The definition of the word “popular” is constantly changing. This statement is proven through the Keywords “Popular” essay and within different forms of culture today. Julie A.S. Cassidy writes in her essay that “Popular” in the “early sixteenth century…defined the ‘common people’ or people of ‘lowly birth’ as opposed to people of the aristocracy” (Keywords 174). This definition then went on to gain a negative connotation with the word. Today, “popular” has an all new meaning. Cassidy writes that “popular connotes a widespread appreciation for and love of the object itself when appended to a text, object, or person” (Keywords 176). This change in connotation and definition has only continued to happen throughout history.
The story Little House on the Prairie provides yet another definition of this complex word, “popular”. In the story, Ma was asked why she did not like the Native Indians that lived near her. In response, Ma said that she simply did not like them. Ma did not have a clear answer as to why she had hatred toward them. I believe that this was due to the popular opinion of the Indians. During this time, the “popular” or most common opinion of Indians was that they were bad and dangerous. Ma gained this opinion as her own. The “popular” thing to do was to hate the Indians, so that’s what Ma did. In this book, “popular” is implicitly defined as “the common idea or opinion”. Whether it was negative or positive, this was the popular and almost universal ideology.
Today, the idea of “popular” has many meanings. In the Broadway musical Wicked, one of the main characters sings about what it means to be popular. She says “I’ll show you what shoes to wear! How to fix your hair! Everything that really counts to be…Popular”. This clearly states that the idea of “popular” is to be perfect in appearance. Similar to the Little House on the Prairie definition, they make the term “popular” to mean ‘a well-liked thing by all people’.
In contrast to this definition, the song “Popular Song” by MIKA featuring Ariana Grande gives a new meaning to this word. The lyrics read, “and all that you have to do is be true to you”. This song is redefining “popular” as a term that anyone can use to describe themself if they are being authentic. Both Wicked and “Popular Song” were released in 2003. It is clear that these two art forms contradict the other. But, as discussed in the Keywords essay, there are many meanings to “popular” and it is forever evolving and transforming. In Little House on the Prairie, the idea of “popular” was based on what the majority of people were thinking or doing, in Wicked, the idea was that it meant having your physical appearance was liked by many, and in “Popular Song”, the meaning is transformed into appreciating more than simply what others like or what is physically appealing. These three media examples clearly support Cassidy’s claim that “popular” has been used in many different contexts over the course of history.