Imagine an incredibly lavish dinner banquet. The banquet hall has just a few attendants dressed in the most exquisite apparel, sipping the finest wines, quietly discussing their latest ventures, and chuckling quietly. The banquet proceeds with eloquent addresses, and as the evening comes to a close everyone drives home in their Lamborghini’s and Lotus’s. Now, contrast this hoity toity circumstance to another party. This party is located in a college dorm, filled with hundreds of people chugging the cheapest bear, laughing loudly, while screaming and dancing outrageously. The party proceeds and eventually something is on fire. As the party comes to a close someone is getting dragged behind a car on an old trashcan lid to get home.
These two parties lie on opposite ends of the culture spectrum. One lies on the high end and one on the low end. Although high and low culture in media don’t necessarily match up perfectly with the ideals set in this example. It is a good example to help us understand how these medias function in there selective spheres. High culture would be the media most likely consumed by the first group. Low culture would usually be consumed by the larger masses of the second group. Who consumes the media, what is contained in the media , and how society embraces the media all play a large roll in making media high or low culture.
High Culture is usually defined as culture that can be experienced by the upper class elites. It usually consists of some artistic element that allows reflection and thought about life and its meaning. some examples might include operas, ballets, symphonies, and classic literature. Low culture on the other hand is what everyone is consuming, usually doesn’t require much intellectual taste or comprehension. For Example, the latest hit YouTube video, Justin Bieber’s latest single, or a T.V. Series like The Bachelor or Stranger Things.
In essence, the largest and possibly the most important distinction between the two is who consumes the media. Low culture media is consumed by the masses whereas high culture is consumed by a smaller group of high class intellectuals. Back in the day high culture was only available to the high class elites, because it was expensive and difficult for the masses to consume. That distinction has now dissipated. Through media and technology the masses can now consume high culture media. Despite this dissipation the distinction between the two stands firm with only a few changes. High and low culture have been changing for centuries. In Shakespeare’s day his plays were considered low culture, they were crude and unruly. Now, only a select few are able to read and enjoy his writings. It is not a leisurely read and requires a certain kind of intellect which helps to classify it as high culture.
One example of an explicitly low culture YouTube video is a video made by the infamous BLR “THE FORCE AWAKENS: A Bad Lip Reading”. What makes this video so low culture? This BLR Force Awakens Video is very clearly low culture because of its popularity, lack of intellectual aspects, and likely hood to sink into the background of society. Me, my friends and more than 9 million people have seen this YouTube video. This fact, in and of itself, almost proves the lack of high culture in this media. It is directed to entertain the masses not a select few. From the two groups of people described in the first paragraph who would be more likely to watch this YouTube video? Of course it would be the college partiers, not the upper-class banqueters. Though it could be argued, there is no evident intellectual aspect to the video. The viewer isn’t pondering life and its purpose, and they aren’t enthralled by some artistic aspect of the video. It is purely for quick entertainment and doesn’t entail much thinking or processing at all. All of these characteristics of the video define it as low culture. Another aspect of low culture is its tendency to come and go. High culture is timeless, and classic. This YouTube video will be in and out in a couple years. Unlike something timeless like Shakespeare that has been around for centuries.
In conclusion some say that the gap between high and low culture is gone. That there is now just a happy medium. I disagree we can see from different examples of media that there is still a clear distinction between high and low culture.