Haven’t You Heard?

Subculture: The Meaning of Style from Dick Hebdige creates a closer discussion and observation about subculture as an emergent form of protesting mainstream culture. In this case, subculture groups are irrupted from areas rooted within oppression or angst—like punk rock or jazz. Consequently, these emergent cultures are inevitable in that they often result from a holistic dissent (referring to a group of people).

Hebdige begins the conversation of subculture by mentioning a few notable theorists that will essentially bolster his argument; these include Barthes who discusses symbols and icons as mythology, Althusser in respect to manufacturing and capitalism from pyramid labor/culture structures, Gramsci as a reference to hegemonies that may influence dominant ideologies, etc. In this case, the argument is made that as the mainstream culture creates tension and friction, disruptions occur that ultimately become subcultural groups. By doing so, these groups consist of various sectors that are all rooted in one common umbrella. This “homology,” as described, allows these subcultures to become complicated areas that have deviated from the main culture. For instance, punk rock influenced a chain of events that ultimately contributed to its awareness from the hegemonic groups. Although the punk movement is largely designed as a rebellion against mainstream media and a mode of self-expression, punk is collectively noted for its music, fashion, and ideologies. By creating a subaltern genre of mainstream culture, subcultures are considered fascinating and will often be overtaken by other groups who admire the image. In this way, groups that specifically emerged from areas rooted in deeply oppressive states can become appropriated as a hip trend. As a hypothetical result, white teenagers could remix a preexisting subculture, creating problematic differences and issues that are not always addressed.

In contemporary culture, this is a very common issue that seems to lack obvious solutions. Despite the amount of efforts to stop cultural appropriation of oppressive subcultures, the commodity of the subculture will often draw others in to join and possibly remix. Regardless, subcultures serve as facilitators of mainstream culture that allow people to recollect in smaller groups so that they maintain their own response to hegemonic discord. Likewise, these subcultural groups can allow for a fruiting of new ideologies, fashion, music, art, etc.

I thought this reading was very interesting because it approaches the emergence of subcultures through critical theory and contemplation. By introducing history and cultural dissonance, the discussion that subcultures can complicate culture and fascinate other people that are involved in mainstream media seems very reasonable. In this case, the discourse surrounding subcultures has been relevant in United States today. To elaborate, it seems as if many people and groups today are constantly torn in-between identities; rather, some people are displeased with being considered as followers of mainstream media, so they will take from subcultures in order to feel unique. In another case, some people may actually relate to the ideologies of certain subcultures, and can find ways to benefit the main culture by positively adding to the subculture. Regardless, this discussion is very interesting and definitely a must-read.


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