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Pop Culture in Movies: How Far Can It Get?

To speak about the pop culture of any country one should distinguish the definition of this term. The Longman dictionary of contemporary English presents such an explanation: pop culture is music, films, products etc. in a particular society that are familiar to and popular with most ordinary people in that society (Pop culture).

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The theme of pop culture and its impact on people remains rather noteworthy to discuss. On the one hand, any pop culture includes history, mentality, inner world, habits and traditions of the nation where it firstly appeared. On the other hand, spreading the territories of other countries, pop culture of one nation becomes international pop culture.

LeRoy (2006) notices that “the role of entertainment had never been greater or more important. The flood of popular culture images and sounds reached unprecedented levels, as advertisements, talk shows, hundreds of cable television channels, music, magazines, and games suffused American life” (p. 441).

The society where popular culture and mass media sources are the most powerful and the most significant institutions is described by postmodern theory. The goal of this theory is to recognize a media-saturated society. Moreover, nowadays the distinction between phenomena of pop culture and art becomes less explicit. Another moment to be noticed here is the intersection of pop culture and art becoming prevalent more and more.

Strinati (2004) says that “this point argues that present and future expansions, constrictions and concentrations of time and space have led to increasing confusion and incoherence in social senses of space and time , in our maps of the places where we live, and our ideas about the times by which we organize our lives”(p.214).

This postmodern idea of pop culture is exactly highlighted in the famous American movie Back to the Future. Firstly, this picture attracts the viewer by dynamic plot, catchy music, comical characters and situations, captivating special effects. But behind the funny romantic plot hides the deep philosophical idea. This so-called time travelling represents some discomfort of human present and uncertainty about the future, implying the longing for the past. Another idea that contemporary mass media dominance results in spontaneity of global time and space is observed between the lines of the plot. It means that the idea of previously coordinated and determined time and distance becomes confused and twisted. All-embracing flow of money, pop culture and various information breaks all evident time borders and defined distances of geographical space. The velocity and volume of present-day mass communication, the easiness with which this information comes to people, make space and time less continual and understandable but more confused and coordinated.

Denby (1985) emphasizes that “the past is the chrysalis of the present, but in this movie, the present, when confronted by the past, seems not a fulfillment but a falling away. The picture has been made with a shrewd, satirical eye for the sadness of American “progress” (p. 65).

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The central idea that popular culture and mass media sources are the most powerful and the most significant institutions is proved in another outstanding American movie The Truman Show. But in spite of the fact that mass media achievements and scientific inventions are present in this picture, the key idea of the movie is different.

The Truman Show is a bitter satire on such popular American reality TV-shows as Survivor, Dancing With the Stars, X-factor, clones of which successfully conquered the whole world. But as opposed to TV-shows mentioned above, which aimed to enlarge borders of pop culture and inspire ordinary people to show their talents, The Truman Show is intended to reveal fake and engineered life, created in order to entertain other people.

Truman is the protagonist. He lives his life as an ordinary man. He has work, family, beloved girl. But he is the only person who has no the slightest idea about the artificial world he lives in. Even the most emotional moments of his life are directed by TV-show organizers. It is a pity to recognize, but Truman becomes a marionette in insatiable jaws of contemporary show business and stupid people whose only desire is to get bread and circuses.

The trajectory of the screen play is more or less inevitable: Truman must gradually realize the truth of his environment and try to escape from it. It’s clever the way he’s kept on his island by implanted traumas about travel and water. As the story unfolds, however, we’re not simply expected to follow it: we’re invited to think about the implications. About a world in which modern communications make celebrity possible, and inhuman (Ebert p. 794).

In conclusion I would like to say that in spite of the fact that the movies Back to the Future and The Truman Show have different plots, they deal with similar theme: the impact of pop culture and mass media on human life.

The Back to the Future film proved the fact of mass-media dominance in almost all spheres of life. It highlighted that the development of new technologies and their application goes on faster than time does by. The Truman Show confirmed the thought of powerful mass media resources as well. But this film also revealed the bitter truth of the destruction of human identity by their concerning other problems and emotions.

Both movies proved: pop culture can get very far.

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Reference List

Denby, D. (1985). Time warp. New York Magazine, 27(18). New York Media, LLC

Ebert, R. (2008). Roger Ebert’s Four Star Reviews 1967-2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing.

LeRoy, A. (2006). With amusement for all: a history of American popular culture since 1830. University Press of Kentucky.

Pop culture. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Web.

Strinati, D. (2004). An introduction to theories of popular culture. Routledge.

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