“Pop Tarts” vs “Rock Gods” in the United States

I can just picture Harold Conklin now, doing field work in amphitheaters and arenas all across the country trying to determine the appeal of “rock gods” and “pop tarts” in American youth.  Through discussions and interviews with concert-goers, Conklin might deduce that the two phenomena are admired for completely separate reasons.  This he would be able to tell by the words that each concert-goer used to describe their most beloved band/artist.  At an Allman Brothers Band concert, for example, he might encounter descriptors like: skilled, driving beats, insane vocals, soulful, wailing guitars, friendly atmosphere (very mellow to say the least), and rockin’ (of course).  On the other hand, at a Britney Spears concert, he might hear descriptions like: a great dancer, hott or cute (from the dutiful fathers/boyfriends that were dragged along), danceable, easy to relate to, and pretty voice.  I think that from the choice of words used to describe each respective concert experience, Conklin would be able to determine why, generally speaking, teenage boys wish to emulate “rock gods” whereas teenage girls wish to emulate “pop tarts” (seriously, i mean generally).  He might conclude that this is because boys tend to rebel and many play rock instruments(and the fact that “rock gods” are usually surrounded by “groupies” does not hurt matters either) while girls want to be attractive to boys and have fun dancing.  This I would attribute to traditional American gender values and norms, using a little of Tyler’s cognitive anthropology.  These gender roles perform the function of organizing certain behaviors and activities in different ways for males and females in our society.  While not an absolute, I believe I am justified in noting this.  In a sense, these trends are existent because each respective group was raised to like those aspects of music and performance.  The part that throws a monkey wrench in this whole string of thought is that there are so many exceptions, (I personally know several women rockers and, unfortunately, some men who love “pop tarts.”), so for now I am just writing them off as “anomalies.”

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3 thoughts on ““Pop Tarts” vs “Rock Gods” in the United States

  1. I agree with your definition of pop tarts and rock gods. But I believe that exceptions are a part of society. Everyone can not fit into only two categories there is going to be many people in any society that would exist in the borderlands. Guys can like pop tart and girl can like rock gods or some people could like both pop tarts and rock gods. It could still fit because the majority of people fall into the extremes and less people fall into the borderlands.

    1. Very good points. I really like the way you tied Mead’s Culture and Personality into the ethnoscience and cognitive anthropology in a meaningful way. I also think that Mead would have looked at the way that boys and girls are raised to uphold different values. Most people, when they encounter a young girl, almost invariably tell her, or her parents, how pretty she is. However, when encountering a young boy, most people tell him how strong he looks or how smart he is. While people do tell girls they are smart as well, it is usually after the initial, “Well aren’t you pretty?”. It makes perfect sense that Americans, being raised in this way, tend to value beauty in women and strength and intelligence/skills in men, both on and off the stage. The ways that people are socialized into society are largely the ways that people behave later in life. (This, too, is a sort of blend of ethnoscience and Culture and Personality: looking at how the way people are raised impacts the words that they desire to hear, thereby defining the characteristics that they wish to emulate.)

  2. I put to you that it is the teen boys the “pop tarts” have a target audience. These little boys, I agree do not want to grow up to be pop stars, they want to grow up to date them. As for the little girls, growing up thinking that a “pop tart” is not only normal but desirable can be potentially very damaging.

    Is being successful (in our current society) about being very good at what you do, revolutionary, or admired?

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