Popular culture is like a virus that insinuates itself into every nook of society, overwriting what is there with its own program, replicating itself, corrupting existing files, and causing untold damage to the world” (Pronk, 2006). The world is a global village and through this, culture has transferred from one place to the other. Popular culture as portrayed in the science fiction movie “Transformers” tells us much about our society. “Popular culture is generally familiar as the vernacular or people’s culture that predominates in a society at a point in time” (Delaney, 2012). Culture on the other hand is the accepted way of life of a society or a group of people, which has further been broken down into what some call highbrow culture (art, paintings, classical music, and literature) and lowbrow culture (television, soap operas, movies, popular music and novels) (Pronk, 2006). Popular culture as manifested in films, music, literary works and television tells us a lot about our ways of life and our culture, and our society as a whole.
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In previous times when women were considered mediocre to men, the women of society were excluded from the pursuit of knowledge, while their liberties were limited and defined, not to mention granted to them by someone else. The ensuing result was that women had no liberty at all (Tolan, 2006). This disparaging view of women left a society where men were supreme to women and were the only people permitted to acquire knowledge; in other words, the views of woman were regarded as irrelevant. Ladies of previous eras were not taken seriously and were considered as reproductive chattel or housewives (Tolan, 2006). The movie “Pope Joan,” which narrates a story of how a woman secretly becomes a pope, illustrates this misogynist view of women. In the movie, it was considered a taboo for a woman to learn how to read or write and the protagonist Joan was punished when her father found out she secretly learns how to read. The culture as portrayed in the movie tells us how women were treated and addressed in the society, and this kind of view of women was the predominant culture in those times.
In an effort to stave off the increasing misogynistic views of women, Betty Friedan founded the National Organization of Women (NOW) in 1966, a feminist organization to fight for the legal rights of women (Tolan, 2006). Feminism is a movement for economic, political, social and cultural parity of men and women (Nair, 2012). The feminist movement, which arose out of women’s need to have their voices heard as well as a craving to be a part of the policymaking in society left women wanting to be educated people, instead of just housewives. This thinking is on par with what Simone De Beauvoir imagined, as she believed “the modern woman… would be the equal to menâ€¦ think and work and act like a man, and instead of bemoaning her inferiority to men, she would declare herself their equal” (Tolan, 2006). Through feminist movements, women are now recognized and they hold prestigious positions in our society.
In addition, the movie “Transformers”, if viewed in a feminist angle, can show how popular culture can transform a society, as the character Mearing was in charge of sector seven and was superior to all the men in the facility. In previous eras, it would be unthinkable for a woman to be portrayed in a position of power. However, thanks to the far-reaching effects of popular culture and feminism, women are now being viewed much differently than they were in previous eras. “Transformers” can even tell us much about our Ghanaian society, as the speaker of parliament Joyce Bamford-Addo is one of many females to hold such a position of power in the government. She holds a position that would have been previously unattainable, as this position is equally as powerful to many of the positions that men hold because of the fact that she presides over decisions concerning law making and amendments to the constitution.
Another way in which to view the effects of popular culture on the Ghanaian society is through the effects of the English language as viewed through postcolonialism. “Postcolonialism addresses itself to the historical, political, cultural, and textual ramifications of the colonial encounter between the West and the non-West, dating from the sixteenth century to the present day” (Boehmer, 2006). Ghana consists of various ethnic groups, ranging from the Akan, the Ewe, the Fante and many more, each of which has their own unique culture. As a result, it was difficult for two people from different tribes to communicate because they could not understand each other’s languages. However, in the 19th century, the British came to the Gold Coast (Ghana), to trade and spread Christianity, which allowed English to be introduced as a means to make communications easier between the numerous groups of people. Even after the departure of the British and gaining independence in 1957, English has been a mainstay of the Ghanaian society. Since English is the national language of Ghana, the majority of Ghanaians across the country easily understand “Transformers”, thus making it easy to discern ideas and themes from the movie. Therefore, English as a popular culture that manifests itself in movies is able to tell us much about our society and ourselves.
