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21 Examples of Pop Culture

 , June 07, 2021 updated on April 29, 2023
Pop culture is the shared culture of the masses. This exists at the level of nations and often transcends nationality such that it can be considered global. Popular culture emerges through the modern shared experiences of large groups and is also produced at industrial scale by firms. The following are illustrative examples of pop culture.


Pop music is most generally music that is popular. Within the music industry, this term can have negative connotations where it implies music that is superficially designed to appeal to a target audience. Nevertheless, a good portion of pop music emerges spontaneously based on the talent and originality of artists. This is most likely to occur where an artist fits into their time and place such that they capture the public's imagination somehow.


Generally speaking, films and television that are designed to be highly entertaining are viewed as popular culture. Likewise, other forms of entertainment such as theatres, circuses and theme parks are viewed as pop culture if they are produced at scale.


Fandom is a broad term for fans of popular culture or subculture who are unusually enthusiastic. For example, cosplayers who participate in popular culture with costumes and role-playing.

Popular Fiction

Popular fiction, comics and manga. Generally speaking, works require institutional acceptance to be viewed as literature. Everything else is labeled popular fiction, also known as genre fiction. The institutions that choose works to be considered literature such as universities and newspapers arguably suffer from a failure of imagination and tend to exclude any work that can be labeled with a genre such as mystery, thriller, horror, romance, western, fantasy and science fiction.


Media that reaches a large audience including broadcast media such as television and social media such as a video sharing platform.


Sports provides an outlet for the human competitive spirit and acts as a superculture that provides global shared experience.


Mass produced food including fast food, chain restaurants and fast moving consumer goods such as breakfast cereal.


Mass produced fashion such as fast fashion, sportswear and affordable luxury.

Consumer Culture

The consumer culture surrounding mass produced products and services. For example, the experience of using the same mobile device or a brand that symbolizes something to billions of people.


Language is freely invented, changed and adapted by individuals with creative license. This can eventually become part of slang and standard language. It is common for language to represent the spirit of the time from which it sprang. For example, the term party crasher emerged around 1921 in the midst of the Jazz Age. This added meaning to the word crash -- to attend an event where you're not invited.


It is common for pop culture to invent new concepts. For example, the term hater meaning someone who strongly undermines or criticizes others, often due to pathetic jealousy, likely emerged from hip hop culture such as the term playa hater as used by influential rapper Biggie Smalls as early as 1995.


Famous people such as actors, musicians, politicians and media personalities can be considered pop culture when they become a household name. This serves as a common reference such that people talk about celebrities much the way they talk about actual acquaintances. A media frenzy exists around celebrities as entertainment outlets seek every detail of their life.


The countless current events of the day get summarized as a few daily news stories that are picked up by major media outlets and distributed to the masses. This process is known as the news.


Travel services that are offered at industrial scale such as cruises, chain hotels and bus tours. Likewise, sightseeing to well known spots can be considered popular culture as it is a shared experience with broad participation.


Popular recreation such as fitness booms that enjoy mass participation.

Popular Imagination

The popular imagination is the set of stories, symbols and ideas that are interesting enough to quickly spread across large groups. This drives change to culture, norms, values and systems.

Youth Culture

Beginning in the late 19th century developed nations began to ban child labor. This accelerated after WWI and a shift occurred whereby youth in these countries had more free time and material resources leading to a vibrant youth culture in areas such as music, fashion, language, symbols, concepts and values.

Generation Gaps

Popular culture rapidly changes such that large generation gaps occur. Older elements of popular culture can stick to a generation but fail to translate to subsequent generations. For example, radio exercise programs in Japan known as rajio taiso that still appeal to older generations but are perhaps fading out as pop culture.


The pop culture of yesterday can produce strong feelings of a time and place. By reliving this old pop culture you may feel that you can almost reach out and touch the past. Naturally, this is impossible such that pop culture can produce a bitter-sweet melancholy known as nostalgia. For example, a baseball game that brings forward images, smells and sounds of the past.

Digital Experience

Shared experiences that occur in digital environments such as social media and video games. This may mix reality with digital entities.

Creator Culture

The internet has lead to broad participation in culture whereby anyone can create things such as commentary, videos, photos or game mods that contribute to culture. This is likely to expand with time such that everyone can compete with professionals in any domain. For example, a future app that allows anyone to design and produce their own electric vehicle whereby the app takes care of heavy lifting such as engineering, compliance to regulations, prototyping, testing and manufacturing.

Popular Culture vs Traditional Culture

Popular culture provides shared experience across large groups. It is new and ever-changing. Traditional culture provides shared experience across generations. It is stabilizing and only changes slowly.

Popular Culture vs Subculture

Subculture is any culture that attracts enthusiasts but not entire populations. This type of culture comes in great variety and allows individuals to pursue shared experience with people who have similar interests. Subculture greatly expanded in scope and variety with the commercialization of the internet beginning in the mid-1990s --suddenly people could connect with others who have relatively obscure interests. For example, anime and manga is viewed as a subculture in most nations but is pop culture in Japan.

Popular Culture vs High Culture

High culture is culture that is accepted by high status institutions. It is common for popular culture to be criticized as mindless or as a power structure designed to keep the masses distracted. This can take on elitist tones whereby the culture of the intelligentsia and upper class is portrayed as priceless but the culture of the working class and middle class is painted as having negative value. Popular culture leads such that the pop culture of today is often the high culture of tomorrow. For example, Jazz was the popular culture of the Jazz Age but has been viewed as high culture since the 1970s.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about culture.
American Culture
City Culture
Cultural Capital
Cultural Diffusion
Cultural Diversity
Cultural Issues
Cultural Rights
Culture Change
Culture Shift
Culture Shock
Digital Culture
Epic Meaning
Experience Age
Game Culture
Global Culture
High Context
High Culture
Human Behavior
Human Culture
Low Culture
Mass Culture
Material Culture
Modern Culture
Nonmaterial Culture
Performing Art
Personal Culture
Physical Culture
Pop Culture
Rite of Passage
Shared Experiences
Shared Meaning
Social Expectations
Super Culture
Traditional Culture
Traditional Knowledge
Youth Culture
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