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Lesson 9 – Subcultures and Comic Books Robert Wonser.

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1 Lesson 9 – Subcultures and Comic Books Robert Wonser

2 Variations within a Culture The dominant culture refers to the values, norms, and practices of the group within society that is most powerful in terms of wealth, prestige, status, and influence. A subculture is a group within society that is differentiated by its distinctive values, norms, and lifestyle. A counterculture is a group within society that openly rejects and/or actively opposes society ’ s values and norms.

3 Subcultures Specifically Prefix ‘sub’ is telling; implies subaltern or subterranean, below Commonalities: 1)Groups studied as subcultures are often positioned by themselves or others as deviant or debased 2)Labeled as subculture implies lower down the social ladder due to social differences of class, race, ethnicity and age.

4 Preconditions for the Emergence of Subcultures Youth is a social construct, adolescence and teenagers are new ideas Youth – a stage of life defined as entailing a “psychosocial moratorium” from adult responsibilities and thus enables experimentation with identity—a product of the economic development and affluence of Western societies in the twentieth century Made possible because of extended higher ed, postponement of work, birth control  Youth as an “in- between” phase of the life cycle free of most adult responsibilities and free of many (but not all) child restrictions

5 Only in Context Could only emerge in the specific context in which they did: First, a dominant, mass culture had to exist to rebel against This dominant culture was a product of middle class post-war affluence and many subcultures are products of the declining middle class and the identity crisis that ensues afterward Intrinsically linked with our consumerist society; eventually it is exposed as vapid and unable to satiate individual desires for identity fulfillment  how unique are you when you like what everyone else likes? Where to turn? Subcultures. They offer identity; most importantly, authentic identity partially defined in terms of its opposition to the mainstream culture’s values and products. In this respect identity formation is linked to consumption. Subcultures attempt to provide an authentic identity for its adherents in the face of an increasingly vapid society

6 ‘The Other’ to who? To middle class culture. Identity was forged through lifestyle. The middle class lifestyle used to be available to many people, as it shrank it left a void where youth could no longer expect a middle class lifestyle as jobs moved overseas and neoliberal policies take hold. Many subcultures’ find new values or expressions against this unobtainable culture. Gap between the expectations created by an individualistic culture and the reality of a declining middle class is especially acute for the younger generations

7 Punk The term ‘punk’ was used because it “seemed to sum up the thread that connected everything we liked—drunk, obnoxious, smart but not pretentious, absurd, funny, ironic, and things that appealed to the darker side.” – Legs McNeil Emerged during recession in NYC and after neoliberal (theory that champions privatization and condemns state intervention in the free market) policies decimated the city Emergence of punk as a response to the demise of rock and the failure of sixties utopianism

8 Carinvalesque Punk Punk rockers took the carnival spectacle even further The ritualistic violation of social symbols and the glorification of indecency part and parcel of their stage acts. Like carnival jesters, punk rockers were “lords of misrule” celebrating everything viewed as unconventional and vulgar, and parodying social norms through their dress, language, and overall demeanor; the carnivalesque elements were intentionally explicit in punk rock. Punks aimed to confuse, parody, satirize the mainstream, and to glorify vulgarity, in much the same way as did commedia dell’arte characters in public squares, and as did jesters or clowns at carnival time. Rage, horror and comedy were united in punk and continue to be part of some genres of pop culture Sex Pistols – “Fuck Forever!” referring to sex as an animal act, vomited onstage, wore garbage bags held together with safety pins, urination, defecation, drunkenness and so on. Profane rituals and theatrical put-downs of sacred images that are understood as authoritarian and rigidly moral. Sex Pistols made fun of the British monarchy, and government, the human body, multinational corporations, and other forms of rock.

9 The Irony and Resurgence of Punk Punk was seen as authentic in its opposition to mainstream music and society  this was precisely how it was later co-opted and marketed as a form of rebellion Be different, buy this!

10 Style Subcultures take on a spectacular form by appropriating commodities and using them in innovative and unintended ways that assign them new, subversive meanings in the process of creating style. Subculture participants still seek identity through their subcultures based on authenticity and difference from an imagined “mainstream” but a post-fordist view of capitalism blurs the boundary between subculture and popular culture increasingly threatening these identities. How do punks manage this crisis of identity?

11 Different Punk Identities

12 Straight Edge Hardcore had a lot in common with the conservative political climate of the 1980s from which it emerged (cynical and antisocial). –“just say no” The death of idealism Sobriety and abstinence as nonconformity DYI allowed the transition from only being a spectator to full participant Highly fundamental in their approach Like fundamentalism, straightedge strongly appears to doctrinaire young men who think in binary categories and have little tolerance for ambiguity

13 Heavy Metal Emerged amid deindustrialization during the 70s and 80s Contributed to the polarization of social classes but also has been experienced as a crisis in masculinity. Job losses and downward mobility caused by deindustrialization have emasculated working-class men by displacing notions of the “breadwinner ethic” that was romanticized during the 50s and 60s. Coincided with other societal changes: increased women in the workforce and visibility of the feminist movement. Many men interpreted this as a threat to their privileged position In recent decades these “angry white males” directed their anger towards relatively powerless groups like racial minorities, women, immigrants and gays rather than at corporations and the wealthy

14 Working Class Masculinity Fit into working class culture that had an ongoing tradition of rebelliousness and a deep mistrust of middle class ideology of meritocracy and deferred gratification Deeply contradictory subculture; pride in rebelliousness but otherwise adhered to very conventional ideas about gender, race and sexuality Used to be somewhat functional: the socialization into a rebellious lifestyle of working class boys ensured failure in the school system and lack of social mobility while their investment in masculinity prepared them for manual labor. Not functional when the manufacturing jobs have left the economy Themes of power alienation and violence In its extreme image consciousness, vulgar materialism and individualistic ideology, glam metal was a perfect complement ot Reagan’s America.

15 Reification in Heavy Metal Music To reify – to make real In this case, the oppression felt by societal changes that were hard to identify the source were reified into 3 themes: –Power as demonic or supernatural –Displacement of power into ancient mythology and history –Fetishism of commodities and spectacles that signify power

16 Indie Music Encouraged by the internet In some ways the democratization began with ‘grunge’ music, epitomized by Nirvana. –Simplistic, easy to play yet also memorable Pop music as of late has followed this trend of do-it-yourself (DIY). The current fragmentation and uncertain future of pop culture is a key topic in contemporary pop culture studies.

17 Smells Like Teen Spirit Culmination of the socially outrage yet cynically resigned structure of feeling. “entire song is made up of contradictory ideas” – Cobain Revolution might be necessary but not likely given his peers consumer-induced apathy (“here we are now/entertain us”) Represented the sound of the middle class declining and resigning … Apathy was probably founded: first generation to experience a lower standard of living than their parents and had developed an ironic style of consuming popular culture as a consequence of prolonged exposure to media and advertising.

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