Over time, the English language has metamorphosed into what we now know as Ghanaian Pidgin English (GhaPE). Pidgin, which is a renovation of the English language, is spoken in various West African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroon. In Ghana, Pidgin English is used by roughly a quarter of the population and is a blend of both English and a local dialect (such as Twi, frafra among others) (Huber, 2004). Pidgin, which originated from Nigeria, has been adopted by Ghanaians and has now become part of our culture. Nowadays in our society, Pidgin language has become popular within us, as GhaPE was portrayed in the series “Sun City”, where characters used GhaPE to communicate. Advocates of the English language attempt to make the point that Pidgin is bad English and should be banned in educational institutions in order to prevent students from muddling their English. However, that simply will not be possible, as GhaPE is a language for both the literates and illiterates alike. GhaPE serves as a bridge between the varying levels of educational classes in Ghana, and it is just as likely that leaders of prestigious firms and companies will be speaking GhaPE as it is for a poor man. Hence, English and the subsequent evolution of the language help to illustrate the effects that the language is having on the society, as English is helping to bridge gaps between the various groups of people in Ghana, which brings people closer, and helps build national unity.
Furthermore, in our society more and more people are utilizing expletives in outburst of shock, anger or surprise, but more increasingly as verbal tics of impatience and annoyance. In the 20th Century, television, radio and other media were forced to take steps to block the use of expletives on air, as they were regarded as unprintable and unfit for viewers (Dictionary.com LLC, 2012). Popular culture plays a hand in this as well, as the word “fuck” is derived from “a farmer spreading seeds on his land” (). However, the original meaning has been lost, and has been changed to what it stands for now. Now, these words are used in our daily conversations, and have in essence become a part of our culture. This particular popular culture can be seen in “Transformers,” when Bruce Brazos used an expletive to describe how awesome the robot Bumblebee is. Expletives are especially prevalent among the youth of our society, and do not seem to be fading from use any time soon.
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Popular culture and fashion are also closely linked, as fashion, like popular culture, is dynamic and changes over periods. This can be seen today, as the current fashion trends are not similar to the fashion trends of the seventies. Even in Ghana, fashion changes throughout time. Formerly, the fashionable dress “kaba and slit”, was a cherished culture in Ghana. Nana Odeneho said, “Women who wore kaba and slit were considered beautiful in the society”. This fashion was also denoted as decent because it did not expose some parts of the women. Every generation has its fashion and its way of dressing. Now the fashion trend has altered. Taking a good look at our society, the women wear clothes that uncover parts of their bodies (breast and waist). The hip-hop music video “Tip Drill” by Nelly is evident to how women dress in our society. The women in the music video wore practically no clothes. Because of popular culture’s effect and fashion’s importance to many people, the way people dress is now what would have been considered indecent in any other time.
Although movies and other literary works tell us much about our society, what we see is not one hundred percent reliable. One only needs to ask, “Do artificially intelligent robots really exist?” Well it is true that many manufacturing industries utilize robots in assisting in production and assembling in order to get work done. The film “Transformers” portrays enormous technological advancement in society that are simply not conceivable in this current time. Critics would say that the robots portrayed in the film “Transformers” fail to tell us the truth about our society as these robots were capable of amazing feats and come from a planet that does seem to exist or even been close to being discovered. Such technology, if discovered, would be astounding, as it would change the landscape of modern science forever. Critics would continue to argue that such fiction in movies fails to tell us anything substantial about our society and ourselves. However, what they fail to mention is that it is not the fact that these technologies are impossible to us in current times; it is actually the fact that the movie holds a special message to every person who watches it. As a result, movies such as “Transformers,” do in fact tell us much about our societies and ourselves, as they reveal certain problems, but more importantly, they reveal to us the dynamic and constantly improving nature of our societies and ourselves.
This paper evinces the fact that popular culture as manifested in films, music, literary works and television tells us a lot about our ways of life and our society as a whole. First, I showed how English as portrayed in movies tells us about ourselves and as Ghanaians as a whole. Second, I discussed how our society viewed women and the prestigious positions women have gained through feminist movements over the years. However, there is also the opposing view that popular culture fails to tell us something about our society as portrayed in science fiction movies. I addressed this by showing how the movie “Transformers” tells us much about society and ourselves. To conclude, popular culture is relevant to the Ghanaian society as argued using the science fiction movie “transformers” written by Ehren Kruger.
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