Well, so much for a snazzy list of top pop culture phenomena of 2021 that I thought to include to impress everyone with my cool hipness.
Even my use of the words “cool” and “hipness” are revealing. According to the National Endowment for the humanities, cool is “a multipurpose slang word prevalent in the fifties and sixties.” And that was my newest word of the bunch. There’s no record of “hipness” ever being a trend. The term hip is recorded in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the early 1900s, becoming common slang in the 1930s and ‘40s. And snazzy was the top slang word of 1931.
I’m not even up on my own generation’s pop culture!
Why Look into Pop Culture?
Grandparenting activist Jerry Witkovsky and I share tips on how grandparents can connect to their teenage grandchildren in our forthcoming book, Where Two Worlds Meet (Coming out June 2022!). In the book we ask, how do you understand what life is like for another person, especially when there are generational differences?
Understanding the big events that influence their lives and thinking, the pop culture of their era, is one doorway. And that also helps you to continue to grow and anticipate trends when you are running a business.
What did I find in my foray into pop culture?
Here are some highlights of 2021 Pop Culture
- Were people really eating Mac & Cheese Ice Cream? That’s a thing?
- Bernie Sanders Mittens. They were everywhere!
- Bennifer redux.
- Hot chocolate bombs? OMG! Big hollow balls of chocolate filled with marshmallows, dropped into a mug and covered with hot milk until they explode. Must try. (BTW, OMG, as in Oh My God! Was first used in a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, and became common in the 90’s, sometime after the very first text was sent, speaking of pop culture from 1992.)
- Mental health was big news in 2021, from #FreeBritney to #Megxit. How wonderful that conversations around mental health continue to be normalized as public figures go…public. Whether it was Britney Spears being granted an end to her father’s conservatorship or Harry and Meghan leaving the Royal Family, or whether you cared or not (Sorry, Britney!), these public conversations have done so much to help #demolishthestigma around mental health.
What was most interesting about my venture into pop culture was understanding better what pop culture is and how it’s formed. (Learn more in this great article from Tim Delaney). It’s the idea of things that a society knows about collectively, as a result of common, or popular, forms of expression.
Feeling like part of the “in-crowd”
Absolutely you can’t diminish the importance of recognizing and appreciating cultural differences and the vision for inclusion and equity in the US. However, it’s nice to know that there’s this phenomenon going on, called pop culture, that crosses over individual distinctions as it influences and defines a broader US American culture.
And, just perhaps, learning about pop culture trends in the US makes me smile, feeling at least for a moment, like I’m part of the in-crowd.