Culture of the United States
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Pop culture - the folk culture of the modern market, the culture of the instant, at once subsuming past and future and refusing to acknowledge the reality of either - began about 1948, in the United States and Great Britain." --Lipstick Traces (1989) by Greil Marcus
Its chief early influence was British culture, due to colonial ties with the British that spread the English language, legal system and other cultural inheritances. Other important influences came from other parts of Europe, especially countries from which large numbers immigrated such as Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Italy; the Native American peoples; Africa, especially the western part, from which came the ancestors of most African Americans; and young groups of immigrants. American culture also has shared influence on the cultures of its neighbors in the New World.
The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot, but recent academic opinion is tending towards cultural diversity, pluralism and the image of a salad bowl rather than a melting pot. Due to the extent of American culture there are many integrated but unique subcultures within the United States. The cultural affiliations an individual in the United States may have commonly depend on social class, political orientation and a multitude of demographic characteristics such as ancestral traditions, sex and sexual orientation. The strongest influences on American culture came from northern European cultures, most prominently from Germany, Ireland and England. There are great regional and subcultural differences, making American culture mostly heterogeneous.
American popular culture has expressed itself through nearly every medium, including movies, music and sports. Mickey Mouse,Britney Spears, Barbie, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Babe Ruth, Baseball, American football, Basketball, screwball comedy, G.I. Joe, jazz, the blues, Rap & Hip Hop, The Simpsons, Michael Jackson, Superman, Gone with the Wind, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jordan, Indiana Jones, Sesame Street, Catch-22—these names, genres, and phrases have joined more tangible American products in spreading across the globe.
It can be argued that this ability to easily absorb parts of other cultures and other languages is its greatest strength and helps American culture and language spread. Americans in general do not worry about protecting their "indigenous culture" (see below) but instead eagerly create and adopt new things and then change or modify to make them their own.
Exportation of popular culture
The United States is an enormous exporter of entertainment, especially television, movies and music. This readily consumable form of culture is widely and cheaply dispersed for entertainment consumers worldwide.
Many nations now have two cultures: an indigenous one and globalized/American popular culture. That said, what one society considers entertainment is not necessarily reflective of the "true culture" of its people. More popular syndicated programs cost more, so overseas entertainment purchasers often choose older programs that reflect various, and dated, stages of United States cultural development. Pop culture also tends to neglect the more mundane and/or complex elements of human life.
Apart from professional business attire, fashion in the United States is eclectic and predominantly informal. Blue jeans were popularized as work clothes in the 1850s by merchant Levi Strauss, a German immigrant in San Francisco, and adopted by many American teenagers a century later. They are now widely worn in every state by people of all ages and social classes. Along with mass-marketed informal wear in general, blue jeans are arguably U.S. culture's primary contribution to global fashion.Davis Fred (1992). Fashion, Culture, and Identity.
Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from the performance styles prevalent in Europe, especially England. Today, it is heavily interlaced with American literature, film, television, and music, and it is not uncommon for a single story to appear in all forms. Regions with significant music scenes often have strong theater and comedy traditions as well. Musical theater may be the most popular form: it is certainly the most colorful, and choreographed motions pioneered on stage have found their way onto movie and television screens. Broadway in New York City is generally considered the pinnacle of commercial U.S. theater, though this art form appears all across the country. Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway diversify the theater experience in New York. New York's Theater District is also the largest in the country with Cleveland's being the second largest. Another city of particular note is Chicago, which boasts the most diverse and dynamic theater scene in the country. Regional or resident theaters in the United States are professional theater companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons. Often tiny rural communities are able to awe audiences with extravagant productions.
Television is one of the major mass media of the United States. Ninety-seven percent of American households have at least one television set and the majority of households have more than three.
The US can be said to be the homeland of modern network television.
American music can be heard all over the world. Live music is especially popular with bands and solo artists. American popular music also contains many styles of music that developed in the US and were popular music when they came up (or still are). Examples are hip-hop, Rap, Dance, swing, jazz, blues, country, R&B, funk, pop, house, rock & roll, and various others.
American films are very popular, including icons like Star Wars, The Godfather, The Karate Kid, Schindler's List, Titanic, and The Matrix. American movie actors and actresses are widely recognized such as Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney, Will Smith, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood. Outside the US, American Film is usually referred to in a generalizing manner as Hollywood.
There is great variety in dance in the United States, it is the home of the Lindy Hop and its derivative Rock and Roll, and modern square dance (associated with the United States of America due to its historic development in that country—nineteen U.S. states have designated it as their official state dance) and one of the major centers for modern dance. There is a variety of social dance and concert or performance dance forms with also a range of traditions of Native American dances.
- Religion in the United States
- Visual arts of the United States
- African American culture
- American literature
- American popular culture
- American modernism
- American music and "black music"
- American cinema and Hollywood
- American erotica
- American censorship
- American exploitation
- American grotesque
- American horror
- American erotica
- American folklore
- American mythology
- North American counterculture
- American avant-garde
- American underground, Beat generation, Weathermen, Weathermen, civil rights
- Uncle Sam