Does popular culture change society’s values, or does popular culture reflect the values already present in society? What role does popular culture play in defining what is normal, what is cool, or what is unacceptable? How do we maintain a moral compass in collaboration with cultural expression? These questions throw some issues into stark relief and act as aftereffects of climactic events.

The Learning Resources this week focus on the ways in which popular culture in the United States responded to the events of September 2011. Similar comparisons could be made to the popular culture response in Britain after the London July 2005 bombings and in Madrid, Spain, after the 2004 train bombings. Events that provoke a public emotional reaction also shift popular culture expressions. Sometimes this includes self-censorship, support for patriotism, or a dominant ideology. Consider these ideas as you prepare your Final Project as this week’s Assignment.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Evaluate the influence of society on popular culture

Photo Credit: [MacXever]/[iStock / Getty Images Plus]/Getty Images

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Ashby, L. (2012). Epilogue: Pop culture in a post-9/11 world. In With amusement for all: A history of American popular culture since 1830 (pp. 495–517). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press
The final chapter of this book discusses how popular culture changed in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The author discusses the tonal shift in the wake of the attacks including the prevalence of patriotic-themed culture, and how quickly that shift shifted yet again.

With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830, by Ashby, L. Copyright 2012 by University of Kentucky Press. Reprinted by permission of University of Kentucky Press via the Copyright Clearance Center.

The following websites may be helpful throughout this course by demonstrating ways of analyzing pop culture texts as artifacts.

Cultural Politics. (n.d.). Popular culture. Retrieved from

Pop Matters. (2015). Retrieved from

USC Annenberg. (2014). Media, diversity, & social change initiative. Retrieved from…

Required Media

TED2010. (2010, April 13). Jonathan Klein: Photos that changed the world [Video file]. Retrieved from…

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 6 minutes.

This video presents some of the photographs that have changed the way society reacts to events.

Project: Final Project

The work you have done in Weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 has been building blocks for your Final Project.

In Week 1, you selected one of the following social issues:

  • Race/ethnicity
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Social and economic class
  • Violence
  • Indecency/free speech

Once you selected your issue, you researched how this issue is approached in the field of popular culture.

In Week 2, you selected two popular culture artifacts from the following categories and researched the history of your artifact categories as expressed in popular culture:

  • Film
  • Episodic moving image (TV shows—may be broadcast or streamed)
  • Music
  • Music videos
  • Fashion
  • Advertising
  • Animation (general animation/cartoons such as Disney or Warner Brothers, or genre-specific animation such as Japanese anime)
  • Food
  • Printed material (books, magazines, manga, comic books, or graphic novels)

In Week 3, you investigated access and distribution of your popular culture artifacts.

In Week 4, you selected an additional artifact and looked at how this new artifact defines or disrupts “normal” in relationship to your issue today.

This week you reflect on your work and construct a completed Final Project. In addition to revising your previous work into a cohesive paper, you will add one additional component.

Select a second issue that is related to at least one of your chosen artifacts and discuss how it conveys information about this second issue, synthesizing what you have learned. For example, if you are working with the issue of violence and how it relates to your chosen popular culture artifacts, select one of those artifacts and discuss how it might relate to gender.

To prepare:

  • Review your Weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 Assignments, worksheets, Discussions, and Instructor feedback.
  • Combine your Final Project milestones from Weeks 2, 3, and 4, and incorporate necessary Instructor feedback. Revise the work so that it becomes a unified essay with an introduction, transitions, a conclusion, and the required references.

Submit your Final Project, which should consist of a 1,500- to 2,000-word paper in which you do the following:

  • Discuss the history of your social issue as expressed in popular culture in general.
  • Define the audience for each of your artifact categories and explore whether this audience has changed in any way. Consider whether this audience is local, global, or regional.
  • Discuss what each of your chosen popular culture artifacts communicates regarding your issue.
  • Analyze how at least one additional social issue relates to at least one of your popular culture artifacts.
    • Race/ethnicity
    • Sexuality
    • Gender
    • Social and economic class
    • Violence
    • Indecency/free speech
  • Analyze access and distribution limitations for each of your popular culture artifacts.
  • Determine whether or not access and distribution forces control content. Explain your reasoning.
  • Explain whether your popular culture artifacts send messages that define social values or provoke change.
  • Analyze how your chosen popular culture artifacts connect or do not connect with your personal values.

The final paper should include:

  • a full revision of the Milestones from Weeks 2, 3, and 4. Check for overall structure and appropriate transitions between sections of the text. Please refer to the resources available on the Walden Writing Center site to help with this.
  • the full listings for each of your three popular culture artifacts on your references page. Use the Final Project Worksheet from Week 1 to help with this.
  • At least five additional references to the required, optional, and/or student-contributed resources.

Be sure to follow APA guidelines for formatting and referencing.