Popular Culture and American Culture


A critical aspect of American culture is jazz music. Jazz has a lengthy history in America and has influenced various things, including style, protest movements, and subsequent musical generations. Everything from poetry and fashion to the Civil Rights movement was affected by it. The minstrelsy’s 150-year-long dissemination of offensive stereotypes left a long-lasting mark on society. It is impossible to overestimate the impact of racial stereotyping and minstrelsy on American culture. The use of blackface and other stereotypes of blackness, such as language, movement, demeanor, and character, are still prevalent in today’s media and public performances. Rock n’ Roll music has significantly impacted American society and influenced different musical genres (Bourassa 105).It helped people express themselves more effectively by altering how they looked, how they moved, behaved, or what made them stand out from the crowd. The article explores how minstrel shows, silent movies, jazz, and rock & roll music have influenced modern trends, including racism, materialism, and television viewing habits. It also looks at how these advancements influenced the current social shifts in American society.

Minstrel Shows and Silent Films

The silent movies and Minstrel Shows are two examples of popular culture that significantly impacted modern American culture, especially regarding racism. The amusement of minstrel shows served as a form of vaudeville’s forerunner. It involved white male-only troupes of performers who “blacked up” or put on blackface and did acts intended to impersonate and caricature black people. Although these programs and films impact the audience that consumes culture, they are an essential part of the culture and reflect the populace’s attitudes, issues, and concerns (Bourassa 107). The minstrelsy formed attitudes, ideas, and perceptions of blacks through the performances and transmitted them to a large audience by disguising them as well-intentioned paternalism. Up to the 1950s, popular entertainment also emphasized the racial stereotype of the highly musical, perpetually upbeat, and uneducated African American.

The amateur and blackface films still displayed stereotypes endorsed by black Americans in their acts on vaudeville stages and professional theatrical despite the demise of the minstrels.

These performers adapted the songs, dances, and pseudo-black dialects associated with the minstrels. These performances include those by AI Jolson, who engaged in blackface-related activities in the 1930s movies Mama and The Jazz Singer 1927. Moreover, in the 1920s, minstrel shows evolved into cartoon performances. Walt Disney produced characters like Mickey Mouse, who resembled the blackface performers to adhere to the minstrels’ themes; this figure frequently smiles, dances, and sings. Later, Warner Bros. animated series like Fresh Hare had minstrelsy themes. Moreover, BBC productions of The Black and White Minstrel Show from the middle of the 1970s expose enduringly discriminatory blackface show standards. These illustrations of minstrelsy’s influence on American media demonstrate its deeply entwined national identity. Minstrelsy is regarded as a critical component of American culture.

Additionally, the animation affected young children’s early perceptions of black people. Ideally, the themes of the minstrel plays are still relevant in hip-hop and today’s cinema. Since the dawn of time, whites have distorted black popular culture in films and television shows; but, in recent years, this appropriation has increased due to the widespread discussion of sensitive topics like sexuality, gender, class, and even race. Notably, African American women still frequently play oppressive roles such as matriarchs, welfare queens, and jezebels. Additionally, African American men are currently portrayed as living the life of a gangster. Such performances misrepresent men as criminals and misinform young black men, perpetuating negative preconceptions of black people as violent, hysterical, and savage.

Silent films and minstrels displayed black people as superstitious, sluggish, and stupid. Although such images are constricting and only endorse making inequalities like sexism, racism and poverty appear natural, every day, and inescapable parts of existence. As a result, the sexualized ideas of black femininity and the ideals of black masculinity historically rooted in sexism and racism have greatly benefited modern times. The performers attempted to emulate the singing style of African Americans who were held as enslaved people while also trying to convey how happy they were in captivity. In contrast, the minstrelsy in New Orleans had a distinctive flavor and rhythm derived from a synthesis of the cultures of Africa, France, and England. More specifically, local minstrel shows with occasionally burlesque aspects began to develop their distinctive musical rhythms and conventions. Regardless of the setting, minstrel shows attempted to support racial stereotypes and provide justification for the implementation of discriminatory laws and practices across the country.

