Myth Analysis: The American Dream

The myth that I chose to analyze is that of the American Dream. The American Dream varies in definition from era to era, person to person. In the past, you were usually considered to be living the American Dream if you worked your way up from the bottom of society and are now sitting at the top (or at least the top of the middle). Nowadays the living the American Dream is considered providing a better life for your chillana_del_rey___damn_you_by_hyonicorn-d7hyoyd.pngdren than what you had growing up (How Do Americans Define the American Dream in 2015?, 2015). And the definition again begins to change as a new generation ages up; Lana Del Rey states in her song Damn You that “living life on the run” and “getting messed up for fun” is the American Dream, having nothing to lose and just enjoying oneself (Damn You, 2012). Such a hedonistic approach to life has become commonplace in today’s younger generation and has begun to warp the American dream once again to fit the new ideals or the millennial generation. Seeking nothing but pleasure and excitement may not be the American Dream for everyone, but to be comfortable with one’s place in society seems to be the unfailing similarity between all these ideas, whether that means making a lot of money or having a lot of fun (or both) depends on the person (and maybe the generation).

The song Pink Houses by John Mellencamp describes two different men who both have grown comfortable in their lifestyles. The first man, the “black man with a black cat living in a black neighborhood”, thinks he’s got it made. He has “an interstate running through his front yaindexrd” so he can’t be living in a great neighborhood where you should have more property and be far away from disturbing noises. The “woman in the kitchen cleaning up evening slop” he has been with a long time (it may be his wife, it may not be), long enough for him to remember her when she was young and beautiful and he tells her that “I remember when you could top a clock”( Pink Houses, 1983). He is not unhappy with his partner, he is not unhappy with his home, he even has a cat, yet none of it screams middle-class, or mentions upper-middle class, or even whispers upper-class lifestyle. The other man mentioned in the song is the young man; he is described as having “a greasy hair, greasy smile”. He used to be told that he could be president some day but he is happy with his current status in society, stating that “Lord, this must be my destination” and has given up on any dreams like being president, calling them “crazy dreams”( Pink Houses, 1983). This man shows that the American Dream for him was simply that—a dream. The idea of pursing something like being president came and went as he grew older and became content with his current life. We don’t know anything else about the young man’s life, but he sounds like he is happy. And the black man, he may have had dreams too, but they may have faded away and having his woman and his home are now his dream because they made him happy.

The movie The Wolf of Wall Street has both the traditional “rags to riches” American Dream and the millennial “life of fun” American Dream. The main character in this movie, Jordan Belfort, loses his job and takes a lousy job at a brokerage firm w6738.jpghere he learns some shady dealings and begins to make a lot of money selling stocks. He opens his own firm and eventually becomes a billionaire, but not all by legitimate means. He had a huge home, tons of money, plenty of expensive cars—and came from nowhere. Though the rags to riches idea is usually for those who worked hard to make their money—those who became rich my legitimate means—the rags to riches American Dream can still be applied to him as he literally went from nothing to being a billionaire. Jordan Belfort can also be included in the millennial view of the American Dream as he has a heavy reliance on Quaaludes, alcohol, and an extravagant lifestyle. His company was shown partying and drinking during their workday—there was even a parade in the office at one point in time—and Jordan’s closest associates were encouraged to partake in alcohol and drug abuse along with him. He lived a life of excitement, blowing his money on yachts, parties, expensive toys (like his Jaguar) and seeking ultimate pleasure (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2014). A life I’m sure Lana Del Rey would find extremely enticing.

The American Dream has survived generations though it has transformed over the years and will continue on to the generations to come because it is something that gives us hope. The American people are not limited to the social class that they are born into, we have the opportunity to better ourselves and move up in society—maybe with athletic ability, secondary education, or just dumb luck—we have an opportunity that other countries may not offer. That idea that we can move up, that we can offer a better life than we had for our children, that we can become rich and famous is what keeps us striving for a better future. Some countries do not have the same opportunity as we do—in India, there is a social caste system that you are born into and are not capable of moving up or down in. You can not marry into another caste and your caste determines what kind of work you are able to do (India’s Caste System). A system like that does not allow you to hope to change your future by bettering yourself, it does not give you reason to pursue higher education, to develop a special talent, to hope for a better future like we have in America. While the rags to riches American Dream through hard work may not be the ideal American Dream for today’s society, the idea that we can do anything, be anything no matter our place in society is something that will continue to inspire generations to come.

