfast club have had micro backlash by consumers against producers due to the lack of diversity and the stereotypical portrayal of the few POC characters.

  • Social demands in relation to these tensions have led to the inclusivity now enjoyed today, such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before with an Asian lead. In this, the ownership by consumers have led to the control of diversity

  • Content and classification between the government and producers have led to tensions of censorship. E.g. Love Simon being banned in China and Given being banned in Malaysia.

  • Companies/Media and consumers have had tension due to faulty marketing. E.g. The marketing towards a male audience of the movie Jennifer’s Body have sparked tensions between the queer/female community due to the faulty marketing which led to its lack of success back in 2009

Stakeholders in Pop Culture

Family –

  • Family can exert power on the micro level. They can influence what teen films and content is exposed to their family.

  • E.g, perhaps a more conservative family would not allow their children to be exposed to queer based films like Love Simon

Peer Groups –

  • Exert influence on what is ‘cool’ or interesting through peer pressure

  • A group’s opinion of a teen film can encourage other teens to consume it as well for a common social ground. Peer groups are also consistently represented in teen film so similar friendship groups might want to view films that they are represented.

Media –

  • Controls how teen film is viewed and can shift public opinion by either encouraging or discouraging the consumption of a teen film.

  • E.g. the mass approval by the media of films such as Mean Girls have caused the cult following of the film. As opposed to the mass criticism of Jennifer’s Body in 2009 had led to its flop.

Marketers –

  • Exposes consumers to what they want them to purchase.

  • Marketers influence popular culture by having target audiences. This can limit some people’s consumption

  • Film trailers are a significant form of marketing that influences the promotion and consumption of a film. Netflix advertisements on Facebook and Instagram can encourage awareness and excitement towards a film.

  • E.g. The Asian lead of To All The Boys Ive Loved Before was marketed heavily in order to garner greater attention and draw focus on the teen film industry’s growing diverstiy

Government –

  • Governments can have a large influence on the consumption of a teen film as they determine what age demographics can view the film and whether the content of a film is to be shown in a nation.

  • Control censorship.

  • Given being banned in Malaysia. Love Simon banned in China

Impact of Official and Unofficial Censorship

Official Censorship –

  • Australian Classification Board: has the power to censor movies based on content.

  • ACB classifies the ratings for each movie and sets a standard in terms of what age group they deem mature to view a particular movie.

  • Governments also influence the movies that are screened in their cinemas

  • May cause conflict between the underrepresented cultures and themes and the government. Conflict of interests as suppressing freedom of expression/art

  • May hinder continuity of teen film as a pop culture

  • Therefore, official censorship plays a vital role in the consumption of teen film as it impacts whether teen audiences can access a film and the contents portrayed.

Mean Girls (2004)Mean Girls is rated M in Australia for mature audiences. This was because of mature themes such as crude humour, sexual content, comic violence and underage drinking. These were themes the government deemed unacceptable for younger audiences to consume. Limits children to watch these and be influenced in a perceived negative manner
The Breakfast Club (1985)Rated M in Australia. See above.
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)Rated PG 13. Suggests that these themes are acceptable, only under the supervision of an adult. This may be a micro-world limit access for some children as they may not want to watch a movie with their parents. However, this lower maturity rating also means that a broader range of youth are allowed to consume this media, meaning that this film may become more involved in their identity than others.
Love SimonBanned by the Chinese Government for LGBTQI+ themes. Queer youth in China are limited in seeing themselves represented on film, this may create conflict and struggles within their identity.

Unofficial Censorship –

  • Includes parents, media, peers, family members etc.

  • Their power extends in their micro and meso world.

  • E.g. parents may refuse to purchase or screen certain films they disagree with. may choose to not financially support access to these films (not paying for Netflix). The school needing a permission slip signed by parents in order to watch teen films.

  • This can be further influenced due to cultural or religious beliefs

  • E.g. male peer groups may discourage, or mock teen films marketed towards young girls, leading to peer pressure for individuals within that group to not consumer such popular culture.

