Popular culture

Remember When All You Wanted Was Your MTV? The perfect gift for the music fan or child of the eighties in your life.

Named One of the Best Books of 2011 by NPR – Spin - USA Today – CNBC - Pitchfork - The Onion - The Atlantic - The Huffington Post – VEVO - The Boston Globe - The San Francisco Chronicle

Remember the first time you saw Michael Jackson dance with zombies in "Thriller"? Diamond Dave karate kick with Van Halen in "Jump"? Tawny Kitaen turning cartwheels on a Jaguar to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again"? The Beastie Boys spray beer in "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)"? Axl Rose step off the bus in "Welcome to the Jungle"?

It was a pretty radical idea-a channel for teenagers, showing nothing but music videos. It was such a radical idea that almost no one thought it would actually succeed, much less become a force in the worlds of music, television, film, fashion, sports, and even politics. But it did work. MTV became more than anyone had ever imagined.

I Want My MTV tells the story of the first decade of MTV, the golden era when MTV's programming was all videos, all the time, and kids watched religiously to see their favorite bands, learn about new music, and have something to talk about at parties. From its start in 1981 with a small cache of videos by mostly unknown British new wave acts to the launch of the reality-television craze with The Real World in 1992, MTV grew into a tastemaker, a career maker, and a mammoth business.

Featuring interviews with nearly four hundred artists, directors, VJs, and television and music executives, I Want My MTV is a testament to the channel that changed popular culture forever.
New York Times bestseller—now a major motion picture directed by and starring James Franco!

From the actor who somehow lived through it all, a “sharply detailed…funny book about a cinematic comedy of errors” (The New York Times): the making of the cult film phenomenon The Room.

In 2003, an independent film called The Room—starring and written, produced, and directed by a mysteriously wealthy social misfit named Tommy Wiseau—made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Described by one reviewer as “like getting stabbed in the head,” the $6 million film earned a grand total of $1,800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. Years later, it’s an international cult phenomenon, whose legions of fans attend screenings featuring costumes, audience rituals, merchandising, and thousands of plastic spoons.

Hailed by The Huffington Post as “possibly the most important piece of literature ever printed,” The Disaster Artist is the hilarious, behind-the-scenes story of a deliciously awful cinematic phenomenon as well as the story of an odd and inspiring Hollywood friendship. Actor Greg Sestero, Tommy’s costar and longtime best friend, recounts the film’s bizarre journey to infamy, unraveling mysteries for fans (like, who is Steven? And what’s with that hospital on Guerrero Street?)—as well as the most important question: how the hell did a movie this awful ever get made? But more than just a riotously funny story about cinematic hubris, “The Disaster Artist is one of the most honest books about friendship I’ve read in years” (Los Angeles Times).
Bring on the Books for Everybody is an engaging assessment of the robust popular literary culture that has developed in the United States during the past two decades. Jim Collins describes how a once solitary and print-based experience has become an exuberantly social activity, enjoyed as much on the screen as on the page. Fueled by Oprah’s Book Club, Miramax film adaptations, superstore bookshops, and new technologies such as the Kindle digital reader, literary fiction has been transformed into best-selling, high-concept entertainment. Collins highlights the infrastructural and cultural changes that have given rise to a flourishing reading public at a time when the future of the book has been called into question. Book reading, he claims, has not become obsolete; it has become integrated into popular visual media.

Collins explores how digital technologies and the convergence of literary, visual, and consumer cultures have changed what counts as a “literary experience” in phenomena ranging from lush film adaptations such as The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love to the customer communities at Amazon. Central to Collins’s analysis and, he argues, to contemporary literary culture, is the notion that refined taste is now easily acquired; it is just a matter of knowing where to access it and whose advice to trust. Using recent novels, he shows that the redefined literary landscape has affected not just how books are being read, but also what sort of novels are being written for these passionate readers. Collins connects literary bestsellers from The Jane Austen Book Club and Literacy and Longing in L.A. to Saturday and The Line of Beauty, highlighting their depictions of fictional worlds filled with avid readers and their equations of reading with cultivated consumer taste.

A Chicago Tribune Noteworthy Book
A GoodReads Reader's Choice

In One Summer Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life.

The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.
     All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.
When Alina Simone agreed to write a book about Madonna, she thought it might provide an interesting excuse to indulge her own eighties nostalgia. Wrong. What Simone discovered instead was a tidal wave of already published information about Madonna—and her own ambivalence about, maybe even jealousy of, the Material Girl's overwhelming commercial success. With the straight-ahead course stymied, Simone set off on a quirky detour through the backroads of celebrity and fandom and the people who love or loathe Madonna.

