She’s all over our televisions, iPods and computer screens. But now, Lady Gaga is infiltrating yet another sacred space in our society — the classroom.
Next spring, the University of South Carolina will offer a mid-level sociology course called “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.” The course description says the class “introduces students to the sociological analysis of selected social issues related to the work of Lady Gaga.”
Of course, the class has its critics. They anonymously flooded comment sections of news articles and message boards. But these people are missing the point.
Some argue that Lady Gaga has not done much to warrant analytical coursework, since she is known primarily for her eye-catching outfits and outrageous stunts. Online responses have complained that Lady Gaga is not a figure fit for academia and view the course as a general affront to higher education — a waste of time and money.
The class hasn’t been taught yet, but USC Sociology professor Mathieu Deflem, the mastermind behind the class, emphasized its scholarly features in the course description.
“This is not a course in Lady Gaga but in sociology,” the course description reads. “It is also not a course about Lady Gaga as much as about the culture of the fame as exemplified by the case of Lady Gaga.” Deflem also listed prerequisites for enrolling and discouraged freshmen from taking the class because of its challenging nature.
USC’s course is not out of the ordinary. Penn regularly offers a course called “Sociology of Media and Popular Culture.” Other schools like Boston College and Yale University have similar classes in their course offerings that cover the same material.
And, like it or not, pop culture matters enough to warrant study. We live in a world where former President George W. Bush considers rapper Kanye West’s comment that Bush didn’t “care about black people” the worst moment in his tenure, and where people get their news from late-night comedy shows. This subject isn’t substance-free.
“If students are looking for fluff in those classes, that’s not good,” said Junhow Wei, a Penn third-year doctoral student studying the sociology of media and culture. “But there need to be classes on popular culture, because popular culture is culture, and it has a big impact on America.”
Other critics take issue with Deflem’s personal interest in Lady Gaga. He has met her on five different occasions and manages his own personal Lady Gaga fan page. The New York Times went as far as to say that the course could also be called “Obsession” because of the professor’s admiration for Gaga.
Now although that is very weird (how often are Lady Gaga fan pages made by middle-aged professors?), it doesn’t disqualify him from teaching the course. In fact, someone studying fame should be interested and well versed in pop culture.
Some of the most alarmist dissidents online regard the class as the final nail in society’s self-built coffin — just one more step to being hopelessly and obsessively entranced by celebrities to our detriment. But being engaged with pop culture doesn’t necessarily mean you are entertainment crazed. To study a topic so erratic and emerging, you have to be informed, otherwise your sociological conclusions will be misguided.
It is easy to write this course off as just another way college students are allowed to slack off, but it can also be described as using a relevant topic to contribute to students’ academic development. It teaches a skill all college graduates need to have — the ability to think critically about the events happening around us. If we as students can learn to critique the popular culture we often blindly subscribe to, we can begin to think for ourselves.
And from what I’ve heard, that is what being a grown up is all about.Comments powered by Disqus
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