Book of the month: ¡Muy Pop! Conversations on Latino Popular Culture
Our recommendation this month is ¡Muy Pop! Conversations on Latino Popular Culture, a book-long conversation between Latinx Studies scholars Frederick Luis Aldama and Ilan Stavans.
The book starts off with some considerations exchanged between the two authors on the complexity and dangers of naming peoples and places, and the political aspects of semantics. The definition of American continent territories and its diverse peoples has been a conundrum since colonial times. Likewise, they discuss the definition of culture and the interpretations of it, introducing the debates taking place in the following chapters. ¡Muy Pop! Is indeed structured as a conversation divided in three main parts, tackling different aspects of Latinx pop culture and its ramifications, as well as origins and implications.
In “On Hero-worship” the authors explore Latinx perspectives of heroism, first off discussing the figures of Mexican comedians Cantinflas and Tin Tan, whose fame is widely shared on both sides of the border. The chapter is particularly interesting, as from there the discussion brings forth different types of figures perceived as heroic in Latinx culture and thus idolized, with an eye for the machismo aspects intrinsic to such popular heroes.
“Cartooned!!!” faces matters such as the possible ephemeral quality of popular culture intrinsic to the kind of products it is conveyed by, and the authors discuss comic strips (and again, heroism through superheroes characters).
“The Allure of lo cursi” delves into the mechanics of kitsch, especially related to telenovelas; the topic of narco-related popular culture products is also touched upon.
The book ends with the epilogue “Sense and Porquería” reflecting on the discussed themes and problematics related with popular culture and, in particular, its eminently Latinx expressions.
¡Muy Pop! might not have the academic weight and depth of an monograph, and yet it results in an entertaining, smart reading, packed with references to Latinx popular culture icons and products, as well as reflections on the nature of culture.
Aldama, Frederick Luis and Ilan Stavans. 2013. ¡Muy Pop! Conversations on Latino Popular Culture. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.