In this witty, sometimes acerbic, always perceptive chronicle, Simone begins by trying to understand why Madonna's birthplace, Bay City, Michigan, won't even put up a sign to celebrate its most famous citizen, and ends by asking why local bands who make music that's authentic and true can disappear with barely a trace. In between, she ranges from Madonna fans who cover themselves with tattoos of the singer's face and try to make fortunes off selling her used bustiers and dresses, to Question Mark and the Mysterians—one-hit wonders best known for "96 Tears"—and Flying Wedge, a Detroit band that dropped off an amazing two-track record in the office of CREEM magazine in 1972 and vanished, until Simone tracked it down.

Filled with fresh insights about the music business, fandom, and what it takes to become a superstar, Madonnaland is as much a book for people who, like Simone, prefer "dark rooms, coffee, and state-subsidized European films filled with existential despair" as it is for people who can't get enough of Madonna.

In Popular Culture and Everyday Life Phillip Vannini and Dennis Waskul have brought together a variety of short essays that illustrate the many ways that popular culture intersects with mundane experiences of everyday life. Most essays are written in a reflexive ethnographic style, primarily through observation and personal narrative, to convey insights at an intimate level that will resonate with most readers. Some of the topics are so mundane they are legitimately universal (sleeping, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, etc.), others are common enough that most readers will directly identify in some way (watching television, using mobile phones, playing video games, etc.), while some topics will appeal more-or-less depending on a reader’s gender, interests, and recreational pastimes (putting on makeup, watching the Super Bowl, homemaking, etc.). This book will remind readers of their own similar experiences, provide opportunities to reflect upon them in new ways, as well as compare and contrast how experiences relayed in these pages relate to lived experiences. The essays will easily translate into rich and lively classroom discussions that shed new light on a familiar, taken-for-granted everyday life—both individually and collectively.

At the beginning of the book, the authors have provided a grid that shows the topics and themes that each article touches on. This book is for popular culture classes, and will also be an asset in courses on the sociology of everyday life, ethnography, and social psychology.

Why does our popular culture seem so consistently hostile to the values that most Americans hold dear? Why does the entertainment industry attack religion, glorify brutality, undermine the family, and deride patriotism?

In this explosive book, one of the nation's best known film critics examines how Hollywood has broken faith with its public, creating movies, television, and popular music that exacerbate every serious social problem we face, from teenage pregnancies to violence in the streets.

Michael Medved powerfully argues that the entertainment business follows its own dark obsessions, rather than giving the public what it wants: In fact, the audience for feature films and network television has demonstrated its profound disillusionment in recent years, with disastrous consequences for many entertainment companies. Meanwhile, overwhelming numbers of our fellow citizens complain about the wretched quality of our popular culture--describing the offerings of the mass media as the worst ever. Medved asserts that Hollywood ignores--and assaults--the values of ordinary American families, pursuing a self-destructive and alienated ideological agenda that is harmful to the nation at large and to the industry's own interests.

In hard-hitting chapters on "The Attack on Religion," "The Addiction to Violence," "Promoting Promiscuity," "The Infatuation with Foul Language," "Kids Know Best," "Motivations for Madness," and other subjects, Medved outlines the underlying themes that turn up again and again in our popular culture. He also offers conclusive evidence of the frightening real-world impact of these messages on our society and our children.

Finally, Medved shows where and how Hollywood took a disastrous wrong turn toward its current crisis, and he outlines promising efforts both in and outside the industry to restore a measure of sanity and restraint to our media of mass entertainment.

Sure to elicit strong response, whether it takes the form of cheers of support or howls of enraged dissent, Hollywood vs. America confronts head-on one of the most significant issues of our times.

After a bestselling and acclaimed diversion into fiction, Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, returns to the form in which he’s been spectacularly successful with a collection of essays about our consumption of pop culture and sports.

Q: What is this book about?

A: Well, that’s difficult to say. I haven’t read it yet—I’ve just picked it up and casually glanced at the back cover. There clearly isn’t a plot. I’ve heard there’s a lot of stuff about time travel in this book, and quite a bit about violence and Garth Brooks and why Germans don’t laugh when they’re inside grocery stores. Ralph Nader and Ralph Sampson play significant roles. I think there are several pages about Rear Window and college football and Mad Men and why Rivers Cuomo prefers having sex with Asian women. Supposedly there’s a chapter outlining all the things the Unabomber was right about, but perhaps I’m misinformed.

Q: Is there a larger theme?

A: Oh, something about reality. “What is reality,” maybe? No, that’s not it. Not exactly. I get the sense that most of the core questions dwell on the way media perception constructs a fake reality that ends up becoming more meaningful than whatever actually happened. Also, Lady Gaga.

Q: Should I read this book?

