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JungWoo Choi

Professor Anna Kurhajec

AMST 3252W


Boundary made by superior in 19th to 20th

In the human society, there were thousands of milestones in the human history, and

many of them brought enormous change in macro and micro views. These transitions include

technology, politics, economics, culture, and lifestyle. In 19th there were huge changes in

America in many aspects. America became a major power and got out of the fear from being

left out of the scramble for global empire, where all the powerful European countries

colonized other continents and built their global empire. As America grew into major force in

global society, the gap between superior culture and inferior culture such as culture different

from ‘American culture’ also grew up. America had transitions for not only a technology, but

also a change in lifestyle, culture, civil rights, entertainment, and etc. The major culture could

be defined as the mainstream of the culture in era. It also could be defined as the most well-

known stereotype in the era. The superior culture, especially white male, were trying to make

a boundary that separates so called major culture from minor culture, so that minor culture

could not overcome the major culture in any form. The stereotypes were made by superior

culture so that the inferior culture could not be even thinking about overcoming the superior


In the 18th century, there was an industrial revolution in Great Britain. This transition

allowed moving into production. Farmers who sustained their lives solely with cultivation

became factory workers and got paychecks from their owner. Improved efficiency of steam
power and other energy powers, and advanced factory system and development in machinery

improved the quantity and quality of factory output exponentially. Edison’s invention on

incandescent light bulb expanded the use of night; maximum working hour and all economic

activities became available after sunset. Invention of telephone also encouraged to improve

efficiency by communicating in a long distance in a short time. Delivering voice directly

from speaker to receiver saved a huge amount of time. Railroad improvement also brought a

magnificent change in the society. Tons of working labors from other countries came to

America. Railroads that went through all America helped to deliver supplies to anywhere.

With all these inventions, America started to flourish rapidly in a material and capital way.

As technology developed, people lifestyle also had improved. As people made more

money and became rich in materials, they started to build house more sophistically. People

started to spend time and capitals to enhance their entertainment lifestyle because they

fulfilled their basic need for living. For example, they had a parlor in their house, which was

a public space for entertainment and used for greeting whoever came to the house. Though it

was quite a high price to have a parlor, many people who can afford the price of parlor would

buy it because it represented the wellness and accomplishment.

In Victorian era, late 19th, men’s role and woman’s role were defined. Men tended to

go outside and did some outside activities. Men were cores in their houses and had

responsibilities to maintain their families and properties. On the other hand, women in this

period were supposed to stay in the house or could hang out nearby the house. The women

were taking care of the house, raising the children, and doing something house related. As the

technology developed, literature was able to spread out in a cheaper way. Many of women

were able to read the literature and did literature-related activities such as book club. Those

activities were popular in this period.

Stuart Hall thought that popular culture was defined by resistance by dominant force.

In the note, Stuart Hall explained that “the active, mass insertion of a developed and mature

working class audience into a new kind of popular, commercial press” (Hall 445). Before

industrial revolution, monarchy was a main social system. There was no way to gain power

unless born in upper class in monarchy society. With an improvement on technology, the

working force with a capital became a dominant force in society, and governed the trend of

popular culture in that time. Most people who owned capitals were white people; the

mainstream of the culture was especially leaded by white men.

The dominant culture in that time was leaded by white people. These white people

would not tolerate that other minor culture overcame white people culture. For reading in

John Johnson, the reading showed the general thought of the white people in that era. John

Johnson was the first black boxing champion in America in 1910 against Jim Jeffery. In that

period, a view toward to John Johnson was quite negative because he was black. Though he

was a good boxer, other white boxer said that “I am determined not to take a chance of losing

championship to a negro”(Bederman 2) After he achieved his boxing championship, many of

white people would not accept his accomplishment. All the white crowds in the arena were

expected Jim Jeffery to beat John Johnson up. The crowds were in panic after Jim Jeffery was

knocked down. They were not accepting that inferior culture could dominate them in a way

of sport. After John Johnson got his title, he started to act like a sophisticated man. He got the

most fashionable clothes, and had everything that was top-notched. He also owned a nice car

that only rich white people can have. He married with different white women to show that he

can achieve as like any other white men, which represent that he was trying to represent

himself as mainstream and trying to overcome the stereotype in that era.

In both movie and the reading, the spectacles were transformed from human into

non-human objects. Once actors in the film The Couple in the Cage, was on the cage, they
were no considered people. The cage acted as like an imaginary boundary. The cage

emphasized the difference between human and actors, almost like the actors were another

species. In the reading, Clare Freaks and Queers, the people, who are audience of “freak

show” visited the freak show to watch disabled people as a spectacle. “The freak show did,

carefully constructing an exaggerated divide between “normal” and other, sustained in turn

by rubes willing to pay good money to stare”(Clare 87). Also in the reading, Fields Circuits

of Spectacle, people could visit Indian habitat in their ‘natural habitat’, as like how animal

could be observed in their natural habitat. These were examples that dominant culture treats

different other cultures as minor, inferior cultures.

