Pop culture & Me & Navigating American Social life  

As of this past fall, I have started working for the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Dominican University.  

I was thrilled to start, but when I learned in detail of my job description, my optimism sank a little. I was placed in charge of making social media posts about pop culture. This would be a great job, except that I am not American.  

How could I post pop culture posts for a culture I am still trying to assimilate to?  

In what ways could I appeal to the connoisseurs of pop culture consumption, that is, the Dominican University students?  

Dear readers, laugh all you want, because as someone who does not have a Netflix account and who cannot (for the life of me) tell the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek, this posed a serious challenge. For several days on end, I searched all the major newspaper websites, under their pop culture section, for something that would draw the attention of my fellow Netflix-and-chill college students. 

app entertainment ipad mockup
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As it turns out, much of today’s pop culture revolves around Netflix shows (obviously), movies (interestingly), and social life (surprisingly).  

As I scheduled various posts for the department, I began to wonder the origins and growth of pop culture. What is pop culture? Is it something that becomes so popular that it becomes our culture? Or is it something within the culture that becomes popularized by people?  

Which came first: pop or culture?  


These questions gnawed at me as I sat down one day to decide the next pop culture posts. My roommate happened to be in the room with her friends. She is a social butterfly and a proud member of the pop culture generation. At that moment, she was talking animatedly about To All the Boys I’ve Loved, a new Netflix romcom.  

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(Image from Teen Vogue)

Infected by their enthusiasm, I searched online for clips of this infamous Netflix show. As soon as I saw the first clip, my mind was blown. Is that an Asian girl? Just like me! I thought I would never see someone remotely like me in American romcom. Thinking of it now, I have never seen any.  

But as I looked closer, I realized the plot of the show reveals much more than an interesting story. It is about the accidents between a girl and all the boys she ever had a crush on. How relatable! As she fights with her sisters, falls in love with boys, communicates her frustrations, the main character outlines all the epic moments of a teenage girl’s love life.  

Thus, a review about this romcom was posted. I had mixed feelings, but the post was reposted and liked many times on Twitter. I was amazed by how many students who felt the same way as me.  


Isn’t it interesting? Culture is the American culture we are exposed to constantly, yet “pop” stands for humanity. While pop cultures are unique for different cultures, at the end of the day, we are all humans and we like what reflects our experiences.  

Here is just my experience working for the department. I am still discovering and learning new things about my job, pop culture, and the American social life in general.

Pop Culture’s Prince

Prince

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”-Prince

On April 21st, 2016 the world lost one of the biggest music legends of all time, Prince Rogers Nelson. Because of his impact on my life and how I see music, I have decided to dedicate my last post of the semester to take a moment and remember the legacy he leaves behind.

If you have never heard of Prince, then you know that it is important to understand that Prince was an artist who took his craft very seriously. His love for music was seen throughout all of his work as he produced numerous albums throughout the duration of his career. He was not only a singer but a master of many different instruments, which showed just how much time and dedication he put into his work.

Prince not only gave the world hits like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and “1999,” but he also brought many talented artist into fame such as Vanity and Sheila E.

Although we hardly ever heard about his private life in social media, we always heard how giving he was as a person. Prince was dedicated to the advancement and bettering of others as he worked with YouTuber Shameless Maya for the creation of his 2015 album cover.

I believe that one of the main reasons why Prince was so popular was because he had a fan base that consisted of many different generations. Not only could older people relate to his music but younger people could as well.

Prince was an icon because of  his ability to be himself. He was not afraid to go out on stage with makeup and platform heels. He taught everyone that it was okay to be yourself and be proud. Although his death is a tremendous loss to those who loved him, we should each remember the many gifts Prince left behind — not only his music but his willingness to live everyday as the truest version of yourself…shamelessly.

Pop Culture’s Netflix and Chill

Netflix

Almost everyone is familiar with the term “Netflix and Chill”. It’s becoming so popular that we are hearing it on television shows and reading it on t-shirts.

So why is watching Netflix becoming the thing to-do?

Our generation no longer looks to the television set for entertainment. Instead, it is all about fast-paced movement and keeping up through binge-watching, something provided by Netflix. You don’t have to sit through commercials, and you don’t have to wait for weekly episodes. The options are pretty endless through Netflix. Above all, it is an enabler! You can watch non-stop episodes for days at a time. The selection is huge: you can watch thrillers, comedies, or even romance movies at the click of a button.

For me, I like the fact that you can stream a movie and search the web at the same time so you’re not forced to stay in one room to watch something. Instead, your laptop and your smartphone can go wherever you go. Netflix is very flexible, which makes it one of the top sources for today’s entertainment.

