Aug 7, 2020 in Informative

American Popular Culture

Write an essay in which you explore the impact of technology on American popular culture in the 20th century. It is important to include a discussion of the interplay between race and technology in your essay.

The technology and popular culture are closely interconnected. They influence each other causing irreversible historian changes. In the history of American popular culture, technology and culture are bound with the issue of race because the Blacks played a significant role in the development of the American popular culture. While, the technological progress which took place in the 19th century resulted in many significant changes in the lifestyle of Americans which influenced culture, for example, the mechanization of labor gave Americans more free time which lead to the development of sports, clubs, and hobbies. Moreover, industrialization and the development of the suburbs which started in the 19th century also affected American popular culture. This process continued in the 20th century leading to the new changes. This paper will describe how the technological progress of the 20th century affected the American popular culture. Besides, the paper will present the connection between American popular culture, racial issue and these technological innovations. 

Firstly, the technological development of the 20th century leaded to the prosperity and growing popularity of many spheres of popular culture, for example, the cinema. It is difficult to disagree that American cinema and cinematic arts are an important part of American popular culture. They can be easily considered to be also a part of the American identity. And, of course, American cinema is very often associated with Hollywood which was very important in the development of the American cinema of the 20th century and it is still very widely-known all over the world. Hollywood creates the majority of the movies which are currently exported overseas resulting in the high popularity of the American popular culture. And the trigger which triggered the success of the Hollywood is the development of the new technologies in the 20th century. According to Ronald Davis, since the end of the World War II, “with the expansion of home viewing, film imaging became so pervasive in American lives that the distinction between reality and fantasy grew blurred, endangered social stability as well as critical thought”. The author also deals with the idea that Hollywood is rather a concept, a cultural phenomenon rather than a place.  


The second significant affect of the technological progress is urbanization. People from the rural areas lost their traditional ways of making money connected with the agriculture and farming. They started to move to big cities looking for jobs and more opportunities than they had in their native areas. Such people usually lived in the suburbs which quickly transformed in special areas with their cultural differences. Black people who immigrated into the big cities also lived in the suburbs forming their black communities which contributed to the development of the American popular culture. Melvin Patrick Ely in the chapter “Great Black Migration”, describes the influence of technological progress and industrialization on the migration of the Blacks to the big northern cities and its impact on the American popular culture. The author mentions such manifestation of the culture of Blacks and its impact on the whole American culture, as black face minstrel shows which often depicted negative and offensive stereotypes and assumptions connected with the black people, as for example, the movie “The Wonder Bar”. Tricia Rose in the chapter “Hip-Hop nation” also mentions the connection between the immigration of the African Americans – and their music – from the South and West to North and its significant and profound effect on the history of American popular music. 

Thirdly, speaking about technological progress, urbanization, the concepts of race and culture, it is impossible not to mention such important phenomenon in the history of the American popular culture as Harlem Renaissance. This term means the American social and cultural movement of the Blacks. Harlem Renaissance is a complex phenomenon. It dealt not only with music but also with many other spheres of culture including literature, theatre, fashion, etc. Nevertheless, music, especially jazz music was a very important part of the Harlem Renaissance’s contribution to the American popular culture of the 20th century. For example, Joel Rogers stated that: “jazz has absorbed the national spirit, that tremendous spirit of go, the nervousness, lack of conventionality and boisterous good-nature characteristic of the American, white or black, as compared with the more rigid formal natures of the Englishmen and German”. Technology has also been of great importance in this case because Black people moved to the area of Harlem where the movement is started because of the technological progress which created job opportunities. Alain Locke believed that Harlem was the centre of the African-American culture where cultural, social, and political issues were interconnecting resulting in outstanding impact on the American popular culture. 

In summary, technological progress and new phenomena of culture are always connected. The American popular culture is not an exception. The rapid technological progress of the 20th century resulted in industrialization and urbanization, which affected the popular culture. For instance, technological development increased the importance of TV and cinema, as well as the importance of Hollywood where films were made. Technological progress has also lead to the migration of various people from rural areas to big cities where there were more job opportunities. Black people also emigrated from the South and West to North. The Black immigrants brought with them their music and culture which gradually became part of the American popular culture. Moreover, African American communities in Harlem lead to the development of such social and cultural movement as Harlem Renaissance which affected American culture in different fields.  

