• Investigate Popular Culture
  • Define Popular Culture Studies
  • Provide Overview of the Field of Popular Culture Studies


There is much more to popular culture and popular culture studies than most people expect. This discussion board provides us with an opportunity to discover what popular culture studies is, what people who study it actually do, and why. One lesson that popular culture studies takes from anthropology is using artifacts (documents, products, creations) as windows into other cultures. In this discussion, we’ll be doing just that.

The Mills Brothers

Lets consider the Mills Brothers as an example. First, read this Career Overview of the Mills Brothers.

How’m I Doin’? from 1934. Note the “boasting and bragging” that is similar to what we hear today in so much of Rap. Notice also the vocal tricks they do, clearly an early version of what became “beat boxing.”

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_Knzwe15PY

Sweet Lucy Brown comes from 1943 and incorporates vocalese techniques and continues their close harmony. This style influenced a lot of Doo-wop singers of the 1950s and beyond. One brother had died and was replaced by their father and a guitarist.

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=W8jK978n4xI


These entertainment artifacts tell us something about the culture that produced them and the audiences that consumed them, but what do they tell us, and what can we learn from these clips? To begin, locate a video clip created during the last 4 years that you believe has something in common with the style of either of these clips. Remember that we cannot go beyond a PG-13 environment, as the student manual makes clear. Then, consider how your clip relates to what you’ve seen of The Mills Brothers. To do this, think about (you do not have to directly answer these) the following ideas:

  1. What are the differences in technology between then and now?
  2. How was American media of their time different or similar to today’s?
  3. Are performers using different or similar language or slang terms today?
  4. How are The Mills Brothers’ clothing or hairstyles different or similar to those in your clip?
  5. Are the styles of music, dance, or vocal performance similar or different? How?
  6. Does your clip reference anything similar to the content of these clips in its lyrics or narrative? How? How does it compare to The Mills Brothers’?
  7. What was going on in the world or the USA at the time of your clip as opposed to the the various Mills Brothers clips?

Initial Post

Respond to the following based on what you’ve read and seen in the previous part of this. What surprised or intrigued you about the clips of The Mills Brothers? Why? Be specific and precise.

  • A minimum of two full, well-developed paragraphs are required
  • Support all assertions with evidence and examples and provide the sources
  • Use a clip you chose (not the ones that set up the board) to illustrate your points
  • You are welcome to embed your video selection!
  • Do not post the same example a classmate has already posted, do not use the same artist doing something similar either
  • Do not alter your original post after its deadline or it will be considered late

Second Post

Respond in a meaningful way to one or more of your classmates’ first discussion posts. Don’t simply say “I agree” or “That’s great”.

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