However, the film The Couple in the Cage pinned out that the way people looking at

another culture as an inferior culture was actually based on stereotype of their lifestyle. In the

last scene of the movie, the actors put a dog leash on the staff of the “couple in the cage

show”, and treated the staff as an object, no longer human. This transition showed that the

dominant culture was moved from urban culture into jungle culture where the jungle culture

was dominant culture. It represents that the urban culture could be seemed as an inferior

culture where the other culture was dominant. In other way to address this, the staff was no

longer the member of dominant, urban force anymore, but a spectacle in the view of an

inferior culture in actor’s imaginary jungle tribe’s stereotype. This transition represented that

there was no permanent major culture which could be exist because it depended on

circumstances and era of the culture. The dominance of culture could be changed in region

and time. One should be realized that no judgment on culture could be made because culture

cannot be judged into right or wrong.

In the file Bernice Bobs Her Hair, there were two girls in the film. Margery knew

how to treat boys in a manipulative way that she can be ahead of boys, and another one,

Bernice, barely knew about boys and was shy to make a conversation with boys. After the
training from the sophisticated girl, Margery, Bernice made a line that she will bob her hair. It

was not a common thing that girl gets a short cut, so that she got attention from boys by

saying the line. The line was so successful that pretty much every boy in the town was

interested into Bernice, and Margery got jealous and she lured Bernice into going through

with bobbing her hair. After Bernice got a haircut, the boys lost interest in her. She realized

that she was tricked by Margery. Margery showed how girl did the typical socializing in the

era. The woman was represented in a passive way. The woman didn’t get to have a car to go

anywhere. Woman used a way of saying that flirt boys so they could make a more interesting

and longer conversation with a boy. The film showed the position of woman in that era.

In late 19th century, the figurative figure for a black, Sambo, often represented as a

person who does not want to work at all and spend most of time with music, and play. It also

represented as a childish way. In later, it became into minstrel, which seemed like that the

black has no worries and just hanging out all day and night with a dance and musical

accompaniment. In the little bit later time, there was a Zip Coon, which represented the black

trying to be civilized but failed. This created that the black have ludicrous image getting into

white society. These were the image of black before the civil war. These images were

stereotyped by white so that these images were used to be defensive toward slavery, which

implies that the black were inferior enough to become slaves.

After 1900, the large number of black people was moved into north from south part

of USA. The white people regarded as threat of expanding black labor force. Another type of

black stereotyped was made. Some of the facial or appearance were exaggerated to show that

the black were ugly. Many of the picture and media depicted the black as a happy servant.

The black always had a big smile on the face and was in a uniform. One of the common roles

that black in TV show was butler. The black also had an image of savage, which intended to

consider black as a dangerous being and try to control them in a way that the white people

Although, the black community depicted as inferior culture, their culture had

flourished in Harlem following Civil war. Homosexuality subculture of Afro-American at the

beginning of 20th century started the Harlem Renaissance; black communities performed art

in a lot of different forms, such as jazz music, writings, and art. The Harlem became a refuge

for people who were as an inferior side of society. Eric Garber said “Just as the black

entertainment world served as a refuge for sexual nonconformists, so too did black artistic

and intellectual circles”(Garber 326). Not only Harlem entertained people, but also it served

as a growing subculture and became a part of the society in that era.

As all the transition that America went through, development in a power of America

and technology brought many benefits, but it did not affected to all kind of class and peoples.

Most benefits were concentrated to the majority, which are white male. Whenever the inferior

culture tried to dominate majority culture, there was a huge conflict between inferior and

superior power. It cannot be determined to say which is better or worse because the nature of

culture cannot be determined absolutely. However, here is the fact: the conflict between

majority and minority will be continued in any form, and in any era.

Bederman, Gail. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race

in the United States, 1880-1917. Chicago&London : U of ChicagoPress,1995,1-44.

Bernice bobs her hair. By Scott F. Fitzgerald. Dir. Joan Micklin Silver. Perf. Shelley

Duvall. Coronet Film & Video, 1976. TV movie.

Burns, Ken. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. Alexandria,

Va.: PBS Home Video, 2005.

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge, MA:

SouthEnd Press, 1999. Print.

Fields, Alison. "Circuits of Spectacle: The Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Real Wild

West." American Indian Quarterly 36.4 (2012): 443-64.

Fusco, Coco, Paula Heredia, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Daisy Wright. The Couple

in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey. Toronto, Ont: V tape, 1993.

Garber, Eric. “A Spectacle in Color : The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age

Harlem.” In Duberman et al., eds., Hidden from History, 318-31.

Stuart Hall. “Notes on Deconstructing the ‘Popular’.” Pearson Prentice Hall, pp.199

Cultural theory and popular culture: a reader edited by John Strey.