While I may a millennial, I do not adhere to the life of fun and excitement American Dream but I also do not adhere to the rags to riches American Dream. I grew up with hedonistic ideals—I did what I wanted regardless or others opinions, sought only to enjoy myself, though not in a drinking and partying sense like others my age. But as I grew older, developed relationships, my values changed. I used to think marriage was a useless social convention and that it would never happen to myself—I was having too much fun by myself. But then I found a serious partner. We discussed having children, we got married, and now we’re house hunting. I still struggle with wanting to do things by myself, wanting to spend time by myself, by expensive toys (like Xbox’s or PlayStations) for myself, but I have to refrain and discuss it with my husband. I now have to think long-term and not just go out and buy whatever I want. The American Dream for me used to be living by myself, making money by becoming a famous author, being surrounded by nature, and just enjoying life. Now, I want a brand new car that has high safety ratings for my future children, I want a suburban house in a good school district, I want my children to be sporty and intelligent, hell—I want children. Sometimes people can change your ideals, sometimes you just grow out of them. I think in the future as I watch movies I will be able to see how the American Dream is transforming. As new movies come out, the transforming American Dream will be visible over the years and I can see if my own dream has changed along with the changing opinions of the time. I’m sure it will continue to change as I get older and the world changes around me.

 

 

References

Scorsese, M. (Director). (2014). The wolf of Wall Street [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Mellencamp, J. (1983). Pink Houses. On Uh-Huh [CD]. Jackson County, Indiana: Riva.

Manian, R. (n.d.). India’s Caste System. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/indias-caste-system.html

Fernández, O. (2012, September 13). Lana del rey – Damn you Full Version. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nChgJXiO9U

Vanity Fair. (2015, April 16). How Do Americans Define the American Dream in 2015? Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/04/what-is-the-american-dream

 

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Written Analysis: Myth, Icon, Popular Belief

A theory from Profiles of Popular Culture that applies to my topic of Marvel characters is that myths are used to create a false sense of superiority (Profiles of popular culture). Marvel characters may not be myths in the typical sense of the word (I’m sure the majority of society does not believe that they truly exist), but the same idea can be applied to them. They are an ideal person who can handle things in ideal ways—not always in the “good” way, but a better way than we may have thought possible.

Super heroes give us a character to emulate, a person to look up to, but someone who experiences some of the same problems that we do. Iron Man may be able to defeat gods and aliens, but he still has to maneuver the rocky slopes of romance and personal relationships. He has a terrible personality but he shows us how to handle issues with humor, rather than letting us beat ourselves up about it. Seeing him have to handle harder situations (self-sacrifice is a pretty big decision to make) and show bravery while still taking the time to show that he cares about Pepper in the last Avengers movie makes him more human (Avengers). We look at a person who is giving up everything but still cares about others and that gives us something to strive for.

Super villains also have role in emulation—they give us something not to emulate. Loki has been featured in a couple of the new Marvel movies like Thor and all of the Avenger movies and he is a trickster, a coward, someone who seeks power but runs away when he fight comes to him, even severing family ties in search of power (Avengers). He is a prime example of someone you do not want to emulate. It helps that usually Marvel villains lose. Or else they join the “good” side and forever work to change themselves to gain the trust of other heroes.

With this in mind, it’s clear that Marvel characters are created not just for entertainment, but to give us something to strive toward. We may not be able to swing on webs across the city like Spider Man, but we can always hope to be like Peter Parker—go from a nerd that no one noticed to having a successful career and eventually settling down with that girl-next-door (The Amazing Spider-Man). But even Peter Parker experiences hardship and loss and we can see how he handles it throughout different comics and films. When he makes a poor decision, we can see how that hurts someone and choose to handle a similar situation more tactfully. Or if something goes swimmingly, we can try to emulate his choice or reaction and hope it goes the same way.

