AskDefine | Define mainstream

Dictionary Definition

mainstream n : the prevailing current of thought; "his thinking was in the American mainstream"

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. (mildly derogatory): very popular, as a fad; familiar to the masses; common, usual or conventional.
    They often carry stories you won't find in the mainstream media.


Extensive Definition

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:
  • something that is ordinary or usual;
  • something that is familiar to the masses;
  • something that is available to the general public.
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 (such as or its affiliates), or more typically, at general stores (such as Wal-Mart and its affiliates) 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.

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.


mainstream in Asturian: Mainstream
mainstream in Danish: Mainstream
mainstream in German: Mainstream
mainstream in Spanish: Mainstream
mainstream in French: Mainstream
mainstream in Italian: Mainstream
mainstream in Georgian: მეინსტრიმი
mainstream in Hungarian: Mainstream
mainstream in Dutch: Mainstream
mainstream in Polish: Mainstream
mainstream in Portuguese: Mainstream
mainstream in Russian: Мейнстрим
mainstream in Serbian: Mejnstrim
mainstream in Swedish: Mainstream
mainstream in Turkish: Popüler

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Zeitgeist, bearing, course, current, direction, drift, glacial movement, line, main current, motion, movement, run, set, stream, swing, tenor, the general tendency, the main course, time spirit, tone, trend
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