Structuralism is based on saussurian linguistics, there is a distinction shown between the langue and the parole. The langue is ‘the overall system or structure of language, its words, syntax, rules, conventions and meanings’ (Strinati, 1995, p90). Strinati demonstrates that the parole is determined by the langue, and is the actual manifestation of language. Therefore, this essay will try to reveal themes that illustrate whether subcultural magazines reinforce the resistance of dominant values and ideals, or promote themes related to the dominant culture.
‘Semiotics is concerned with reconstructing the langue underlying certain types of parole’ (Thwaites, Davis & Mules, 1994, p58). In addition a brief content analysis will be utilised to illustrate the consumerist nature of Sidewalk. ‘Content analysis is a research tool used to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within texts or sets of texts. Researchers quantify and analyze the presence, meanings and relationships of such words and concepts, then make inferences about the messages within the texts, the writer(s), the audience, and even the culture and time of which these are a part’ (Palmquist, 2005, www.
writingcolostate. edu). Within the analysis of Sidewalk the results generated were of a mixed nature, as results signified that Sidewalk did produce examples of the subculture resisting the dominant values. However, the overwhelming theme among this study, lies within the promotion and embracement of capitalist values. From the outset Sidewalk establishes itself as a magazine which reflects mainstream ideologies. In a magazine which is designed to represent the subcultural image of skateboarding, what becomes evident is the surprising level of consumerism.
Within the analysis, it was noticeable that comparisons could be easily drawn from subcultural magazines to dominant mainstream magazine. Firstly, the consumerist nature of Sidewalk was noticeable throughout the analysis, this was achieved through the glossy nature of the magazine, Sidewalk was produced entirely in colour, with an outstanding amount of adverts. The initial ten pages of the magazine were solely dedicated to advertisements, while within the whole magazine advertisements took up 57% (n. 81) of all space.
In addition, pictures of skaters occasionally focused on close up shots, which seems to produce a more glamorous image of skateboarding, similar was found within previous work, reasons for this particular occurrence were attributed to the transformation of identity. ‘Media culture (thus) provides resources for identity and new modes for identity in which look, style and image replaces such things as action and commitment as constitutive of identity, of who one is’ (Kellner, 1995, Cited in Wheaton, 2000, p269).
As subcultures are in opposition to dominant values, one would expect aspects such as competition to be as Beal (1995) states de-emphasised. However, the subcultural nature of skateboarding is questioned, as rather than competing against one’s self, the magazine focuses on the competition and the beating of others. A central focus within Sidewalk is attributed to the importance of competition, and extrinsic rewards. ‘i?? 25,000 was on the line for each event’ (Ventura, 2001, p106).
Furthermore, in addition to an enhanced focus paid to performance rather than participation, the analysis illustrated that the magazine generated issues typically associated with the bureaucratic nature of mainstream sport. As subcultures, essentially hold resistance to set rules, with a clear opposition to the bureaucratic nature of the dominant class, as the meaning of skating for many lies in the flexibility of self-government. However, Sidewalk gives the impression that skating possess tight systems of control.
‘Skaters were judged on a best of run out of two, there was a good condensed format’ (Ventura, 2001, p106). Once again, this rejects the work of Beal (1995), who theorised that ‘the popular practice of skateboarding does not use rules… or organised contests’ (Beal, 1995, p263). Therefore, although the magazine itself reproduces values typically associated with capitalism, illustrating skateboarding is part of the dominant culture, within the articles of Sidewalk, the opinions of skaters resist the meanings behind the dominant sports culture.
A resistance of dominant ideals and values is illustrated throughout the magazine, within numerous interviews. ‘As a game football is really fun but the competitive side that comes with it is just bullshit’ (Stark, 2001, p25). This reflects the findings of Beal (1995); her study illustrates how the vast majority of skaters differentiated skateboarding from mainstream competitive sport. ‘Soccer is a lot of pressure… you have to be good if not better than everybody else… otherwise you don’t get to play at all. Skating you can’t do that. You just have to push yourself harder and harder’ (Beal, 1995, p262).
In addition to the resistance of dominant ideals, the skaters aim to further establish themselves from the dominant values, by challenging the hegemony of the dominant group by promoting their own subcultural values as the culture. ‘Everything is still scary but I live for that feeling of beating my fear, that’s the feeling of accomplishment that skateboarding gives you init’ (Stark, 2001, p28). Within the analysis, Sidewalk placed an enhanced focus on the values of the dominant sports culture, the traits which were most prominent followed Brohm’s (1978) definition of a dominant sports culture.
As factors such as performance, competitiveness, and records, are directly taken carried over from the driving forces of capitalism: productivity, the search for profit, rivalry and competitiveness. This illustrates how there were two distinct themes within the analysis. The first being the reproduction of capitalist values within the magazine, while the second theme illustrates a simultaneous resistance to the capitalist values by the skaters. However, some participants within subcultural sports support the commercialised image of sport.
‘A lot of people think it’s taking away from the soul of the sport, but I think you can control that within yourself. I want to keep a love of sports and at the same time make a living at it, so there needs to be a balance’ (Williams, 1997; Cited in Heino, 2000, p197). Consequently, the findings illustrate that through certain institutions and certain subcultural values, skateboarding can be seen as part of the mainstream culture. Although a negative consequence of this is the diffusion in the challenge possessed by the subculture against the mainstream hegemony.
‘The creation and diffusion of new styles is inextricably bound up with the process of production, publicity, and packaging which must inevitably lead to the diffusion of the subculture’s subversive power… [They feed] back into high fashion and mainstream fashion’ (Hebdige, 1979, p95). So, when modern skateboarders are labelled as post-modern and consumerist, with a heightened focus on style, this could be seen as a consequence of their views being shaped by the media. However, although this has been illustrated by past research it is beyond the realms of this essay to make such claims as there is no empirical evidence generated.
‘At times of high popularity, various commercial interests have tried to capitalise on the activity by promoting it as part of the dominant sport culture, that is, as a legitimate sport, one which promotes competition, win-at-all-costs attitude, and extrinsic rewards’ (Beal, 1995, p256). Therefore, the overwhelming amount of spectators that adopt the subcultural style is an example of the new type of post-modern skaters, which now fill the subculture of skateboarding. ‘Although the spectators far outnumber the participants, they play an important consumer role.
Magazines and television have commodified the subcultural signs of style’ (Heino, 2000, p184). In conclusion, in response to the proposed question of to what extent do skateboard magazines reflect counter cultural ideologies? It can be argued that Sidewalk reflects capitalist ideals associated with mainstream culture. However, conclusions generated within this study surrounding the treatment of subcultures within media coverage, are of a limited nature due to the restrictions of the research.
Although, issues surrounding subcultures are of a complex nature, as skaters find themselves simultaneously resisting and reproducing the values of capitalism.
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