1st Edition

Pop Culture Panics How Moral Crusaders Construct Meanings of Deviance and Delinquency

By Karen Sternheimer Copyright 2015
    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    176 Pages
    by Routledge

    Moral panics reveal much about a society’s social structure and the sociology embedded in everyday life. This short text examines extreme reactions to American popular culture over the past century, including crusades against comic books, music, and pinball machines, to help convey the "sociological imagination" to undergraduates. Sternheimer creates a critical lens through which to view current and future attempts of modern-day moral crusaders, who try to convince us that simple solutions—like regulating popular culture—are the answer to complex social problems. Pop Culture Panics is ideal for use in undergraduate social problems, social deviance, and popular culture courses.

    1. Pop Culture Crusaders: Constructing Meanings of Deviance and Delinquency 2. Anti-Movie Crusades: Fears of Immigration, Urbanization, and Shifts in Childhood 3. Anti-Pinball Crusades: Fears of Gambling and Free Time 4. Anti-Comic Book Crusades: Fear of Youth Violence 5. Anti-Music Crusades: Fears of Racial Integration, Religious Participation and Freedom of Expression 6. Conclusion: Contemporary Pop Culture Crusades


    Karen Sternheimer is a sociologist at the University of Southern California, where she is a distinguished fellow at the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching. She is also the author of Connecting Popular Culture and Social Problems: Why Media is Not the Answer (2013), Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility (2011), Kids Th ese Days: Facts and Fictions About Today’s Youth (2006), It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children (2003), and is the editor and lead writer for everydaysociologyblog.com. She has provided commentary for NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the History Channel, and Fox News.

    'An engaging, entertaining chronicle of once-urgent fears that now seem silly.  Pop Culture Panics shows how and why anxieties about changes in society turn into worries about media corrupting the young.   It should empower readers to think more critically about all sorts of claims they will inevitably encounter in the years ahead.'

    -Joel Best, Sociology, University of Delaware, and co-author of Kids Gone Wild

    'Karen Sternheimer engaging compilation of anxiety over and action against new forms of pleasure and entertainment in the 20th century offers students and teachers an extraordinary opportunity to explore social change in modern America. She combines vivid description, acute historical analysis, and accessible social theory to explain when and why moral panics emerge and ebb. An excellent introduction to a critical theme of modern American life.'

    -Gary Cross, History, Penn State

    'A smart, penetrating look at how moral panics and moral entrepreneurs divert anxieties about class, social change, and rebellious youth onto attacks against popular culture. Perfect for the sociology or media studies classroom as well as the general reader.'

    -Marjorie Heins, director, Free Expression Policy Project; author of Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth

    'This book is a real pleasure.  The author offers sharp analyses of four moral crusades against popular culture in the US—movies, pinball, comic books, and music—to provide deeper understandings of the underlying fears and forces animating them... This text should appeal to a wide readership. Summing up: Highly Recommended'

    - C. R. King, Washington State University, Choice Reviews

    'If you teach an undergraduate course on deviance, go ahead and pick up a copy of Karen Sternheimer’s new book, Pop Culture Panics. It is a fantastic resource for students new to sociology and criminology who are grappling with the concept of deviance for the first time... Pop Culture Panics could easily be the only text you or I need to teach an entire Sociology of Deviance course. It is concise, informative, entertaining and overall, quite good. I encourage you to pick up a copy and see for yourself.'

    - Christopher J. Moloney, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books (Rutgers University)