For me, Netflix and Chill means to be able to release stress from your day. It allows you to take your mind off of whatever you have going on — something that I think is really important for most students like myself who are now facing finals week.

Of course, since Netflix is an an escape from the “real world,” it can become a distraction from things we need to get done. Just make sure that your binge-watching doesn’t get in the way of your studies. Study first, Netflix and Chill second!

Lucky Streak (A Fictive Thought)

I used to write a lot of fiction and poems. I’ve written novels and screenplays and teleplays. I don’t have as much time for that now, which may explain why my dreams are often filled with stories. Sometimes to scare me; sometimes to soothe me. This bit of prose comes from one of those soothing experiences.

Once upon a time there was a boy.

But this was not a boy like you would think of a boy.

He never ran about to excess, bumping into things, falling down.

He never fidgeted in his seat and cried out when he was not allowed to move.

He never snorted jokes at his friends at his teachers’ expense.

No, this was a boy who liked to sit in his corner of the drab gray and windowless room he and his classmates were forced to sit, hours upon hours, unendingly, to do their learning to pass their pile after pile of tests to get into a proper college and thus lead a proper life.

He sat their comfortably, at peace with his books.

This was a boy who loved to read. And read. And read.

He would read anything. All the time. Any book with printed words he would disappear into his, his heart beating enthusiasm that never appeared on his face. He would be content to always read and never go outside.

Until the time he came upon a tennis court chasing after an erstwhile lightweight novel that the wind had torn from his hand.

He sat transfixed by the machinations of the players, the balls, the court. And he asked, in a small, unused voice, if he could play.

The older boys there — including his classmate, the boy with the blonde hair that constantly fell over his eyes — sniggered but agreed.

And the boy who loved to read and not go outside won.

And he won. And he won. And he won.

Every single match. Against every single player. He won.

And not just tennis. Any sport he was introduced to he won. No matter how complex, no matter how exotic, he won.

Because he read about it. And because in reading so much he could see how it worked after just a brief exposure to it.

Now, the people of the town had long thought him to be autistic or something. His grandmother, his only guardian after the deaths of his parents, chided them all, said he was only shy. But no the doctors, they knew better, and they began calling him a savant.

The people of the town who made money off the town wanted to brand him — not with a physical brand, naturally, but as a money-making attraction to bring attention to this small, seemingly forgotten by modern advancements town. His grandmother bristled at the thought, and just wanted her little lucky streak to enjoy himself.

Because as they all talked and had important discussions, his heart beat with the enthusiasm that before only reading gave him. And his grandmother could see it. Could see the crinkle around his eyes. The slight upturn in his lips.

His heart was beating through.

Snapchat Me That…

Snapchat blog post pic

Even before it went down in the DM, Snapchat was very popular. Like most people, I once thought that Snapchat was pointless. However, as pointless as the app may seem, like many others, I became addicted to it. But hey, the first step to solving your problem is admitting that you actually have one, right?

For those of you who don’t know what it is like to be addicted to Snapchat, consider yourself lucky. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Snapchat is a social media app that allows you to create and watch 10 second pictures and videos. What makes this app so unique is that it limits its users to work within a 24-hour span, after that their video/picture will be gone forever. These videos allow you full creative ability as you can add special effects like time adjustment and even filters.

So, what’s so great about it? Well, for me I feel like I get to show my friends a glimpse into my life. In a  way Snapchat has become the everyday person’s reality show.  In addition, much like YouTube, Snapchat is the creator of overnight sensations. These sensations include Daniel and Josh, who many people know as the “Damn Daniel” pair.

One of the biggest contributors to Snapchat’s success is the fact that it provides its users with a safe environment where they don’t feel obligated to be anything but themselves, which is revolutionary in today’s world of social media.

What makes the app so great is also what makes it so addictive. At times, it is easy to overly post to Snapchat. I am definitely guilty of that; I cannot go an hour without checking my Snapchat. Like others in my same situation, I guess I will need to find a happy medium. Next step…

Pop Culture Overnight Sensations

(YouTube)Overnight sensation

Missy Lynn and Shay Carl have all changed the definition of what it means to be a YouTuber.

YouTube started as a source where we as users would go to funny videos that we would often share them with our friends. Over time, YouTube has become the career of many people like Missy Lynn and Shay Carl. Today’s YouTubers have been able to expand their brands beyond the internet to become household names.

I watched Missy Lynn record makeup tutorials in her bedroom, and now she is a spokesmodel for Maybelline. I watched Shay Carl struggle to make ends meet in a job that he hated. Today, he uses YouTube and sponsorship as his main source of income doing a career that he loves.