Micro Meso Macro - Power and Authority

  • Overlaps with previous dot point above

  • there are a number of groups within the micro, meso and macro levels that have an influence in regard to their power and ability to influence a consumer’s ability to engage in teen film

PowerParents and FriendsCinema + Peer groupsSocial Media
Power + AuthorityParents and teenagers complying with censorship lawsLegislation and film rating. Banning certain films

Firstly, perceptions are our comprehension of a situation. They are a result of our selective judgement and relate to the formations of our identity (e.g. socialisation, micro/macro worlds etc).

Accept –

  • Due to the palatable nature of teen film, its continuity is well assured and relatively well accepted by a range of groups.

  • The government: teen films are accepted by the government as they are an export earner and industry that provides employment

  • Youth market: accepted as targeted towards teens and often address contemporary issues relevant to the changing nature of teens.

  • Media: accepted as a form of popular culture provides economy. In fact, a lot media is dominated by the teen film industry with heartthrobs such as Noah Centineo being extremely popular. Netflix producing a stream of teen films

Reject –

  • Rejection often stems from the forces of resistance such as:

  • Legislation (censorship, funding)

  • Protests

  • Fringe groups outside of mainstream resisting what is popular

  • Social movements (anti-capitalist, feminist, meninism)

  • Rejection usually stems from social values. For example:

  • Values against the explicitly nature of violence, sexual images, subject content

  • Older generations: may reject teen film due to cultural shock and resistance to more contemporary values of diversity and sexuality. This is evidenced in refusing permission for children to consume teen films and some even protest.

  • Politically involved audiences: may reject films such as Sierra Burgess is a Loser and After for depicting unhealthy relationships and negative stereotypes. Tall Girl for trivialising the concept of discrimination.

  • Government: rejects teen film by censoring/banning certain movies that contain values against the government regime.

  • E.g. Thai Government rejected The Hunger Games as consumers began to draw parallels between the Dystopian society with the Thai Government

Ultimately, the overall changes and variations of the perception of teen films correlates directly with its rejection and acceptance. This is relationship is in due to the acceptance and rejection of the social values portrayed within films.

Changing Perceptions and the Value of Pop Culture

Changing Perceptions of Teen Film to Groups –

  • Some perceptions of teen films like Mean girls remain consistent due to a cult following to groups such as previous teens (millennials)

  • Culture shock: generation and ethnic gap which create the shock and negative perception to mainly western teen films. They may not understand why explicit content is included and feel excluded from understanding.

  • Teens have a positive perception of teen films as opposed to older people as they have a sense of understanding and collective identity within the themes and ideas presented within them.

Changing values of Teen Film to Groups –

  • Teen film, which is often seen as a negative or childish, has been valued in schools with aspects of curriculum focusing on modern adaptations of classic tests, such as 10 Things I hate About you which is the appropriation of The Taming of the Shrew

  • Teen Film’s ability to comment/critique upon controversial topics in a palatable manner has been recently valued greatly by youths as a more serious approach to social justice issues. This is seen in Jennifer’s Body’s recent cult following by teen girls for its approach in queer themes that were previously unrecognised.

  • The commercialised value of teen films has also been of increasing interest to the marketing industry and to producers, especially with its growing success on online streaming platforms such as Netflix.

Ultimately, perceptions and the values of teen film change in relation to the groups readily available to accept them.

Gender and Pop Culture

Mean Girls (2004)Constructs gender through affirmations of pink=girl. The ditzy blonde, the self-absorbed girl rivalry over a man. Despite affirming all these gender stereotypes, it not only passes the Bechdel test, but also explores femininity in a positive and developed manner.
The Breakfast Club (1985)John Bender (the criminal) affirms stereotypes of masculinity through his reckless, brash and promiscuous attitude. Allison Reynolds (the freak) initially deconstructs gender through her weird and ‘sexually promiscuous’ personality, however her makeover at the end of the film reaffirms femininity and constructs the ‘goodness’ of being a feminine girl as opposed to her previous self. Brian (the nerd) and Andrew (the athlete) are foils of each other in terms of the portrayals of masculinity. The nerd is lacking masculinity with no experience with girls, whilst the athlete is considered the gentlemen who affirms is masculinity in his chivalry. Claire (the princess) is the stereotypes feminine female who is uptight, a virgin and pushed to be presented as self-absorbed.
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)Completely passes the Bechdel test. Kat and Bianca are complete foils of femininity, Bianca reconstructs gender by being the typical, sweet and boy hungry little sister. Kat is presented as the angry feminist who hates men and is not feminine. She reconstructs gender at the end when she is in a relationship with a man.

