Dumbing down is a deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture. The term “dumbing down” originated in 1933 as movie-business slang, used by motion picture screenplay writers, meaning: “[to] revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence.”
The nature of dumbing-down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for diminishing the intellectual level of the subject or topic, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.
Philosophically, the term “dumbing down” is relative in definition, because what is considered as dumbing down depends on the taste, value judgement, and intellectual level of the persons involved in the matter. In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979), the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) proposed that, in a society in which the cultural practices of the ruling class are rendered and established as the legitimate culture of that society, that action then devalues the cultural capital of the subordinate social classes, and thus limits their social mobility within their own society.