These YouTubers are everyday people, just like you and me. For me, it is inspiring to see an average person like Missy Lynn or Shay Carl become so successful from YouTube after their humble beginnings. Their rise to fame serves as encouragement that if you want something bad enough, and you work hard for it, you can obtain it.

These success stories also show that there is not one clear path to success but instead you pave your own way. And that YouTube can help you do that.

Pop Culture Consumption?

Addicted to pop culture

During downtime I find it relaxing to quickly reach for my phone to see what is going on in pop culture. However, have you ever noticed that you are reaching for you phone too often?

I am definitely guilty of over consuming pop culture. It often starts off as a five minute break from homework. Five minutes becomes ten, and then ten turns into an entire night of a pop culture marathon.

Like most people my age, I find it hard to tear myself away from my phone, even when I am supposed to be doing something productive like school work or actual face-to-face interaction with my family and friends. I even use my phone to get rid of awkwardness, avoid people or events, and replace any weirdness.

With so many social media apps to chose from — including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat — there is something new every time you refresh your page. Users have so many options its hard not engage with them each constantly.

In my previous post I talked about allowing yourself to have a “pop culture pause” — but I think we also need to know when to step away from pop culture and step back into reality.

Just think about how much more productive you would be if you used your phone half as much as you do now. Don’t get me; wrong pop culture isn’t a bad thing. In fact I think it is what helps define our generation. However, too much of a good thing can’t be good for you either.

Politics and Higher Education

Save our Map Grant

Like me, many Dominican University students woke up to find an outstanding balance in their student account.

Normally students receive a financial aid award that is composed of school scholarships, state loans and grants. For Dominican students, the MAP (Monetary Award Program) grant is basically funding that is used to ease the financial burden of attending college. Most students heavily depend on the grant to be able to attend classes.

Recently there has been a lot of controversy in the news regarding the Illinois MAP grant because of Governor Bruce Rauner’s decision to veto the bill that would have allocated funds to students. In the Daily Illini news article titled Illinois senate passes bill to overturn Rauner’s veto on MAP grants, Rauner stated that he vetoed the bill originally “because the state did not have enough money in its budget to pay for the grants”(Illini staff report 2016).

Without this grant, what are students other options? To apply for more student loans? Get a second job?

I think I speak for both myself and others when I say students don’t need these additional stresses when their only focus should be on school. This grant affects the lives of so many students that it is hard to believe that such a rash decision could be made by someone we put in office to help advance our community.

Without the MAP grant, many students like me, and including me, will have a more difficult time receiving a higher education and fulfilling our dreams. It is important that students become aware of what is going on in the world of politics so that they understand how the world they live in is being affected.

Pop Culture Pause

Pop Culture Pause

Dominican University students are some of the hardest working students I have ever seen. I personally can attest to always being on the go, whether its going to work or school. With that being said, I think every now and then we all need a pop culture pause.

What’s a pop culture pause?

Well, for me, pop culture serves as my getaway from reality. Whenever I am stressed or need a break from work or school, I can always count on pop culture to serve as a momentary distraction. A pop culture pause allows you to escape your own head and see what is going on in the world of celebrities, politics, or sports.

Music specifically is my own personal outlet, and with finals rapidly approaching, I definitely need a pop culture pause. One thing that I am looking forward to are those summer concerts as my own personal pop culture pause.

Two concerts that I am super excited to attend are the Beyonce Formation and Rihanna Anti-World tours. I thought that I would have to choose between the two, but fortunately I’ll be able to attend both.

However, if you aren’t interested in Beyonce or Rihanna, there are other artist who will be visiting the city of Chicago this summer, such as Coldplay and Ellie Goulding. If you are more of a music festival lover, Lollapalooza will be taking place at the end of July. Here you will be able to see and listen to various artist who offer a variety of sounds.

I know I am super excited to get started with concert season especially once finals are over with. Then I’ll be on a never-ending pop culture pause.

 

Calabrese on Why Communication Matters

Dr. Richard Calabrese, the head of the corporate communications program in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Dominican University, has been a professor since the 1970s. And in his nearly fifty years of experience, his wisdom has touched many college students and communication majors. Now, his wisdom can be shared in this new video, produced by Rhetoric and Communication major and Class of 2016 graduate, Axel Vargas-Irlanda.

In this video, Dr. Calabrese reflects on just why communication matters and is a worthwhile course of study and profession for any student, as well as why being a Dominican University student brings them additional benefits their peers at other institutions may not experience.