A: Probably. Do you see a clear relationship between the Branch Davidian disaster and the recording of Nirvana’s In Utero? Does Barack Obama make you want to drink Pepsi? Does ABBA remind you of AC/DC? If so, you probably don’t need to read this book. You probably wrote this book. But I suspect everybody else will totally love it, except for the ones who totally hate it.
They love nothing better than sipping free-trade gourmet coffee, leafing through the Sunday New York Times, and listening to David Sedaris on NPR (ideally all at the same time). Apple products, indie music, food co-ops, and vintage T-shirts make them weak in the knees.

They believe they’re unique, yet somehow they’re all exactly the same, talking about how they “get” Sarah Silverman’s “subversive” comedy and Wes Anderson’s “droll” films. They’re also down with diversity and up on all the best microbrews, breakfast spots, foreign cinema, and authentic sushi. They’re organic, ironic, and do not own TVs.

You know who they are: They’re white people. And they’re here, and you’re gonna have to deal. Fortunately, here’s a book that investigates, explains, and offers advice for finding social success with the Caucasian persuasion. So kick back on your IKEA couch and lose yourself in the ultimate guide to the unbearable whiteness of being.

Praise for STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE:

“The best of a hilarious Web site: an uncannily accurate catalog of dead-on predilections. The Criterion Collection of classic films? Haircuts with bangs? Expensive fruit juice? ‘Blonde on Blonde’ on the iPod? The author knows who reads The New Yorker and who wears plaid.”
–Janet Maslin’s summer picks, CBS.com

“The author of "Stuff White People Like" skewers the sacred cows of lefty Caucasian culture, from the Prius to David Sedaris. . . . It gently mocks the habits and pretensions of urbane, educated, left-leaning whites, skewering their passion for Barack Obama and public transportation (as long as it's not a bus), their idle threats to move to Canada, and joy in playing children's games as adults. Kickball, anyone?”
–Salon.com

“A handy reference guide with which you can check just how white you are. Hint: If you like only documentaries and think your child is gifted, you glow in the dark, buddy.”
–NY Daily News
Over half a million copies sold!
From the author of the highly acclaimed heavy metal memoir, Fargo Rock City, comes another hilarious and discerning take on massively popular culture—set in Chuck Klosterman’s den and your own—covering everything from the effect of John Cusack flicks to the crucial role of breakfast cereal to the awesome power of the Dixie Chicks.

Countless writers and artists have spoken for a generation, but no one has done it quite like Chuck Klosterman. With an exhaustive knowledge of popular culture and an almost effortless ability to spin brilliant prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks the entire spectrum of postmodern America: reality TV, Internet porn, Pamela Anderson, literary Jesus freaks, and the real difference between apples and oranges (of which there is none). And don’t even get him started on his love life and the whole Harry-Met-Sally situation.

Whether deconstructing Saved by the Bell episodes or the artistic legacy of Billy Joel, the symbolic importance of The Empire Strikes Back or the Celtics/Lakers rivalry, Chuck will make you think, he’ll make you laugh, and he’ll drive you insane—usually all at once. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is ostensibly about art, entertainment, infotainment, sports, politics, and kittens, but—really—it’s about us. All of us. As Klosterman realizes late at night, in the moment before he falls asleep, “In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever ‘in and of itself.’” Read to believe.
The practices of world politics are now scrutinised in a way that is unprecedented, with even those previously – or conventionally assumed to be – disengaged from international affairs being drawn into world politics by social media. Interactive websites allow users to follow election results in real-time from the other side of the world, and online mapping means that the world ‘out there’ is now available on your mobile phone. Understanding Popular Culture and World Politics in the Digital Age engages these themes in contemporary world politics, to better understand how digital communication through new media technologies changes our encounters with the world.

Whether the focus is digital media, social networking or user-generated content, these sites of political activity and the artefacts they produce have much to tell us about how we engage world politics in the contemporary age. This volume represents the starting point of a dialogue about how digital technologies are beginning to impact the research and practice of scholars and practitioners in the field of International Relations, with the collection of cutting-edge essays dealing specifically with the intertextuality of world politics and digital popular culture.

This book will be of use to International Relations research academics (and critically engaged publics) interested in the core themes of global politics – subjectivity, militarism, humanitarianism, civil society organisation, and governance. The book also employs theories and techniques closely associated with other social science disciplines, including political theory, sociology, cultural studies and media studies.

It is often said that the poet Homer "educated" ancient Greece. Joseph J. Foy and Timothy M. Dale have assembled a team of notable scholars who argue, quite persuasively, that Homer Simpson and his ilk are educating America and offering insights into the social order and the human condition.

