The Sociologist's Guide to Pop Culture

Trends, Traditions, and Problems

Popular, or "pop" culture is one of the foremost areas of sociological focus. Though some might dismiss attention to particular celebrities, music videos, and fashion trends as shallow and superfluous aspects of life, sociologists recognize that we can learn a lot about our society by studying the things that become popular on a mass scale, and how it is that people interact with them.

This series of articles delves into various aspects of contemporary popular culture from a sociological perspective, and addresses everything from selfies, to the Kardashian/Jenners, to Halloween and Christmas. And, if there's an element of pop culture that you'd like a sociological take on, feel free to email suggestions to Nicki Lisa Cole, our Sociological Expert.

01
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What Do Those Facebook Pride Photos Really Mean?

Nicki Lisa Cole/Facebook

What does it mean that 26 million people have adopted the "Celebrate Pride" profile picture on Facebook? A sociologist reflects on norms and politics. 

02
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Why We Selfie

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Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

The ubiquitous selfie. Simply an act of vanity and narcissism? The Sociology Expert suggests some additional forces may be at play.

03
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"Is Wearing a Scarf Gay?" Why Some Guys Ask This Question

A sociologist reflects on why some ask this, and why there is a campaign to make scarves "manly."

04
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Why Feminists Are Fighting About Rihanna's New Video

Rihanna attends the Fendi New York Flagship Boutique Inauguration Party on February 13, 2015. Mike Pont/Getty Images

Is Rihanna's video for "Bitch Better Have My Money" a feminist, antiracist revenge film, or is it a misogynist crime against women?

05
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How To Know If Someone Is Flirting On Facebook

Joe Regan/Getty Images

Wondering if that love interest posting on your Facebook timeline is really into you? Good news: data shows that you are being digitally courted. 

06
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What is Cultural Appropriation?

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North West with parents Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at her birthday party in Calabasas, California, June, 2014. Kim Kardashian/Instagram

A sociologist explains what cultural appropriation really is, what it isn't, and why it's a big deal to so many.

07
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What's Wrong With Selfies

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What's so bad about selfies? Find out, in this sociologically infused round-up of the critiques of the craze.

08
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In Defense of Selfies

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dulce de leche/Twitter

Think the selfie is vain, narcissistic, or self-exploitation? The reasons why some sociologists defend it may surprise you.

09
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Why So Much Fuss About Kylie Jenner and Tyga?

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Kylie Jenner sign copies of 'City Of Indra: The Story of Lex And Livia' at Bookends Bookstore on June 3, 2014 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Dave Kotinsky/FilmMagic

Is the tabloid media storm around Kylie Jenner and rapper Tyga just about age? A sociologist suspects that racial stereotypes are part of it. 

10
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Should Advertising Images of People Be Regulated?

A new bill proposes that the FTC should prevent advertisers from using doctored images of bodies and faces, with much sociological, psychological, and medical research in support. 

11
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Is National Public Radio Really Public?

Images by Fabio/Getty Images

Is NPR living up to its mission of public service? A new study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting suggests it may be failing.

12
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The Sociology Expert's Halloween Costume No-Nos

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totallyjamie

Do you fancy yourself against racism, gender discrimination, sexual exploitation, and economic inequality? Then avoid these Halloween costumes at all cost.

13
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12 Fascinating Facts About Halloween

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Halloween masks are offered for sale at Fantasy Costumes on October 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Facts about Halloween spending and activities, from the National Retail Federation, with some color sociological commentary about what it all means.

14
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How to Have a Feminist Valentine's Day

Sick of the damaging stereotypical gender and sexuality politics of Valentine's Day, a sociologist offers advice on how to cast them aside and truly enjoy Valentine's Day. 

15
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Christmas: What We Do, How We Spend, and Our Environmental Impact

A round-up of what we did, how we spent, and our environmental impact at Christmas.

16
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The Sociology of Why Christmas Is So Special

What makes Christmas so special for so many? A sociologist weighs in.