The main themes Karen Shepard develops in “Popular Girls” are material culture and teen sexuality. Using motifs like drugs, pop culture, and parental neglect, the story presents the negative consequences of being spoiled by absent, rich parents and living in an environment where teenagers are affected by peer pressure and pushed into experiences they aren’t yet ready for.
The theme of materialism, or material culture, is explored through the overall social setting of the story and the central characters, the five popular girls.
The girls belong to the upper-class of New York. They go to a private school, and they have been raised in a wealthy environment. Their rich parents have spoiled them with things (toys, pearls, expensive homes, and branded clothes), but they did not give them the protection and attention they needed.
This has led to the girls becoming obsessed with material things and external appea...