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The term "trash culture" entered into common use from the '80s to indicate artistic or entertainment expressions considered of a low cultural profile, thus suitable only for an uneducated audience.
It refers, as an adjective, to books, movies, TV shows, etc. being characterized by poor taste, vulgarity themes and subjects voluntary chosen and with self-satisfaction to attract the audience through what is shoddy, of low quality, and culturally impoverished.
As a noun, it can be referred to the spread of trash, the theorists of trash, TV trash, or trash sub-culture.
In this sense, trash culture is defined as the validation of the voyeuristic sight of the middle class which approaches the popular culture as style of consumption.
The concept of trash culture should not be confused or merged with the concept of "kitsch", even if the two are correlated. Kitsch is linked to art in a permanent way, but it is also a social phenomenon which establishes itself as a way of being: in Western society it is characterized by the limitation of the artist's space of creation. Kitsch is essentially multiplication and reachability. It is based on the consumeristic civilization which creates to produce, and produces to consume. It is a repetition whose consequence is a new activity in the relationship between man and environment: consumerism.
In this sense the concept of trash culture can be considered an evolution of the 19th-century concept of kitsch, a development of a consumeristic behavior that, at the beginning, was related to the lowest social classes. Now the phenomenon has embraced a wider range of classes, reaching the contemporary middle class and sometimes the high class. As kitsch was a social phenomenon that established itself as a way of being, so too trash culture can be defined, but in this one the aim of a continuous process of creation and consumption is the externalization and the accentuation of the self being, that can be expressed through the way of dressing, wearing accessories, and through the self social approach.
The popular culture that surrounds us in our daily lives bears a striking similarity to some of the great works of literature of the past. In television, movies, magazines, and advertisements we are exposed to many of the same stories as those critics who study the great books of Western literature, but we have simply been encouraged to look at those stories differently.
The great literature and cultural work of the past has been rewritten for today's consumer society, with supermarket tabloids such as the National Enquirer and celebrity gossip magazines like People serving as contemporary versions of the great dramatic tragedies of the past. Today's advertising repeats the tale of the Golden Age, but inverts the value system of a classic utopia; the shopping mall combines bits and pieces of the great garden styles of Western history, and now adds consumer goods; Playboy magazine revises Castiglione's Renaissance courtesy book, The Book of the Courtier; and Cosmopolitan magazine revises the women's coming-of-age novels of Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, and Edith Wharton.
When speaking about trash TV, the term is referred to a whole branch of TV production that tends to exaggerate and to take themes to an extreme level. The objective of this kind of entertainment is to hit the audience through frenzy, accumulation and the absence of any distinction. Trash TV is very often close to ridiculousness, and exaggerating is the key resource: it exaggerates quantities and proportions, the physical and the body dimensions.
The term "trash TV" entered into everyday language in the 80s, to indicate artistic expressions considered of low cultural profile, but able to stimulate an audience. Starting from the 80s, in fact, the private broadcasting channels started to be very spread, and this led to new marketing strategies, focused on the possibility of attracting a larger audience paying for more exclusive shows. Now, TV shows have to build up the brand of the TV station, creating content that cannot be found on the public channels or the competitors. Among the TV programs, belonging to the so called Trash culture, it must be mentioned:
- Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition, di Richard Keller Simon, University of California Press, 23 nov 1999.
- "Dal collasso dei contesti alle Trash Star: la serializzazione nella costruzione degli idoli ridicoli di YouTube Italia", Stefano Brilli. N° 7, 2016, Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo.
- "Taking Out the Trash: Middle Class Anxieties and The White Trash Menace", Tyler Chase Knowles. Faculty of Wesleyan University, class 2016.
- "TRASH TV E QUALITY TV: QUESTIONI DI KITSCH", Lorenza Sacchetto, Giorgia Quattrocchi e Valentina Signorili.
- Trash Aesthetics: Popular Culture and Its Audience a cura di Deborah Cartmell. Pluto Pr (10 marzo 1997).
- What is "White Trash"?: Stereotypes and Economic Conditions of Poor Whites in the U.S., Annalee Newitz, Matthew Wray. From: Minnesota Review
Number 47, Fall 1996, pp. 57–72.
- When Did White Trash Become the New Normal?: A Southern Lady Asks the impertitent question, di Charlotte Hays. Hardcover – October 28, 2013.
- Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio : Raising Standards of Popular Culture: Trash TV and Raunch Radio - Raising the Standards of Popular Culture, by Steve Allen. Prometheus Books (1 aprile 2001).
- Sacchetto, Quattrocchi, Signorili. TRASH TV E QUALITY TV: QUESTIONI DI KITSCH.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Cartmell, Deborah (1997). Trash Aesthetics: Popular Culture and Its Audience a cura di Deborah Cartmell. Pluto Pr (10 marzo 1997). Pluto Pr.
- Keller Simon, Richard (1999). Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition. University of California: University of California Press.
- Allen, Steve (2001). Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio : Raising Standards of Popular Culture: Trash TV and Raunch Radio - Raising the Standards of Popular Culture. Prometheus Books.