Jazz Music

Another essential form of popular culture that has a significant impact on current social, economic, and political trends is jazz music. The popularity of rock and jazz music in America during the 20th century made the piece one of the powerful forces in American society. Since the musicians in this period advocated for issues related to the challenges of slavery, the black Americans’ musical culture was particularly ingrained into American society. Chants, work cries, and African slave spirituals were among the traditional songs that evolved due to the creation of music. More diversified musical styles, including jazz, classical, rock, rhythm & blues, and country music, were made possible by this expansion. Having established that, jazz can be said to have significantly impacted how the music industry was shaped. This genre of music emerged in black communities dispersed throughout the South. Its rhythms demonstrated cultural diversity as they transitioned from ragtime to the blues while heavily referencing the West Indies and West Africa.

The jazz genre of music has roots in the blues and extensively incorporates American art ragtime to create its unique modified sound. Regarding its societal impact, jazz set the way for emotive, danceable, and insistent sounds quickly disseminated as American culture throughout the nation and the world. According to most black people, jazz gave African Americans a platform to contribute to American history and culture. The musical genre portrayed black people’s struggles with America’s racist and oppressive atmosphere because it prevented black people from pursuing their artistic endeavors. Undoubtedly, in today’s society, music is used to convey political, social, and economic difficulties. The urge for expression among enslaved Black people is essential in developing this type of music, which eventually impacted American dancing patterns and the music business. As a result, musical genres like jazz and hymns drew inspiration from the harmonic jazz style, which is also audible in secular spiritual compositions. Black singers learned to play instruments like the violin during the 19th century. These instruments were mainly used to parody European dance music styles and infuse them with black catwalk rhythms.

Additionally, the blackface performances fostered jazz music by fusing syncopation with European harmonic accompaniments. Jazz music serves as a significant cultural influence on modern American music. Jazz music was the foundation for genres like pop, hip-hop, and R&B (Johnson and Havas 365). Artists like Kendrick Lamar used contemporary jazz greats like Thunder cat on his 2015 album, thus are giving jazz rap a new definition by incorporating live soloing and emphasizing improvisation more than standard sampling. The Epic, an album by prominent saxophonist Kamasi Washington, featured tracks with R&B and hip-hop vocal interludes. Jacob Collier, a famous You Tuber, also attracted attention for his ability to master various instruments, advanced polyrhythms, and microtones and incorporate several musical genres into his original compositions.

The attire style evolved to enhance simplicity in the dancing of jazz music. Moreover, jazz music impacted the evolvement of poetry, with jazz poetry emerging as a new form. The poetry would share the jazz music improvision style and intensity of feeling. Due to jazz’s influence, the women’s liberation movement marked a significant turning point in the culture. As jazz clubs and dance halls increased, many women had places to visit as an outlet for their dictatorship against traditional gender roles. During this period, they were free to wear any attire they wanted and speak any language. Moreover, they had the opportunity to meet other women who shared their views simultaneously. Jazz has inspired everyone, from hip-hop musicians like Q-Tip to the Beatles’ “Honey Pie” to Pink Floyd’s “Time.” It would be hard to identify an individual who has not been impacted by jazz at some point because the genre is so deeply ingrained in musical culture.

Rock and Roll Genre Music

The political, social, and economic spheres of American culture have been significantly shaped by the rock and roll genre of music. Roll and rock is a genre of popular music that evolved from country music, jump blues, gospel, and rhythms throughout the 1940 and 1950s. This type of music significantly impacted Americans’ attitudes, fashion language, and lives. Additionally, it greatly influenced the civil rights movements since it is well known among the youth of both races in America –black and white Americans. The lyrics depicted issues most listeners could relate to, such as sex education. However, with the music genre evolving at a time, the country was undergoing politics, and rock played a crucial role in issues such as race. Through the development of the civil rights movement fight against segregation, America at this period entered a new era. Moreover, at this san, the “separate but equal” laws were abolished in a court ruling in 1954.

