CAE Reading and Use of English Part 6
You are going to read four extracts from introductions to books on popular culture. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The extracts may be chosen more than once.
An introduction to popular culture
Four writers summarise their beliefs about various aspects of popular culture
The whole concept of ‘popular culture’ is a relatively modern one and as a phenomenon it is key to the understanding of any modern society. Earnest studies on the subject are abound and indeed there are whole branches of academia dedicated to research and theories on the topic, but in many cases what these do is over-complicate something that is in reality a relatively simple matter. Popular culture springs from small groups of like-minded people getting together with new ideas and then it spreads out to the population at large if they find these ideas appealing. Much of it relates to the young and for them it gives a happy sense of being separate from other generations and therefore ‘special’ in some way.
Popular culture may once have sprung from the people themselves, and indeed this was the original definition of the term for many experts, but it is naïve to consider that this remains the case. Instead, it has become something imposed on the public from on high, a business commodity that merely pretends to have its roots in the creativity of ‘the people’ but in fact is simply a money-making enterprise like any other. What people choose to buy and consume in the area of popular culture speaks volumes about their society and is a main indicator of what that society is like. This is especially true in the area of ‘youth culture’, where the young gain a sense of self and of belonging via shared tastes and possessions. Studies of popular culture tend to focus on the more exciting aspects and to ignore the more mundane, which ironically are often the most interesting.
To summarise it briefly, popular culture is developed by the people for the people and when it has become popular enough, commodified for profit by the business world. Studies of popular culture have proliferated over the years, and experts in the field have developed their own vocabulary and criteria for analysing it. These studies often stress the social aspects rather than the commercial ones. For the younger participants in popular culture, these issues are irrelevant, as what they get from it is a sense of identifying with a particular contemporary group, a comforting sense of community. They are disinclined to analyse this themselves. It is worth remembering, however, that at any age, popular culture is often a minority interest – today’s media like to give the impression that the vast majority of people are swept up in it whereas this is frequently not the case.
If ordinary members of the public were to read most of the worthy studies of popular culture that academics produce, they would find them overblown and ridiculous in taking such everyday and essentially trivial things so seriously. In the media, excitable journalists and experts exaggerate the importance to most people of the current popular culture phenomena, which in reality do not much occupy the minds of most people. The one area where these observations may not hold true, however, is among the young, where popular culture can have undue influence, encouraging them to acquire unrealistic ideas about how they can live their lives and therefore potentially having a damaging effect on their futures. One of the more interesting aspects of popular culture for all ages is its unpredictability – a new phenomenon can suddenly emerge that grips a section of society and that takes the commercial world entirely by surprise, forcing it to react swiftly to keep up and to capitalise on that latest phenomenon.
Which writer …
37 takes a similar view to writer A on studies of popular culture?
38 differs from the others on what causes popular culture to arise?
39 shares writer B’s opinion on the significance of popular culture?
40 has a different opinion from the others on the impact of popular culture on young people?