The readings for this week discuss the role that Elvis played in popular culture throughout his life. During the 1950’s, Elvis was not only a music star, but also an actor and a sex icon — his sexual depiction resonating with many lifelong fans and impersonators alike.
Celebrities and trends may come and go, but very few obtain a cult following that is still celebrated to this day. Sure, every generation has its fix, but in terms of absurd amounts of stardom — and fandom for that matter — Elvis Presley was in a league all his own. Elvis started “fan-girling.” He was the reason why girls during the fifties and sixties would faint and get in hysterics — his rapid hip movements, movie star good looks, yet “boy next door” persona not only made him relatable and “the perfect guy” but his agents and representatives saw him as the perfect moneymaking enterprise. Unfortunately for Elvis, his personal goals were not necessarily met. Sure as a musical artist and entertainer he was revered around the world, but like any pop star, there comes a point in his or her career, where they want to be taken seriously. In Elvis’ case, he aspired to be a great, dramatic actor like Marlon Brando — his “people” felt it would be a more lucrative idea to appeal to his young, female audience and star in musical films with Presley as the lead. However, the appeals to his audience did much more than just get a bunch of teenage girls excited about sex and rock and roll — his popularity started a movement that not only would change the course of music history, but would change the way academics view celebrities of the Elvis degree.
The White Trash Aesthetic is one of the repercussions of Elvis’ popularity. Unfortunately, Elvis’s southern roots created a new class of people that would be viewed as lower class than African Americans. In our nation’s history, I don’t think anyone predicted that that would happen. Gael Sweeney’s paper “The King of White Trash Culture: Elvis Presley and the Aesthetics of Excess,” he talks about how the idea of why White Trash individuals are so much less desired than the whole African American race. Apparently, acting like someone who is black is worse than actually being black; essentially, acting black is racist, but of course saying that acting black is racist is in fact racist, so we have a never-ending catch-22 that our country so kindly created, oh so many years ago.