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It gets people’s attention…

<ne of his many brilliant sketches a couple of years ago, John Oliver stated, “If you ever want to do something evil, put it in something boring,” using the hypothetical example of Apple putting the entire manuscript of Mein Kampf within its user agreement. I mean, they might actually do this. Unless you have actually read the entire user agreement (if you have, email me and I’ll buy you Sayles food), you cannot deny this idea.

Let’s hope that Apple does not have Naziism in mind. However, my point is that people generally only pay attention to information presented in an interesting way. Regardless of the information’s ideology and morals, people will only look at it if they like the format. If the presentation is especially appealing, their opinions may even change as a result. These conditions are the reason pop culture has been able to create tangible political change.

Upon its release, Beyoncé’s Lemonade prompted further public consideration about the intersection of race and gender identity in modern America, in specific regards to the circumstances black women face. Saturday Night Live even ran a skit about the day hell broke loose among white people- it was the day that they discovered their beloved Beyoncé was black and was now using her art as a platform for a discussion on race and gender.

The actual white response to Lemonade was not as apocalyptic. There was still, though, a clear discomfort among some. I remember a friend of mine at the time complaining, “Beyoncé is supposed to be lighthearted and should not cover politics.” Well, I’m sorry, but everything is political. Especially in the Trump era, we must recognize that any component of our society relates to the system of power in place. Popular culture, as a form of art, is a vital form of expression during these unpredictable times.

The discomfort surrounding Lemonade relates to the growing pains of people acknowledging their white privilege and their male privilege (if such categories personally applied to them).

Some communities took release of this album to the next level. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted “Lemonade Week” filled with campus events relating to the discussion of black womanhood from the angles of sociology, literature, dance, etc.

An English professor at the school said in response to the purpose of the week, “All in all, I think we were responding to the zeitgeist and trying to meet our students with thoughtful, intellectual content where they already enjoy themselves.”

Now, if these students were studying this same general topic from a hardcover book checked out of the college library, the degree of impact on them would be significantly less. They may learn the same amount of actual material, but the comparatively dull nature of the presentation would result in less efforts to consider their own life circumstances and work for change in society (in this particular case, advocate against racialized sexism).

Another example is Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” which has been attributed to greater acceptance of the LGBTQ community in recent years.

The resulting social change may not seem to result from pop culture in itself. However, this artistic cultural medium is a vital building block in changing attitudes of the public on essentially any contemporary issue.

To put it all in perspective, I do not understand why the idea that pop culture can bring social change is such a surprise to some. Since the beginning of human civilization, artists have been known for presenting controversial issues that the government and the general citizenry may otherwise ignore. Pop culture is a form of art, and so the same meaning applies. Pop culture brings all sorts of political implications and potential changes to the system.
With such importance in mind, let’s just hope that Trump’s future censorship laws don’t restrict the movements of pop culture too much.

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