Contribution of Pop Culture to Social Change

Contemporary Social Values

Part of the appeal of teen film, is that it relates to the audience themselves by reflecting relevant social values and issues present within their own lives. Contemporary social values includes:

  • The impact of stereotyping

  • The expression of sexuality and the taboo of sex

  • Gender

  • Rebellion

  • Diversity

Mean Girls (2004)Expresses the contemporary values of sexuality in young girls and its impact on socialisation. The taboo of sex is continually challenged as the mean girls, Cady Heron and Regina George are hinted at ‘hooking up’ several times. Sexuality and sex are expressed as apart of the adolescent experience and are not shied away from
The Breakfast Club (1985)The limitations and impact of stereotyping is a key theme of this movie. Gender is explored and deconstructed. Each character explores rebellion as apart of their own development. This is seen when the athlete is restricted by his parents, and rebels against their expectations.
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)Kat is an open feminist whose moral code is continually commented on. Kat’s rebellion against her family comes in the form of searching for greater success. Sexuality and the sexualisation of young girls are made clear as Kat and Bianca are both victim the demand of sex by a man they trusted.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)Queer undertones between girls are made without objectification. Sexual assault is hinted at and is central to the message of trauma that guides Jennifer into her ‘eating boys’

Positive and Negative Impact

Positive –

  • Good entertainment for teens

  • Employment availability

  • Social continuity of myths and legends from the past (mean girls retelling a bantu folktale)

  • Wide access to culture

  • Illustrates the period adolescence for young people to identify with

  • Deconstructs social values and taboos

  • Provides insight into good morals

  • Shows average people that can be identified with who overcome difficulties

  • Romanticises the experience of adolescence which is often hard for teens

  • Creates collective identity with other consumers

  • Provides a sense of identity and understanding

  • Can show diversity

Negative –

  • May encourage teens to limit time outside and recklessly consume paraphernalia

  • Young people may access teen films not appropriate for their age group. May negative impact their socialisation

  • Violent or anti-social behaviours

  • False sense of reality from romanticism

  • Dangerous behaviour may be encouraged (e.g. underaged drinking)

  • May lead to false sense of identity.

Contribution to Social Change

Positive and negative aspects of popular culture become a part of society. Aspects teen film demonstrates are:

  • themes and morals (good vs bad, love and family, peers and friendship groups)

  • large companies dominating the production of films (Paramount, etc.)

  • styles of film and characters

Teen Film’s contributed to social change as:

  • making us question current beliefs

  • causing conflicts. Some groups may see diversity and be offended

  • providing a palatable platform to address taboo issues such as queer relationships, sexuality, gender, race, stereotyping etc.

  • an accessible platform for change

  • being a mechanism of social change to raise consciousness about social issues.

  • Unify teenage subcultures

Overall, teen films broaden the acceptance of social change for young people

  • White, cis, and straight dominated casts

  • Increase in commercial format of teen films (paraphernalia)

  • Increase of broader diverse audiences (mainly younger) consuming teen film

  • Increase in online streaming

  • Continue to focus on political issues

  • Slow diversifying of people represented in teen films

  • Continuity of clichés

Likely Changes –

  • Specialised industries enter production. E.g. stan, Hulu and Netflix keep making their own teen films

  • Greater access due to technology and globalisation. E.g. the introduction of Netflix to Australians

  • Increase in more innovative methods of marketing. E.g. BuzzFeed and tiktok

  • Greater representation of diversity

Probable Continuities –

  • Themes and morals of loving yourself and self-discovery. E.g. mean girls

  • American domination of the teen film industry

  • Character arcs of the gay/POC best friend

Importance of Teen Film in the near future

Teen film will continue and grow to be increasingly more popular in society in the near future. Teen film is a booming business with big companies capitalising off of it. As diverse films are more common, POC will be able to identify and find importance in films that represent their lieves as well. Social themes will be expressed. Mythologies heroes, contemporary values etc.

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