273 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

February 03, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I’ve thought a lot about names since reading a chapter in Freakonomics called “A Roshanda by any other name,” over a decade ago. (Here’s an update in podcast form.) Perhaps some of you have had the paralyzing struggle of having to name a child (or being a parent) while also trying to think about sociology. It’s tough. Sociologist Dalton Conley, somewhat famously, named his daughter E and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.

Names can say a lot. What were the reasons behind your name? Was your name popular? Is your name one you share with other family members? Do your professors do a terrible job pronouncing it? As Karen Sternheimer notes, it’s important to know someone’s name in class. But let’s lend some sociological insight onto the topic.

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January 26, 2020

Lizzo and Sociocultural Constructions of the Body

author photoBy Angelique Harris

Anyone listening to the radio or pop or hip-hop streaming stations lately certainly were aware that 2019 was the summer of rapper, singer, songwriter, and flutist, Lizzo. Born Melissa Vivianne Jefferson in the late 1980s, Lizzo had been writing and producing music for several years before her music began topping the charts over the past year.

One of the key aspects of Lizzo’s work is the focus on acceptance and diversity. Her songs promote confidence (“Truth Hurts”) while celebrating race (“My Skin”) and diverse bodies (“Tempo”). For many, her frank and open discussion of her body, sexuality, and her overall musical abilities has led her to have an immense following. Her fans, dubbed “Lizzbians” include former Malcom in the Middle actor, Frankie Muniz, who tweeted a request to Lizzo, asking her to make him her “purse.”

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January 13, 2020

The Social Life of Physical Fitness

author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I’m not what you would call a health nut. I only started going to the gym after I threw out my back. To be honest, I mostly hate it. I need to have Netflix on my phone (which is why a disproportionate number of my posts are about Netflix shows), have a few other televisions on ESPN, CNN, and HGTV above the mirrors, and a room full of people to watch. It’s then, and only then, that I can press the awareness of physical exercise out of my mind and run a few miles. Blah.

But it seems like most folks really like that kind of thing. If you think of health is a big deal right now, you’d be right. According to Forbes, the fitness industry is a $30 billion business—growing at an annual rate of 3-4% since 2010. If hashtags are a more meaningful metric for you, how about this: the Harvard Business Review, asking “How Did Self Care Become So Much Work?” noted that the hashtag #selfcare exploded on Instagram between mid-2018 to mid-2019, from 5 to 17 million posts.

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December 30, 2019

Afrofuturism Can Save us All

Myron strongBy Myron Strong

“The world of ‘what is’ can be supplanted by the world of what never was or what could be.”

I spoke these words to an audience of college students during a presentation on pop culture and Afrofuturism this past spring. As I explained Afrofuturism, I shared the story about the many times I stargazed as a kid, but how this one time in particular that my mom and I actually saw a UFO. My memory of the experience isn’t as clear now, but I do know that it triggered my imagination.

Immediately after my presentation, students came up to me and I began to further connect the ideas between black people and science fiction and sociology. That experience left me thinking about ways to integrate Afrofuturism into my classes as a way to both reach students and to complicate the many long held canonical teaching beliefs.

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December 23, 2019

Fear and Fire

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Twice in a period of eight days, people in my zip code were affected by brush fires. While I have been fortunate and haven’t had to evacuate, I live in a community surrounded by a state park and therefore by lots of trees, so fire is always a threat here.

Needless to say, seeing plumes of smoke and having helicopters swirl overhead is a scary experience. Fire reminds us that we are not completely in control of our environment, or our lives, for that matter.

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December 16, 2019

Thinking Like a Sociologist: Is Minimalism a Social Movement?

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Minimalism” seems to be everywhere, with advice on decluttering, living in tiny houses, or the promise of early retirement through frugal living seemingly endless online. Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was first published in 2014 and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making the Japanese consultant a one-woman industry with her own Netflix series.

I confess that I have never read Kondo’s book, but am still drawn to the idea of simplifying and decluttering (but not living in a tiny house, although the HGTV series can be fun to watch). I spend less time online or watching television; I try to minimize mental clutter as much as physical clutter. I like going through my closet and donating little-used items, which also reminds me that I can do with less. I rarely go shopping. When I do, I try to be very conscientious about whether this is something I need. I prefer not to exchange gifts during the holiday season, especially because receiving stuff I don’t want or need from family and friends is awkward. My spouse and I decided a few years ago not to mark special occasions with gifts but rather with fun experiences like travel; when we travel I challenge myself to travel light.

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December 02, 2019

Jokes and Scripts

By Jonathan Wynn

author photoWho doesn’t like a joke? Here’s one:

Campus Adviser: What class are you having the most difficulty with?

Sociology Student: The bourgeoisie!

Ok, I can hear your groans. I like jokes. There are probably only a few sociology jokes—I found the this one on reddit—but is there a sociology of jokes?

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November 18, 2019

Seeing People like Us in People Like Us

author photoBy Colby King

This week I screened People Like Us: Social Class in America, in my Introduction to Sociology class, as I have done just about every semester since I started teaching. Although the film is now about 20 years old, I’m still finding lots of reasons to use it.

People Like Us directly examines something we often have difficulty talking about: social class. As any student of sociology knows, the social categories we work with, like class, or race, or gender, can be difficult to discuss in both informal and academic settings. All of these categories are meaningful, shape patterns of social inequality, and are perpetually being contested and renegotiated in our everyday social interactions.

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June 24, 2019

Emotional Labor and Leisure

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I recently had the opportunity to attend my nephews’ Little League and soccer games. Since we live in different states and I am seldom in town when they play, this was a treat for all of us.

As is automatic for a sociologist in a new setting, I couldn’t help but make some basic observations about the participants in both games. While I played softball as a child, I have never been an adult onlooker of a child’s sporting event before (hard to believe, I know). In my brief time observing, I found myself observing the parents and coaches as much as the children who were playing.

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April 01, 2019

Culture, Conflict, and Politics

Author photoBy Jessica Poling

Sociology Ph.D. student, Rutgers University

The 2016 presidential election sparked a nation-wide period of cultural conflict characterized by the working-class’s rising frustrations towards “elites.” President Trump himself has fostered a spirit of anti-intellectualism, at times even celebrating his own lack of intellectualism. These tensions go deeper than just economic class; rather, they are grounded in differences in cultural proclivities.

The differences between the often culturally conservative working-class and the often liberal upper-middle class may therefore be deeper than political affiliations. To understand this particular political moment, we must thus understand the cultural tensions beneath political divisions.

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