 

 

References

Browne, R. B. (2005). Profiles of popular culture: A reader. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Lee, S. et al. (Mar. 1963 –Nov. 1998), The Amazing Spider-Man Vol #1, Issues #1-292. Marvel Comics.

Whedon, J. (Director). (2015). Avengers: Age of Ultron [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Icon Analysis

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga blew up in the music industry in 2008 with her hit song Poker Face and soon became one of the most recognizable names in Pop. She grabbed attention wherever she went with her many outrageous outfits (raw meat, anyone?) but she did more than just prance around I weird clothes and sing about disco-sticks. I chose Lady Gaga as a pop icon because she helped to bridge the gap between social groups. In a high school setting, she helped to bridge the gap between the social elite and the outcasts because her message in both music and life is that it is okay to be yourself no matter what others want or what social convention dictates.

As a teenager, Lady Gaga was the only Pop artist that I had on my iPod. She was the lone electro-pop sound amidst the grunge and rock and roll that I was in to at the time. A friend of mine was a huge fan of Lady Gaga and I learned a lot about the pop artist through her such the inspiration from David Bowie (she is also a huge David Bowie fan), meanings behind certain songs, and her message in general. Lady Gaga has far more to say than a lot of the other pop music you hear on the radio and I think she was a fantastic pop icon the past few years, if a little peculiar.

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image from: http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/158/20140130/50-interesting-facts-about-lady-gaga.htm

Etsy

Etsy is the online shop for everything vintage and handmade. You want something done custom? Go to Etsy. You want your NES turned into a piece of art( pretty much all it’s good for anymore)? Go to Etsy. You want that wedding dress that your grandma wore in 1940? Go to Etsy. Etsy has become a huge part of people’s everyday lives. We are a world of e-commerce and for those who hand make products, trying to sell them to locals only or at conventions can be costly and ineffective. Etsy allows a person (artist, collector, tailor, blacksmith, haberdasher, pack rat, old-lady-crocheting-with-five-cats-on-her-lap) to sell their handmade items in a similar way that eBay allows you to sell items you own with a small seller fee. The only difference is that Etsy is supposed to be handmade or vintage, no mass-produced items, no cars (unless you built it yourself), and no stolen clothes for still-too-high prices. Handmade and retro are in right now and Etsy allows people who make those things to offer their goods for sale in a place where anyone around the world can purchase it.

Etsy has been a place where I have found many personalized gifts that would be hard to find in a store. I like it because just browsing it you can find creative things that people have done with their old stuff or get ideas of your own for art projects or interesting gifts. It is also a great place for me to find renaissance festival costumes of good quality which I have trouble finding in a physical location other than at an actual renaissance faire which I can only attend in October. I also am trying to help my little brother promote his guitar-making business and finally got him to open an Etsy shop and I can’t wait to see him get some stuff up there and get some business!

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image from: http://pbrnews.com/etsy-ipo-too-big/

Star Wars

Star Wars was a hit in the 80s, the first trilogy bringing in over $2 billion dollars in box office sales. The second trilogy in the new millennium wasn’t received quite as well but Episode I was in the top 10 grossing films in America in box office sales. Star Wars had the unique opportunity to release 10 years apart each time—long enough for older fans to have children and then have them watch it as they grew up and for the younger generation to get into it before they got too old. Star Wars is a sci-fi movie through-and-through, but it many values that it tries to impress regarding family, faith, and altruism. Throughout the seven films currently released, we frequently see family ties tested (some ending in blood loyalty, others not), faith in the Force being tested, criticized, rewarded, and the constant struggle between good and evil—between the desire for power and the desire to make things right. Now that Disney owns Star Wars merchandising for the franchise has exploded, making it easy for someone to see it and wonder what it is, possibly creating a new fan. You can get Star Wars everything now and it’s everywhere—and not just Episode VII, but the older films as well.

