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Popular Culture

This guide offers library resources for effective research on pop culture.


The term pop culture gets thrown around a lot, but do you know what it actually means? Pop culture refers to popular culture which is aimed at the younger generation and transmitted via the mass media. Popular culture is essentially a set of beliefs, values, actions, objects, or goods and practices that are popular at any given time and space in society. It can refer to things like art, literature, fashion, dance, film, television, magazines and ways of living to name a few.

Essentialy Pop

Decorative image: :Pop Culture Connects Us" text.

Image Credit: MoPop

Pop culture has several positive impacts on our society:

  1. Promotion of Diversity and Inclusivity: Pop culture often celebrates diversity, breaking down stereotypes and promoting inclusivity. Through various forms of media, it showcases characters and stories from different backgrounds, encouraging tolerance and understanding among different groups.

  2. Social Awareness: Pop culture can raise awareness about important social issues. TV shows, movies, and music often address topics like discrimination, mental health, and environmental concerns, sparking discussions and encouraging positive change.

  3. Inspiration and Aspiration: Pop culture can inspire individuals to pursue their passions and dreams. Seeing successful people in the entertainment industry or other fields can motivate others to strive for success and personal growth.

  4. Community Building: It provides a sense of community and belonging. Fandoms and fan communities formed around popular books, movies, TV series, and video games allow people to connect, share their interests, and build supportive networks.

  5. Creativity and Innovation: Pop culture encourages creativity and innovation. It inspires artists, writers, musicians, and designers to create new works and push the boundaries of their respective fields.

  6. Economic Growth: The entertainment industry, a significant part of pop culture, contributes to economic growth by providing jobs, tourism, and revenue. It supports countless careers in various creative and technical fields.

  7. Cultural Exchange: Pop culture fosters cultural exchange. As it spreads globally, it allows people from different cultures to learn about and appreciate each other's traditions, customs, and art forms.

  8. Entertainment and Stress Relief: Pop culture serves as a source of entertainment and stress relief for people. It provides an escape from the demands of everyday life, offering comfort and relaxation.

  9. Charitable Initiatives: Celebrities often use their popularity to support charitable causes, raising funds and awareness for various social issues.

  10. Education and Learning: Pop culture can be an educational tool. Educational programs and documentaries inspired by pop culture can make learning engaging and accessible.

In summary, pop culture brings positivity to our society by promoting diversity, raising awareness of important issues, inspiring individuals, fostering creativity, and contributing to economic growth. It has the power to unite people, encourage positive change, and provide enjoyment in our daily lives.

Pop culture, while often entertaining and influential, can also have negative effects on society. Here are some of the adverse impacts:

  1. Reinforcement of Stereotypes: Pop culture can perpetuate stereotypes based on race, gender, sexuality, and other characteristics. These stereotypes can lead to discrimination, bias, and a lack of understanding among different groups within society.

  2. Desensitization to Violence: Excessive exposure to violent content in pop culture, such as in movies, video games, and music, can desensitize individuals to real-world violence and lead to a more tolerant attitude toward aggression.

  3. Erosion of Privacy: Celebrity culture and reality TV can contribute to a culture of voyeurism and intrusion into the private lives of individuals. This can have severe consequences for the mental health and well-being of those in the public eye.

  4. Consumerism and Materialism: Pop culture often promotes consumerism, encouraging people to prioritize the acquisition of material possessions. This can lead to overspending, debt, and a focus on material wealth at the expense of other values.

  5. Erosion of Cultural Values: In some cases, pop culture can undermine traditional cultural values and norms, leading to a loss of cultural identity and cohesion within societies.

  6. Influence on Risky Behaviors: Certain elements of pop culture can glamorize risky behaviors such as drug use, excessive drinking, or dangerous stunts. This can lead to real-world consequences, particularly among impressionable youth.

  7. Body Image Issues: Unrealistic beauty standards promoted by pop culture, especially in the fashion and entertainment industries, can contribute to body image issues, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.

  8. Privacy and Surveillance Concerns: The rise of social media and reality TV has raised concerns about privacy and surveillance. People may willingly share personal information online, leading to privacy breaches and potential exploitation.

  9. Political Polarization: Pop culture can sometimes reinforce political divisions by promoting certain ideologies or silencing opposing viewpoints. This can contribute to polarization and social discord.

  10. Short Attention Spans: The rapid pace of pop culture, with its constant influx of new content and information, can contribute to shorter attention spans and reduced ability to engage in deep, meaningful conversations or activities.

In conclusion, while pop culture has many positive aspects, it also has the potential to negatively impact society in various ways. It is important for individuals and society as a whole to critically analyze and balance the influences of pop culture to mitigate these adverse effects.

Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by popular culture. Whether it is the movies and shows we watch, the art, comics, and books we read, the toys and video games we play with, or the clothes we wear. We just can’t seem to get away from it. Why are we influenced by pop culture?

It's How We Express Ourselves

The way we interact with pop culture says a lot about us! When you show interest in something from pop culture, it shows what you value as an individual! Pop culture has a real effect on your everyday life, and how you see yourself in relation to others.

Pop Culture Encourages Conversation

Even if you haven’t seen it, you probably know something about your parents’ favorite show or movie from when they were growing up. They’ve probably brought it up dozens of times, because they cherish those memories. 

That goes the same for people you might not know well, like people at your school or place of work. You might not know a person very well, but there’s a good chance that they’ve seen the newest superhero movie, or played the latest popular video game. Your knowledge of those pieces of pop culture gives you something to talk about with someone who would otherwise be a stranger. Pop culture has the power to start conversations and build your relationships with your family and friends.

Pop Culture Keeps Us Moving

When new books, movies and games come out, you’re exposed to new ideas, new stories, new characters and even new writers and artists who bring their own experiences into pop culture. That means you have new experiences all the time, which makes you more aware of what’s going on in the world around you. Every day is a new opportunity to discover something new that you love!

Never Stop Asking "Why" Blog, Indianapolis Children's Museum

           “Popular culture represents a common denominator, something that cuts across most

           economic, social and educational barriers.”- Edward Jay Whetmore

When people hear the words popular culture, they may instinctively think of their favorite band, their favorite TV show, their favorite movie and any other number of pop culture references that have become a part of our national identity. Pop culture is important in American society because it provides us with a unique national culture; it helps to bridge our many differences and provides us with some commonality in a society that is so diverse.

Part of the broad appeal of popular culture is that it is a shared experience with other members of society and sharing these experiences connect us. It builds and strengthens interactions with people who are into the same kind of things.

LA Public Library Blog

Pop culture keeps changing from generation to generation and has a pronounced effect on the youth because youth is more attuned with social media which in today’s age is the most powerful tool in disseminating culture in general. Pop culture gives youth a lot of avenues to explore. It helps people express their identity better. Youth are driven towards or attracted to pop culture because it makes them stand against the crowd. For someone who may experience difficulty in figuring out their own identity, they can express themselves in terms of a character or icon they relate to. Social media and blogs are full of people who have spoken about pop culture icons and characters helping them accept themselves and come out of the closet. On a more personal level, pop culture helps people grow and be more accepting considering the vast amount of representation throughout the various genres in pop cultures.

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Suggested Websites


Teens and social media: Key findings from Pew Research Center surveys | Pew Research Center

Internet Archive

A digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. 

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Our mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities.

Pop Culture Madness

An entertainment news network that provides pop culture news and information about pop culture media.


The leading modern media company. We guide our audience from discovery to obsession. We inspire essential conversations about what's now, what's next, and what's possible.



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