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Pop culture gets political

Submitted by Mark Stanley on September 30, 2010 – 1:03 pmNo Comment

Timothy Dale and Joe Foy, editors of the book “Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture,” appeared for a presentation at the Clinton School of Public Service on Friday, Sept. 24. Both Dale and Foy are assistant professors. Dale teaches at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, while Foy teaches at The University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Their book and presentation give an academic look at entertainment.

Dale apologized, explaining their presentation might not be as entertainingly funny as some pop culture television shows like “The Simpsons” or “The Daily Show.” However, their presentation was both entertaining and enlightening.

The editors explained that the decline of newspaper subscriptions and loss of audience for news broadcasts represent a dissatisfaction with more traditional means of acquiring knowledge. Perhaps the polarizing effect of political agenda defining red and blue dialogue is exhausting to the public, which seeks neither red nor blue agendas but a “purple” one.

Britney Carter, junior psychology major, opined, “More young adults are drawn to a more upbeat and balanced view on the news today and the older generations, who are more biased [or] opinionated, like the polarized viewpoints.”

Dale and Foy argue that popular culture is helping to transform democracy in America today by often exposing overlooked issues, and setting agendas to include those issues in political dialogues.

Dale and Foy gave examples of overt messaging in documentary films that have changed the political dialogue, such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Super-Size Me. They continued with examples of subtle messaging with “The Daily Show” and “Hotel Rwanda. These examples underline the power of popular culture, which can offer more to the public than conventional elements.

The authors mentioned a Time magazine poll that claimed “The Daily Show” host John Stewart was the most trusted newscaster in 2009. It showed that 44 percent believed John Stewart was the most trusted, followed by Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News anchor, who brought in 29 percent of the votes. Katie Couric placed at 7 percent.

Most Americans tend to participate in the new popular culture format. “The Daily Show” viewers polled revealed a greater global awareness of news than people who watch the conventional formats.

Sharon Stracener, junior social work major, said, “I think popular culture has a great influence on our perception of politics and programs. Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin changed many people attitudes, and could lie partially responsible for the election results.”

In reflecting to himself, Homer Simpson once asked, “When will I learn the answers to life are not in the bottom of a bottle; they are on television.”

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