This musical genre also influenced the teen way of life since rock and roll encouraged racial collaboration and shared experiences among young people, increasing their knowledge of issues like race and identity and fostering racial tolerance. Teenagers were introduced to American Bandstand, jukeboxes, record stores, and radio, thanks to rock and roll. Moreover, the music genre provided a platform for developing other fields like distinct language, motorized vehicles, fashion, comic comics, and movies (McDonald 15). The genre forced the emergence of dance fads like the twist and jitterbug, some of which are still popular today. This genre gave rise to sock hops, home basement dance parties, church gym, school dances, and other events. More significantly, American youth viewed Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to stay up to date with popular dance and fashion trends. Rock & roll is, therefore, an essential component of American culture. Rock and roll has had a significant impact on music in part because they gave listeners a sense of empowerment. One of the most accessible and diverse subgenres that makes listeners feel a part of the music.


Popular culture is still a significant factor in how the world perceives American music, movies, and television. Although it cannot be said that popular culture is the cause of racism, it also does not provide a neutral forum for the interchange of thoughts and information in American culture. Jazz and rock are two musical genres that are still popular today and have been for many years. Rock and roll significantly impacted American society by encouraging young people to abandon the more conventional American way of life, increasing the use of technology in everyday life, and promoting civil rights initiatives that championed ethnicities and races.

One of the most important exports of American culture to the globe is jazz music. It encompasses a variety of emotions and combines European and African features to create music that is both a form of art and an expression of the soul. Jazz not only promoted a broader appreciation of America’s diversity but also gave women a platform for self-expression. Jazz altered the lives of Americans all around the nation via the arts of song, dance, and dress. In America, watching films became a common pastime as they evolved from silent flicks to talkies with synced soundtracks. The affordability and entertainment value of minstrel shows and silent movies throughout the 1920s hugely impacted culture and society, altering audience perceptions of technology and morals. The development of modern cinema is still influenced by television programs and films like minstrel shows and silent pictures.

Works Cited

Bourassa, Dominique. “Anthems and Minstrel Shows the Life and Times of Calixa Lavallée, 1842–1891 by Brian Christopher Thompson”. Notes, vol 74, no. 1, 2017, pp. 106-108. Project Muse.

Johnson, Bruce, and Adam Havas. “Special Issue: Jazz Diasporas.” Popular Music and Society, vol 43, no. 3, 2020, pp. 363-364. Informa UK Limited.

McDonald, Damian. “Australian Rock’ N’ Roll Gear: From the Pubs to Museum Collections.” Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, vol 7, no. 1, 2018, pp. 7-21. Intellect.

Márquez, Beatriz Aldana. “Shift In Social Character: Charro Cultural Representations In Mexican Popular Culture.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, vol 36, 2018, pp. 30-46. University Of Texas Press.

Cite this paper

Select a referencing style


AssignZen. (2023, August 8). Popular Culture and American Culture. https://assignzen.com/popular-culture-and-american-culture/

Work Cited

"Popular Culture and American Culture." AssignZen, 8 Aug. 2023, assignzen.com/popular-culture-and-american-culture/.

1. AssignZen. "Popular Culture and American Culture." August 8, 2023. https://assignzen.com/popular-culture-and-american-culture/.


AssignZen. "Popular Culture and American Culture." August 8, 2023. https://assignzen.com/popular-culture-and-american-culture/.


AssignZen. 2023. "Popular Culture and American Culture." August 8, 2023. https://assignzen.com/popular-culture-and-american-culture/.


AssignZen. (2023) 'Popular Culture and American Culture'. 8 August.

Click to copy

This report on Popular Culture and American Culture was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Removal Request

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on Asignzen, request the removal.