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Ethnicity in Pop Culture: Historical Perspective Essay

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Updated: Aug 11th, 2021

The problem of racism in the United States is well reflected in the pop-culture history of the nineties. The changes in R&B music are represented in the song by Mariah Carrey Always Be My Baby since it has become popular not only among African Americans but also among other ethnic groups. At the same time, the movie In the Heat of the Night has not experienced any changes in audience, underlining that the issues discussed in the film are still of immediate interest. The analysis of the history of pop culture artifacts shows that the issue has evolved.

The people’s attitude towards rhythm and blues has changed considerably during the last 80 years. Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey, a tender mid-tempo R&B love song, was released in 1995 and had great success among all audiences (Werthman). However, R&B as a genre of music was initially meant for African Americans. According to Ripani, the term R&B emerged in the 1940s, replacing an unethical name “race music” (172).

Until the 80s, R&B was mostly enjoyed by lower-class African Americans with little attention from the white population. However, the emergence of talented producers and social changes led to R&B music becoming increasingly popular among all the ethnic groups around the globe. Always Be My Baby reflects the changes, as the theme of the song is universal and can be understood regardless of racial background. Additionally, in the official music video, Mariah uses heavy make-up to look more like a white person. Therefore, it may be said that the cultural artifacts demonstrate that the problem of racism is no longer as acute.

At the same time, a detective movie In the Heat of the Night directed by Norman Jewison demonstrates the racism still exists. The movie touches upon ethnic issues in the US, as it describes how a white and an African American detective work together.

The movie was well-received by all audiences in the US and abroad. Today, people still like detective stories like Rush Hour featuring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker investigating a case of kidnapping. Therefore, since a literature review revealed no change in the audience of the popular culture artifact category, it may be concluded that even though the problem of racism has evolved, it still exists in American society.

In conclusion, the issues connected with race and ethnicity become universal due to the process of globalization. Since social problems are always reflected in pop culture, a historical analysis of artifacts may be beneficial for understanding how issues change during the time. The assessment of the changes in audiences of R&B and detective movies shows that while racism is still a problem of modern society, the problem is becoming less acute.

Work Cited

Ripani, Richard. The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999. University Press of Mississippi, 2006.

Werthman, Christine et al. “Complex, 2018. Web.

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