Social Construction of Reality Through Popular Culture

Social Construction
of Reality Through
Popular Culture
Lesson 6
SOC 86 – Popular Culture
Robert Wonser
Social Construction of Reality
• Remember from earlier
in the course, all reality is
constructed socially.
• We do this with one
another in a collective
process of social
• One of the agents of
reality construction are
our social institutions, of
which media is one.
How does the
monkey experiment
shed light on the
impact of social
institutions on human
thought and
Popular Culture’s Worldview
• Why does the mass media exist?
• Recall also who owns it…
• Recall the UN-TV experiments. What does TV
teach us?
• The power of any institution is a soft one. It
lies in remaining unnoticed.
• But even though it’s unnoticed it affects how
we see the world round us.
Popular Culture as a Socializing
• There are several important agents of
socialization; family, peers, school and mass
• An agent of socialization is a social institution
that socializes people on behalf of society.
• What kinds of messages does the media tell
• How do they differ from the the agents of
What Reality does Pop Culture
• Racism
• Sexism
• Classisim
• Heterosexism
Early Cinema
How (have) Film
Portrayals of
People of Color
Video Games
• For Females:
• Less likely to be playable characters to identify
• Half of all female characters were props or
• Female characters are often hypersexualized
and/or had unhealthy, unrealistic or
disproportionate body sizes while male
characters were often hypermasculinized.
• Females more than twice as likely to to wear
revealing clothing.
Video Games
• For Males:
• More likely to engage in physical aggression (52% to 32%)
while female characters were twice as likely to use verbal
aggression and ridicule and more than three times as likely to
• Tropes:
• Damsel in Distress
Video Games as Lived Reality
• “Every message is the same.
I’m always either fat and ugly,
or a slut.”
• - Quote from “Fat, Ugly or
Slutty,” a website devoted to
the “creepy, disturbing,
insulting, degrading and/or just
plain rude” online messages
sent to female players
• What is it like to play video
Racial Diversity and
Stereotyping in Video Games
• More than half of all human characters are
white, nearly every video game hero was
• White female characters also outnumbered
female characters of every other racial group.
• Games especially created for young children
featured only white characters.
• Latinas and Native Americans were virtually
nonexistent, while Latino characters only appeared
in sports games and were almost always involved in
physical harm and pain.
• Few Asian/Pacific Islander characters, and rarely
player-controlled, usually wrestlers or fighters and
usually antagonists.
• Most African American males were portrayed as
competitors and most African American females
were non-action characters. Females were far more
likely to be victims of violence.
• What messages do these games convey?
Consciously, subconsciously? What do they say
about who is valued and who isn’t by society?
Reify Beliefs of Society