I have a friend who basically grew up in the middle of nowhere and due to a complicated set of circumstances hasn’t been exposed to a staggering number of Movies That Everyone Is Expected To Have Seen.
He’d never seen a James Bond movie until recently, for example. Any of them. He’s never seen an episode of Get Smart. I could go on for ages listing all the “Popular” films and TV shows he’s either completely unaware of or has only seen because I sat him down and showed them to him, but I won’t, because the thread will get derailed by arguments over whether or not “everyone” should have seen Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan or the Scooby-Doo TV series.
Anyway, my point is that his embarrassing lack of pop culture awareness really comes across at social events, where someone will make a reference to, say, The Princess Bride and he’d give them a blank stare or miss the point of what they were saying. It comes across as well, a bit odd.
He’s a lot better now- he’s fine with “new release” films and current TV shows, and he’s trying to “catch up” on films one would have thought he’d have seen 15 years ago (like everyone else did), but I’ve met a few other people like him who seem to have grown up in The Twilight Zone and just aren’t familiar with, well, Movies Everyone Else Has Seen.
Anyway, do you think they’ve “missed out”? I certainly do, as movies and TV shows are an integral part of our culture and not being au fait with the major Simpsons characters (for example) affects your ability to interact with “regular” people, which is going to make work and social life a lot more difficult.
I’m tempted to agree with you, but I think it all depends on who you mix with. Different groups have different cultural touchstones, as does each generation.
To me, someone having never seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon really missed out on a defining part of childhood for both my generation (I was born in ‘78) and my parents’ generation (circa 1950). However, until last year, I’d never been to a football game, and I’m sure 99% of my peers would see me as being quite odd in that regard, whereas I don’t feel like I’ve missed out at all.
(FWIW, The Princess Bride is, IMHO, a cult film like This is Spinal Tap or The Big Lebowski, and I wouldn’t expect the average person to get references to it like I would with, say, Star Wars or James Bond.)
Really, a great many people have not seen The Princess Bride, wouldn’t get such a reference, and would find people quoting it pretty lame. ITs popularity on some Internet message boards is far out of proportion to its overall cultural popularity and importance.
Your friend not being up on quotable second-rate adventure movies should not be a source of embarassment.
I cannot remember the last time anyone outside of my closest friends made a Simpsons reference. Get real.
Nobody can have command of all this stuff, or would want to.
Look, it was just an example of a popular movie that many people have seen and, in certain circles, are expected to know, OK? I said in my OP I didn’t want this thread to turn into a debate about whether or not people should have seen particular movies. It’s about people who haven’t seen movies that most people in their peer group would regard as “required viewing”.
Feel free to insert your own titles for the examples I’ve provided, if that helps clarify what I’m getting at.
That’s not at all what your OP says. “Regular people” suggests most everyone.
And I stand by my statements no matter what movie title you want to insert. Is anyone really going to care if someone hasn’t seen “Star Wars”? Anyone who’s not Comic Book Guy or George Lucas, anyway? Is it really that great a disability? No, of course not.
Absolutely not. My friends watch TV and films but the topic of plot episodes or allusion references never comes up in any conversations. One of my friends is a big NetFlix subscriber and not a single movie has ever been mentioned in any conversation.
I had a friend many years ago that could recite all the lines from any Simpson’s episode. That “talent” was not the most compelling part of his personality.
Some folks watch TV and it’s such a very small part of their lives that it would not be natural for them to insert references to them during conversation. For others, they like to re-enact the TV show at the dinner table, in the car, on the phone, etc. Different groups enjoy TV in different ways.
I don’t agree that there should be a film that certain circles “expect” you to know. That’s similar to “expecting” people to know certain classical books. Some people like books, some don’t. Some people like films, some don’t.
