Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Allow me to introduce..the Turtleman

A subculture is a group that exhibits some cultural characteristic that distinguishes them from the mainstream society. Most patterns of the group, and the behaviors of the individual members are consistent with the socially acceptable behaviors. Countercultures vary in that their cultural patterns go against the mainstream norms. Often times countercultures engage in behaviors that are consider illegal.

Subcultures and countercultures vary over time. The benchmark of gauging a group as a subculture or counterculture are the norms of the society. At one point in history, a group that is now considered mainstream (for example, Christians) were seen as a counterculture. As values, beliefs and attitudes of individuals in a society change, so do norms. Thus as the rules, guidelines, and expectations for behavior in society change, so then does our definition as to whether a group is considered a subculture or a counterculture. Certainly in the 21st century United States, Christianity plays an important role in the culture.

A couple of years back I heard the story of the Turtleman in central Kentucky. The Turtleman engages in very odd behavior by current social standards. Given that he is somewhat an isolated case, his behavior is unique in and of itself, but not considered a subculture. There are not large numbers of people that engage in turtle hunting as the Turtleman.

Compared to U.S. averages and norms, Kentucky ranks well below the standards for income, education, and other standard measures of achievement in society. While the Turtleman may be a novelty, how do images and behavior like his serve to validate stereotypes and cultural perceptions of “hillbillies from Kentucky”? If Kentucky ranks on average well below the United States average on many socioeconomic indicators, then on some level our stereotypes can be validated.

Do habits, hobbies, and behavior vary according to social class? What elements of high culture tell us something about particular subcultures of our mainstream society? What elements of popular culture give us a better understanding of the general patterns of behavior of individuals? How does understanding what groups of people do for fun and entertainment provide insight into their values, attitudes, and beliefs?

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