Write an essay in which you explore and explain the significance of the cross pollination that takes place between African Americans and Jewish Americans in producing our popular culture. Describe the nature of this collaboration and the way it plays out over time. It might help you to take a look at Norman Mailer’s very weird essay The White Negro.

The connections between the African Americans and Jewish Americans in the history of American popular culture are very significant. Both of these ethnicities have been oppressed and offended at certain periods of time. However, both African Americans and Jewish Americans developed cultures which significantly affected the American popular culture. Norman Mailer in his book “The White Negro” deal with these issues making interesting conclusions about the links between the American Jews and Blacks. This paper will argue that the contribution of these ethnicities into the American popular culture is very considerable and long-lasting basing on the Mailer’s book.

Firstly, Mailer starts his book “The White Negro” writing about the World War II and its atrocities: “Probably, we will never be able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years”. These words also create associations with the Jews because they suffered during the World War II the most. The author mentions this fact later in the book writing about hipsters and American existentialism. According to him, the war has reduced the value of human lives and this leaded to the changes in people’s characters and lifestyles. New cultural phenomena appeared and hipsters are one of them.

Mailer describes hipsters in details because he considers their role in the American popular culture quite significant. However, an important detail, which is even displayed in the book title, is the existence of a person who calls himself “a white negro”. Such individual is Mezz Mezzrow who made a significant contribution to the American popular culture because he was a jazz musician. This example clearly demonstrates the connections between the African Americans and Jewish Americans and their culture. This connection could exist because the two ethnicities had much in common which resulted into the development of the hipster’s movement. The representatives of this movement, according to Mailer, distanced themselves from the white society. This was quite natural because both Jews and Blacks were often perceived negatively by Whites. Mezzrow not only played typically African American music, he also declared himself a “voluntary negro”. His claims influenced the history of American popular culture because jazz was the center value of the hipster movement. The acceptance of the Black culture, according to Mailer, was for Jewish hipsters an act of rebellion. Nevertheless, the book “The White Negro” is a very interesting work because the author is Jew and his way of interpreting reality is quite unusual. He states that the cultural links between African Americans and Jewish Americans flourished in the spheres of black face minstrelsy to literature, and of course, music. Mailer considers Black culture to be a part of the Jewish identity in the 20th century, although the relations between Jew Americans and African Americans were not always positive and fruitful in terms of cultural development.

The chapter “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy” also analyses the issues of the hipsterism and other cultural peculiarities. He calls it “the philosophy of us and them” meaning that both Blacks and Jews felt that they are different from the others and it is true because they created opposition to the whites. They were allies during long periods of the 20th century taking part in the Civil Right movement together. Jewish Civil Rights activists were killed by Ku Klux Clam as well as the Black activists. He also mentions the importance of hip-hop music in American popular culture and the role of Jews in its development.

The article “Howl” also describes the role of jazz in American popular culture. The article describes the outstanding role of jazz and mentions hipsters. The author’s attitude to them is quite controversial. The article mentions drugs and the unstructured lifestyle usual for them. Nevertheless, the article also deals with the important role of African American culture in the Jew American culture, which was caused by the similarities of their social positions by the end of the World War II. This is very important because the fact that Jew Americans often used African American culture in their entertainment industry demonstrates the public acceptance of the African American culture, which was one of the stages on the way of African American culture becoming part of the American popular culture.

In summary, Jew Americans and African Americans have many similarities in their history and culture. This resulted in the connections between these two ethnicities both of which were oppressed and took part in the Civil Right movement. The links between the Jew and African American culture is described in the book “The White Negro” written by Norman Mailer who was also a Jewish author. He describes the phenomenon of American hipsters who adopted the African American culture and refers to the example of the Jewish jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow to show how African American culture interplays with the Jewish culture. However, jazz music was not the only sphere of culture where such connections took place. Other fields included literature, and black face minstrelsy. The importance of the Jewish contribution to the American popular culture is the fact that Jew American publicly accepted the African American culture which leaded to its mainstream acceptance. Mailer portrays African American culture as part of the Jew American identity which proves its important role in the cultural and social relations between the two ethnicities.


Related essays