Reflections on the impact of pop culture

June 4, 2024

Photo by Chris Benson at Unsplash with background photo by Anja at Pixabay

Lillia O’Brien explores the effect of today’s media on young women

Pop culture seems to have lost its identity, ensnaring everyone, especially young women, in a relentless cycle of social media obsession, boundless fashion trends, and an ever-expanding definition of art. This significantly affects young females, who are inundated with images and narratives shaping their views on beauty, success and identity.

With new media forms churned out every minute and nearly everyone having access to a platform, celebrity has lost all meaning. Once revered as perfect and untouchable, celebrities are now challenged by the rise of ‘cancel culture’.

An abundance of information has led to this phenomenon of ‘cancelling’. If anyone in the public eye puts a toe out of line, their career and everything they’ve worked for is jeopardised. Controversial things said in the past remain a permanent fixture in their digital footprint; all it takes is a political opinion, a false rumour or one badly worded sentence. By placing celebrities under the microscope, their mysterious appeal is destroyed, and the very notion of fame becomes meaningless.

The emergence of ‘cancel culture’ blurs the lines between celebrities and everyday life, exposing girls to the downfall of their once idolised figures, shattering their ideals. Also, being saturated by endless media, from social profiles to news articles, means unrealistic beauty standards are constantly reinforced, exacerbating body image concerns and diminishing the self-esteem of women and girls who feel pressured to conform.

On the flip side, social media can act as a positive force, holding celebrities accountable and creating a more ethical environment. The history of celebrity culture is tainted with moral scandal. This can be seen in the film industry where the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Dan Schneider demonstrated the dark side of Hollywood. Weinstein infamously sexually harassed and exploited actresses, promising to advance their careers in return for sexual favours.

#MeToo has changed societal awareness and increased accountability for abusers

Social movements like #MeToo have held abusers accountable as society has grown less tolerant, refusing to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of women.

The music industry has also suffered losses in the last decades. Nowadays, going viral on TikTok is the best way for a song to be successful. This diminishes music as an art form by condensing it into 15-second sound bites for teenagers to lip-sync to.

Moreover, within the music industry, women continue to face systemic barriers and gender-based discrimination, with pervasive misogyny often undermining their talent and contributions.

Recently, within the fashion and art world, all boundaries seem to have disintegrated. It’s transformed from focussing on creativity to just being about the spectacle. An example can be seen in the annual Met Gala in New York where the fashion showcased items are designed only for their shock factor.

Fashion has evolved to such an extent that clothing lines often seem exaggerated and surreal, resembling a dystopian reality. These trends can significantly impact teenage girls’ confusing their self-perceptions and understanding of their role in society.

However, acknowledging all its imperfections, popular culture is a significant part of my life. It can also be a source of inspiration, that encourages meaningful contemplation, giving me ways to express myself, strengthening connections, and deepening my understanding of the world.

Pop culture can be a powerful tool for sparking conversations and driving social change, with many young women using their platforms to advocate for issues such as gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice.

Lillia currently studies Art, Psychology, and English Literature at Woodhouse College. Outside of school, she enjoys acting, reading, listening to music and watching movies.

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