288 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

August 01, 2022

Sociological Songs

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

When I listen to music, I always have an ear out for sociological themes in songs. I also like to reference song lyrics and show music videos in class to highlight sociological ideas. What are your favorite sociological songs? Here are some of mine.

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June 20, 2022

What Can Comedy Teach us about Sociology?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

While preparing for take-off on a recent flight, a man in the row in front of me made a “joke” to his teenaged kids. After an announcement to take your seat and fasten your seatbelts, he said rather loudly, “Yeah, like seatbelts are really going to make a difference in a plane crash!”

He eagerly looked for a positive reaction to his comment. His kids didn’t appear to laugh, and those of us in the surrounding rows seemed to share a moment of nervous discomfort. Isn’t it an unwritten rule that you don’t mention plane crashes—even in jest—on an airplane?

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January 24, 2022

Me and My 70,000 Friends: Tailgating and Togetherness

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

I’ve always enjoyed going to Buffalo Bills games. I like watching football live and being part of a crowd. I’ve written before about the tailgate scene which adds fun and unpredictability. I’ve attended three games this year and have been reflecting on why I’ve been enjoying these games in person more than usual.

In one sense, I think it’s a simple matter of escapism. If watching sports normally feels like a break from the regular routine of life, I would say that watching a football game in a stressful and ongoing pandemic definitely feels like an escape for me. It’s a full day of not thinking and worrying about pandemic ills.

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December 22, 2021

Rituals, Rites, and Habits

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

What distinguishes a ritual from a habit? This is a question that I return to at the end of each calendar year as many seasonal traditions play out privately and publicly. How is a ritual more than just a shared habit?

If a habit is an individual behavior that results in some sort of reward, a ritual is a shared pattern of behaviors; we might think of habits as residing within the realm of psychology and rituals within sociology. Both habits and rituals can be meaningful to those who perform them and bring a range of rewards, or they might be automatic and something we don’t give much thought to either way.

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September 06, 2021

Eating in Everyday Life

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

My 13-year-old has suddenly stopped eating meat. This came as a surprise to my wife and me, considering his voracious appetite and penchant for eating a variety of meats. It wasn’t long ago he was eager to participate in the chicken sandwich wars, comparing offerings from popular fast-food establishments. We live in Buffalo, which I consider a meat-centric place. After all, this is home of the chicken wing, and lesser-known meat treats that Western New Yorkers are proud to be associated with, like beef on weck sandwiches. Many a fund raiser in our region rely on chicken dinners sold in the parking lots of churches, schools, and fire halls.

My wife and I both come from meat and potato families. In my childhood, dinner was usually comprised of meat, a starch, and a vegetable. I remember eating pork chops, chicken, beef tacos, steak, and subs with cold cuts. My mom’s family is Italian. Our family Sunday dinners were pasta with meatballs and sausage. My kids have grown up eating breaded chicken cutlets that my dad makes, and my mom’s meatballs. Growing up Catholic, meat was only something to avoid only on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. What family traditions have shaped the way you eat? What religious customs can you think of that influence how people eat?

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August 30, 2021

“The Right Look”: Emotional and Aesthetic Labor in Ballet

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

It is no secret that jobs are not what they used to be. While Karl Marx’s disturbing depiction of alienated and lifeless factory workers in the mid nineteenth century may still ring true to some, our working conditions have arguably only gotten worse. The so-called “gig economy,” in which steady jobs are replaced with task-based independent contract work, has taken a strong hold in our society. Corporations like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart are making immense profits by hiring only independent contract workers (rather than employees), who are ineligible for benefits and exempt from minimum wage requirements – no matter how many hours these independent contractors actually work. Their argument, of course, is that limiting independent contract work would decrease flexibility and jeopardize the quirks of modernity we all hold near and dear – like ride sharing or food delivery .  

As our economy has expanded and morphed, so has scholars’ understanding of what “labor” actually means. In 1983, Arlie Hochschild famously published The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling in which she details the advent of “emotional labor” in the growing service economy. According to Hochschild, emotional labor is the work we do (usually daily, on the job) to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (20).

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July 12, 2021

Bridgerton: Groundbreaking or Same Old Stereotypes?

Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

You’ve probably seen Bridgerton, the sexy Shondaland Netflix standout. If you haven’t, the first eight episodes of the series premiered in December 2020 on Netflix. The series is based on eight books written by Julia Quinn, featuring stories of romance in the Regency era.

This first season focuses on the “market launch” of the eldest daughter of the white Bridgerton family: Daphne is 21 years old and therefore ready to occupy her most important functions and only possible roles as wife and mother. Set in London in 1813, the show centers on Daphne as she and other young women vie for the affections and proposals of men, young and old.

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April 26, 2021

One and Done: Gender and Sports Coverage

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

More than 10 years ago I wrote a post called “Doing Research while Watching Sports Center” about a study of women’s sports coverage on local news and ESPN. The study found that women’s sports coverage declined between 1989 and 2009. The authors repeated the study in 2014 and 2019; has news coverage of women’s sports improved in recent years?

The short answer is yes, but the amount of coverage is still lower than it was during their analyses in 1999 and 2004. And the authors found that 80% of televised sports news includes no mention of women’s sports.

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February 15, 2021

Are Dogs People? Dog Valuation, Sacralization, and the Dog Consumer Market

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

Long considered “man’s best friend,” dogs have undoubtedly come to occupy a significant role in U.S. society. Their popularity with Americans is striking: an estimated 63.4 million households owned a dog in 2019-2020, which makes up 67% of all households in the U.S.  Dogs are by far the most popular pet in America.

Dog owners are increasingly opting for more affectionate terms for their pets like “companion,” “family member,” or even “person.” And perhaps rightly so. An abundance of research demonstrates that for many owners a dog can serve as an attachment figure– someone who the person turns to for psychological and emotional support. Indeed, the psychological benefits of being in the presence of an animal, and of a dog in particular, have proven to be plentiful: dogs can reduce a person’s anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as increase their self-esteem and playfulness.

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January 27, 2021

The Symbols of the Capitol Siege

Jonathan Wynn (1)

By Jonathan Wynn

There are plenty of articles and posts that explore how sociological concepts can inform our understanding the Capitol siege on January 6th, 2021. (There’s a great post, titled “Sociology of the Siege” here). Of all the things going on that day, symbolism was a big part of it.

On the one hand, you have one of the great symbols of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol Building—such a significant symbol that was the alleged fourth target of another symbolic act, the 9/11 attacks. But there, among the crowd laying siege to it, was a wild mass of signs and imagery that was quite difficult to decipher for those who might not know what all of it means.

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