Mainstream is, generally, the common current of thought of the majority. It is a term most often applied in the arts (i.e., music, literature, and performance). This includes:

As such, the mainstream includes all popular culture, typically disseminated by mass media. The opposite of the mainstream are subcultures, countercultures, cult followings, underground cultures and (in fiction) genre. Additionally, mainstream is sometimes a codeword used for an actual ethnocentric or hegemonic subculture point of view, especially when delivered in a culture war speech. It is sometimes used as a pejorative term. In the United States, mainline churches are sometimes referred to synonymously as "mainstream.

In film

Mainstream films can best be defined as commercial films that have a wide release and play in first run theatres (A movie theater that runs primarily mainstream film fare from the major film companies and distributors, during the initial release period of each film). Being sold at popular stores, or more typically, at general stores can also be an indicator. Hollywood movies are usually considered mainstream and blockbusters are also mainstream films. The boundary is vague. Mainstream suggests middle-of-the-road and implies commercial viability, sometimes implying that the commercial viability is tantamount to a loss of artistic creativity. The opposite of mainstream film may be experimental film, art film or cult film.

In literature

In literature, particularly in literary criticism, "mainstream" is used to designate traditional realistic or mimetic fiction, as opposed to genre fictions such as science fiction, romance novels and mysteries, as well as to experimental fiction.

In music

Mainstream music denotes music that is familiar and unthreatening to the masses, as for example popular music, pop music, middle of the road music, or soft rock; but it should be noted that older generations often dislike the mainstream taste of the youth, and may not agree as to what is or is not mainstream. Mainstream jazz is generally seen as an evolution of be-bop, which was originally regarded as radical.

Opposing mainstream music is the music of subcultures. This exists in virtually all genres of music and is found commonly in punk rock, indie rock, anti-folk and extreme metal, among others. In the 1960s this music was exemplified by the music of the hippie counterculture. In more recent years alternative rock, such as the music of Nirvana, has managed to express musical nonconformity while still working within the confines of the mainstream music market.

Punk rock has distinguished itself from other non-mainstream genres by self-asserting an active anti-mainstream social movement that resists commercialism and corporate control. The punk subculture generally frowns upon major label bands that play punk music that disavows the DIY punk ethic, and views them as synonymous with mainstream music. Punk has lent this stringent DIY ethic to the indie rock that surfaced in the early 1990s underground. Several anti-corporate and not-for-profit forms of alternative protest have surfaced in the punk underground, such as self-made publications know as zines, where there is greater freedom to discuss controversial (usually far left) political issues such as bigotry, LGBT community issues, feminism, militant atheism, and veganism. And though often viewed as a youthful expression of rebellion by the mainstream media, modern punk embodies a range of age groups who generally disagree with the perceived homogeneity of countercultural principals and it is not uncommon for middle-aged people to form punk houses and resistance movements in the face of what they view as the widespread, unfair exploitation of human and animal rights. This modern faction is dominantly voiced through the anarcho-punk and crust punk subcultures, in attempt to combat what is seen by those groups as a general devaluation of, and profitization from, life.

In sociology

Mainstream pressure, through actions such as peer pressure, can force individuals to conform to the mores of the group (e.g., an obedience to the mandates of the peer group). Some have stated that they see mainstream as the antithesis of individuality.

Gender mainstreaming

The difference of male and female, in the sense that we are distinguished as inconformant.

Mainstreaming in education

Mainstreaming in education is the practice of bringing students out of the isolation of special schools and into the “mainstream” of student life. Many students today attend regular schools first. If their needs cannot be met, then they would be moved to a special school. When mainstreaming started, special education is mandated in regular schools in order for students with special needs to adjust as quickly as possible to the mainstream of the school and community. Contrary to popular belief, students are not fully into the "mainstream" of student life because they are secluded to special education. On a happier note, inclusive education includes all individuals in all aspects of school-life. However, the concept of an inclusive education is not universally accepted.


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