My family is a Star Wars family through-and-through (no one cares for that other popular sci-fi show). On my dad’s side of the family most of the kids (my aunts and uncles) were teenagers when Star Wars came out which and of course, it would be the movie to see at the time. They all loved it and all the kids (my siblings and cousins) in my family grew up watching it. I still remember when my mom worked 2nd shift and we would get to stay up watching Star Wars on VHS until she came home from work pretty much every day. I love Star Wars and I cannot be happier about the current merchandising. I was not too thrilled when Disney bought the franchise; I was convinced that they were going to ruin it. But I love that I can now walk into any department store and buy women’s Star Wars clothes; though I didn’t particularly enjoy Episode VII, there is plenty of classic themed clothing available.

star wars

image from: http://screenrant.com/star-wars-episode-7-official-cast-image/

 

 

 

Popular Culture

  • What is popular culture, and what does it mean to you?

In Common Culture, pop culture is defined as “the shared knowledge and practices of a specific group at a specific time” (Petracca, pp. 4), though it is mentioned that is very hard to define because it constantly changes or causes change. To me, pop culture is the thing that everyone is doing: the styles worn, the TV shows watched, the technology being used. IT is what people want and crave for once they have seen someone else using it. It constantly changes and sometimes repeats itself (bell-bottoms, anyone?), but it can also be the latest and greatest that is available (HD TVs to 3-D TVs to 4K TV’s).

  • Why is an understanding of popular culture relevant to you in a business environment and in your present and future career?

Understanding pop culture is relevant to a business environment because it helps to determine what changes need to be made to keep people comfortable and complaint. From an advertising standpoint, it helps us to determine how to portray certain ideas or items (would sex sell a minivan better or a sports car?). An example of pop culture affecting a business environment and forcing changes in order to keep associates comfortable would be the acceptance of tattoos and wild hairstyles. It used to be that you had to keep tattoos covered, piercing out if they were more than just a single set on your ears, and hair must be a natural color and not be offensive in any way. That has changed dramatically in the past couple of years. No you can see business people with half-shaved heads, tattoo sleeves, multiple piercings because it has become a normal part of our society. It’s no longer just deviants and criminals that have these sorts of styles, it has become a form of art to alter your body. My current career has little restrictions of dress code as long as what you are wearing is safe around moving machinery and you are wearing something. But I work for a company that sells clothing, accessories, and beauty products which requires us to know what will be able to sell and adapt our styles to fit with popular culture. Yoga pants and other activewear are fantastic sellers right now, but what if that trend ends? What if flared jeans come back into style again like they did 10 years ago? A couple of our brands that sell clothing will have to adapt to that change and sell more jeans and less activewear or we could lose business, money, and jobs.

 

  • What would you consider to be an example of a pop culture artifact? And why would you choose it?

 

An example of a current pop culture artifact is the Avengers. The first movie came out in 2012 after the successful releases of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 and since has released a sequel and many more character-centered movies and is slated for two more Avenger movies to release in 2018 and 2019. These movies have done fantastically well, with The Avengers grossing over $1.5 billion worldwide, and becoming the third-highest-grossing film during its theatrical run. Many Marvel movies have come before The Avengers but none have done quite as well as this one. I chose Avengers as a popular culture artifact because it showcases a lot of things that currently help to sell it. We have action and romance in every movie, stunning visual effects, snarky personalities, heroes rebelling against “the man”, and of course, sexy, skinny, muscly bodies being thrown in our faces. The comic books only appealed to a certain audience (usually young men), but these movies have thrown super heroes into our daily lives by creating something that everyone can enjoy watching. The movies have drawn a larger audience to the comics themselves. People have begun to read these, crave more information about the Marvel Universe, and find characters that they can relate to or enjoy watching/reading. The Avengers movies have found a balance between humor, romance, and action that allows for a larger audience to enjoy it, creating massive appeal for these characters and more for those yet unknown or not created.

20160130115640!TheAvengers2012Poster

“Picture from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/archive/f/f9/20160130115640!TheAvengers2012Poster.jpg”