Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Suburbs and Punk

My version of A Consumers' Republic is electronic and doesn't come coded with page numbers (ugh), so I apologize if these quotations aren't easy to find.

I also gravitated toward Chapter 5. I grew up in miserable suburbia outside of Washington D.C., and many of Cohen's attributions to its character are accurate: boredom, isolation, and socioeconomic stratification are the most prominent, direct, and observable. Specifically, I latched onto the notion of increasing stratification from within the stratospheres, i.e. the most affluent moving into even more affluent suburbs, and the affect that had on the demographics of left-behind neighborhoods: "Whites left because they feared living near blacks, whom they considered culturally different and in some vague way beacons of greater poverty and crime."

One of the hallmarks of my suburban experience were the profligate displays of youthful rebellion, namely punks or metal-heads or young people who were otherwise guided by some semblance of a subculture, usually tied to music. Chuang & Hart (2008) write that the reason subcultures have become so prominent in the suburbs is because they convey "the feelings of suburban punks who perceived their parents as hypocritical and thereby yearned for more meaning than their suburban lives appeared to provide" (p. 183). In fact, the themes that tend to unify punks, namely "boredome of middle-class life and ideals, self-marginalization, rebellion against order, search for authenticity, and anticorporate attitudes," (p. 185) are similar to those that bored and rebellious suburban youth conglomerate around as well, such as "a need for meaning rather than affluence, struggle against conformity and hypocrisy, and isolation" (p. 185). It would seem that the racial tensions produced by increased stratification also result in social fracturing from within the demographics.

Our own Dr. Ron Lee has also written about the suburbs and the suburban mythos. Below are the references:

Chuang, L. M., & Hart, J. P. (2008). Suburban American Punks and the Musical Rhetoric of Green Day's “Jesus of Suburbia”. [Article]. Communication Studies, 59(3), 183-201. doi: 10.1080/10510970802257499

Clasen, P., & Lee, R. (2006). Teaching in a Sanitized World: An Exploration of the Suburban Scene in Public Communication Pedagogy. [Article]. Communication Education, 55(4), 438-463. doi: 10.1080/03634520600917616

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