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Popular Culture 

Have fun with the topic of popular culture, which is defined as culture that’s consumed by a majority of a society’s population rather than just an educated elite. Often shortened to “pop culture,” this cultural expression is ubiquitous in American society, dominating the fields of entertainment (including movies, music, television, and video games), sports, news, politics, fashion, technology, and slang. It’s often contrasted with folk culture (the traditions practiced primarily by small, homogenous rural groups) and high culture (culture enjoyed by the elite, such as classical works, theater, and fine arts).

Media and marketing heavily influence popular culture in their use of psychology to create an emotional response to a product or experience and their skill in distributing their message to a wide audience. For that reason, it’s sometimes associated with media culture or commercial culture.

Popular culture is also constantly evolving, as trends, or fads, come and go. Its other elements are enduring, remaining a fixture of American society over decades. For example, professional sports haven’t waned in popularity since their ascendancy in the 20th century. Sports also demonstrate the unifying nature of popular culture, as people bond over their identification with a specific team.

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Popular Culture Resources

Gale provides pop culture collections that support research, including databases, primary source archives, and eBooks.


Gale databases support popular culture research.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains full-text pop culture journals that provide researchers with firsthand content, including historical documents, printed works, and news articles.

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of popular culture publications, including mental illness, communication, coming of age, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download content.

  • Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up, 1st Edition

    Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up, 1st Edition

    Greenwood Publishing Group | 2018 | ISBN-13: 9781440840616

    The teenage years are fraught with drama and emotional ups and downs, coinciding with bewildering new social situations and sexual tension. For these reasons, pop culture and media have repeatedly created entertainment that depicts, celebrates, or lampoons coming-of-age experiences through sitcoms and brat-pack films of the 1980s to the teen-centered television series of today. This book covers a breadth of media presentations of the transition from childhood to adulthood from the 1950s to the year 2010. It explores the ways that adolescence is characterized in pop culture by drawing on these representations, shows how powerful media and entertainment are in establishing societal norms, and considers how American society views and values adolescence. Topics addressed consist of race relations, gender roles, religion, and sexual identity. Young adult readers will come away with a heightened sense of media literacy through the examination of a topic that inherently interests them.

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  • Communicating Hip-Hop: How Hip-Hop Culture Shapes Popular Culture, 1st Edition

    Communicating Hip-Hop: How Hip-Hop Culture Shapes Popular Culture, 1st Edition

    Praeger | 2018 | ISBN-13: 9781440842238

    This insightful analysis of the broad impact of hip-hop on popular culture examines the circulation of hip-hop through media, academia, business, law, and consumer culture to explain how hip-hop influences thought and action through our societal institutions.

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  • Mental Illness in Popular Culture, 1st Edition

    Mental Illness in Popular Culture, 1st Edition

    Praeger | 2017 | ISBN-13: 9781440843891

    “Being crazy” is generally a negative characterization today, yet many celebrated artists, leaders, and successful individuals have achieved greatness despite suffering from mental illness. This book explores the many different representations of mental illness that exist—and sometimes persist—in both traditional and new media across eras.

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Resources to Boost Your Research

From trending social issues to classic literature, Gale resources have you covered. Explore overviews, statistics, essay topics, and more or log in through your library to find even more content.

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