Julie A.S Cassidy’s piece in Keywords for Children’s Literature attempts to unpack the term “popular”, which many people may perceive to be a word in which they understand. However, as the article suggests, while the definition of the term “popular” has remained relatively unchanged for over 400 years, if we dig back to as early at the 1920’s, it is apparent that the term popular actually held, and in some cases still holds, a negative connotation, especially in children’s literature. It was believed by librarians that if a book were deemed “popular” it could not possibly contain high-quality literature or artistry. While this assumption may not hold true today, it goes to show how the term, popular, which seems to be widely recognized and even desired by some, may in fact put a piece of text or item of consumer culture in danger due it’s negative connotation.

The book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott serves a great example that serves as a piece of text that is considered to be both literature, something signified as a masterpiece and contains a high degree of worth, and popular, a piece which is highly appreciated especially in an academic and educational context.

Yet, in U.S consumer culture, “popular” often connotes a widespread appreciation for an object itself; however, similar to early 20th century literature the question still remains: can a popular object contain excellence, quality, or benefits? To examine this question a little further, I decided to analyze one of America’s most popular consumer bought items: Apple Airpods. Apple Airpods were recently noted as being the most popular wireless headphones on the market with an estimated 55 million pairs expected to be sold by the end of this year. Here, we can see the term “popular” refers to the prevalent admiration of the product; however, the product’s values and benefits to consumers  have recently come into question after recent reports which indicate the product’s potential role in cancer development. (MSN News Report on Airpods). Going alongside this, Airpods have been noted by consumers to produce bad sound quality on microphones and were recently classified as an “unrepairable product.”

Although the extent to which radio frequency radiation produced by Airpods and other bluetooth devices has on imposing a threat to human health is still being researched, it goes to show that a product presumed as “popular” may require additional explorations into the value and benefits it brings to consumers; a similar idea the librarians of the 1920’s had in regards to popular children’s literature and its’ impact on children readers. This product in fact contrasts with Little Women; a piece of text that is classified as both popular and beneficial.

4 thoughts on “Popular”

  1. I really enjoyed your blog post, Jessica! I agree that the connection between “popular” and “quality” or “beneficial” can be a bit questionable in many instances. I found the apple air pods to be an interesting example of that. I do not own them, but I know people who do an frequently complain about how you have to charge them and how they’re easy to misplace and not repairable. I find it interesting how popular has evolved in definition overtime, and I wonder how it will continue to evolve specifically because the word itself is defining an evolution of sorts- something going from being unpopular to popular to unpopular etc.

  2. What is “popular” has become so easily accessible to people now with the internet. Take the site Rotten Tomatoes, for example, which shows what percentage of people liked a certain movie. I find the negative connotation of popular to be very interesting, as I have always had a negative view of the word classic when I was growing up. To me, classic literature and movies meant boring. I’m sure it has some merit and worth to it, but as a child I steered clear of the classic sections and went straight for popular books. I think anything can become popular in today’s culture, even if it’s potentially harmful. Hopefully, the majority of people aren’t blinded by its popularity and can see the harm when and if it’s proven to exist.

  3. I really liked this post a lot because of its unique comparison. I found it interesting that Apple Airpods are now being linked with such a negative consequence. Everyone knows what they are and they are seen as extremely popular, but it seems that this term can get labeled to anything, whether it is good for you are not. This can also be extended to groups of people as well, just because one group is labeled “popular” does not mean they possess anything more special or important than any other group. Overall, great analysis!

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