I’m preparing the first lecture for a new draft of a course I’m inheriting, called “Culture in America.” In order to help students understand the differences from past semesters (in which the focus lay on politics and religion, and the approach was strongly interdisciplinary), I am collecting lists of the “top of the charts”–the most popular books, movies, television, etc. in this week, in the U.S.
I’m hoping several things will happen when I share these lists with the students, on the first day:
- They will reveal their own preferences, and this will (a) give me some insight into their tastes and proclivities and (b) give them some sense of how their preferences limit their sociological imaginations.
- One component piece of (b) is that the discussion should reveal that some of the students, some of the time reject or demean popular media/culture as a means to demonstrate their own cultivated tastes. I hope to see/reveal the combined effect of race, class, gender, and nationality, and I’m excited to see what other (more unexpected) divisions exist.
- We can then have a discussion about how revealing the top of the distribution can be. They are at the top of the socio-economic/privilege/education hierarchy, but we’re looking at a list of Top Sellers–is one or the other more indicative of something significant about “culture in America?”
- That we will begin a discussion of the peculiarities of this moment in U.S. history. Those of us over 30 have known a time before terrorism dominated news coverage, before the ubiquity of digital media, before “neo-con” existed as a broadly known political/social identity–these students have not. So I am hoping that an analysis of popular culture can help them begin to see some of the themes that run across our culture.
- That they begin to realize the course will seek that perfect balance between intensive exposure to sociological theory and contemporary, everyday life.
I’ll try not to evaluate the students based on how well they achieve these aims. I have to say, I think my goals are modest, especially given the richness of this information. For your pleasure, I’ll insert the Top 10 lists below the fold. Suggestions are welcomed for additional lists…but only if you make it super easy for me to find/grab them.
Oh, this is obviously also a post about the ASA in Vegas debacle. I bored of the details of that debate, so I’m moving us to this one, which will–one assumes–be formally similar.
In case you didn’t know…I didn’t…La fuerza del destino (“The Power of Destiny”) is a telenovela. A very through plot description is available.