Following Homer Simpson Goes to Washington (winner of the John G. Cawelti Award for Best Textbook or Primer on American and Popular Culture) and Homer Simpson Marches on Washington, this exceptional volume reveals how books like J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, movies like Avatar and Star Wars, and television shows like The Office and Firefly define Americans' perceptions of society. The authors expand the discussion to explore the ways in which political theories play out in popular culture. Homer Simpson Ponders Politics includes a foreword by fantasy author Margaret Weis (coauthor/creator of the Dragonlance novels and game world) and is divided according to eras and themes in political thought: The first section explores civic virtue, applying the work of Plato and Aristotle to modern media. Part 2 draws on the philosophy of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Smith as a framework for understanding the role of the state. Part 3 explores the work of theorists such as Kant and Marx, and the final section investigates the ways in which movies and newer forms of electronic media either support or challenge the underlying assumptions of the democratic order. The result is an engaging read for undergraduate students as well as anyone interested in popular culture.

One-of-a-kind cultural critic and New York Times bestselling author Chuck Klosterman “offers up great facts, interesting cultural insights, and thought-provoking moral calculations in this look at our love affair with the anti-hero” (New York magazine).

Chuck Klosterman, “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine, has walked into the darkness. In I Wear the Black Hat, he questions the modern understanding of villainy. When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying, and why are we so obsessed with saying it? How does the culture of malevolence operate? What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O.J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by some kid he knew for one week in 1985?

Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). As the Los Angeles Times notes: “By underscoring the contradictory, often knee-jerk ways we encounter the heroes and villains of our culture, Klosterman illustrates the passionate but incomplete computations that have come to define American culture—and maybe even American morality.” I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny.
Latina/o popular culture has experienced major growth and change with the expanding demographic of Latina/os in mainstream media. In The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Pop Culture, contributors pay serious critical attention to all facets of Latina/o popular culture including TV, films, performance art, food, lowrider culture, theatre, photography, dance, pulp fiction, music, comic books, video games, news, web, and digital media, healing rituals, quinceñeras, and much more.

Features include:

consideration of differences between pop culture made by and about Latina/os;

comprehensive and critical analyses of various pop cultural forms;

concrete and detailed treatments of major primary works from children’s television to representations of dia de los muertos;

new perspectives on the political, social, and historical dynamic of Latina/o pop culture;

Chapters select, summarize, explain, contextualize and assess key critical interpretations, perspectives, developments and debates in Latina/o popular cultural studies. A vitally engaging and informative volume, this compliation of wide-ranging case studies in Latina/o pop culture phenomena encourages scholars and students to view Latina/o pop culture within the broader study of global popular culture.

Contributors: Stacey Alex, Cecilia Aragon, Mary Beltrán, William A. Calvo-Quirós, Melissa Castillo-Garsow, Nicholas Centino, Ben Chappell, Fabio Chee, Osvaldo Cleger, David A. Colón, Marivel T. Danielson, Laura Fernández, Camilla Fojas, Kathryn M. Frank, Enrique García, Christopher González, Rachel González-Martin, Matthew David Goodwin, Ellie D. Hernandez, Jorge Iber, Guisela Latorre, Stephanie Lewthwaite, Richard Alexander Lou, Stacy I. Macías, Desirée Martin, Paloma Martínez-Cruz, Pancho McFarland, Cruz Medina, Isabel Millán, Amelia María de la Luz Montes, William Anthony Nericcio, William Orchard, Rocío Isabel Prado, Ryan Rashotte, Cristina Rivera, Gabriella Sanchez, Ilan Stavans

Frederick Luis Aldama

is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at the Ohio State University where he is also founder and director of LASER and the Humanities & Cognitive Sciences High School Summer Institute. He is author, co-author, and editor of over 24 books, including the Routledge Concise History of Latino/a Literature and Latino/a Literature in the Classroom.
Globalization is usually thought of as the worldwide spread of Western—particularly American—popular culture. Yet if one nation stands out in the dissemination of pop culture in East and Southeast Asia, it is Japan. Pokémon, anime, pop music, television dramas such as Tokyo Love Story and Long Vacation—the export of Japanese media and culture is big business. In Recentering Globalization, Koichi Iwabuchi explores how Japanese popular culture circulates in Asia. He situates the rise of Japan’s cultural power in light of decentering globalization processes and demonstrates how Japan’s extensive cultural interactions with the other parts of Asia complicate its sense of being "in but above" or "similar but superior to" the region.

Iwabuchi has conducted extensive interviews with producers, promoters, and consumers of popular culture in Japan and East Asia. Drawing upon this research, he analyzes Japan’s "localizing" strategy of repackaging Western pop culture for Asian consumption and the ways Japanese popular culture arouses regional cultural resonances. He considers how transnational cultural flows are experienced differently in various geographic areas by looking at bilateral cultural flows in East Asia. He shows how Japanese popular music and television dramas are promoted and understood in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and how "Asian" popular culture (especially Hong Kong’s) is received in Japan.

Rich in empirical detail and theoretical insight, Recentering Globalization is a significant contribution to thinking about cultural globalization and transnationalism, particularly in the context of East Asian cultural studies.

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