Missing out on what? Being considered “cool” and “with it”? Aren’t these things defined by the specific subculture a person belongs to? If a person doesn’t want to belong to that specific subculture that constantly gushes over “Office Space”, then they aren’t missing anything. And if they do belong to that subculture and they haven’t seen it, then either they’re getting something else out of being with that group or they’ll eventually see it and conform.
The ability to quote scripture and verse from a book or a movie is only interesting to people who enjoy such references. When people do the whole Monty Python schtick with me, I offer them a wan smile and go back to doing whatever it was I was doing. I’m not a Monty Python fan, so why would I be entertained by their recitation? However, quote anything from “Purple Rain” or “The Last Dragon” and I’ll let out hearty laugh.
Being completely ignorant of pop culture in general does put you at a social disadvantage and could make you miss out on a lot of things if you didn’t have something else to fall back on. I know someone like this but she has lots of friends. But I don’t think you can’t make friends based strictly on your knowledge of pop culture. That makes you Comic Book Guy, and we all know how he is.
Indeed. I find OP’s question strange when he says,
…because it seems like nobody I’d know would be “embarrassed” about a lack of pop culture awareness. In fact, it’s the opposite. It is an elitist badge of honor when they brag that they don’t know who Paris Hilton is. The trash talk of TV ignorance has become enough of a joke that The Onion did a well-known satire of it:
it’s only a disadvantage in very select social situations, probably when you’re first meeting someone. pop culture is an easy ice breaker and if you can get the convo flowing by talking about some trashy VH1 reality show then by all means. however there are definite ways around it. current events, books, politics, sports, weather… etc.
pop culture is just how kiddies connect because they don’t have as wide a base of possible topics to pull from. i know when i was a kid, we only talked about TV, Movies, Video Games, Sports, and Girls. now as a twenty-something i’m no longer bound to the world of power rangers, zelda, michael jordan, and pubescent boobies.
however to answer the OP, is he missing out? yeah, he’s missing out. some of the movies out there are thoroughly entertaining and he did miss out. he’s missing out on sharing a laugh with someone. it’s not something invaluable that he’s missing out on, but still an experience that he has not had.
I have little to no knowledge of popular movies, tv shows, or music. I grew up without tv and have never been interested in movies or music. I watch tv and movies occasionally now… but usually older stuff that no one is talking about.
It just means that I don’t have conversations about these things with people. And often I miss bad jokes, ‘references’ and think people are acting stupid when they quote dialogue.
The only inconvenience is that some people make a big deal about it. There is a reason this kind of thing is called ‘trivia’ - it’s totally not important except for casual conversation, unless you like quiz games. I don’t interact much with people who like to discuss movies, music, tv, video games, or ads in detail so it rarely comes up.
I think your entire premise is flawed. You say that there are some movies which “everyone is expected to have seen”. But consider that Titanic is the biggest financial success of all times. It took in six hundred million dollars at the box office. Assuming an average ticket price of eight dollars, that means seventy-five million persons saw Titanic. Or, in a country of three hundred million, it means that only a quarter of the population saw Titanic. And that’s assuming that each ticket went to a different person. In reality, many tickets went to hysterical teenage girls who saw the movie over and over. So even the most popular movie of all times has not been seen my most people.
The same is true for television. The highest rated shows get roughly fifteen million viewers if they’re lucky, which means that only one out of every twenty Americans sees them. Same for music. Same for books. There’s nothing that everyone is familiar with. There’s nothing that even a majority is familiar with in pop culture. Hence there’s nothing that anyone has to know. I’m baffled by your claim that ignorance of pop culture will make work difficult. How does not knowing Monty Python affect one’s ability to drive a truck, pick crops, or perform brain surgery?
Social life is a different animal, and it might be true that someone like your friend will miss a reference from time to time. I can hardly classify this as a major barrier, though, and least not when handled. If someone pops a Simpsons quote and your friend can’t respond, that just makes an excellent opportunity to steer the conversation towards something more worthwhile. As pancakes said, children are obsessive about pop culture, but adults certainly ought to know better.
In the final analysis, most of today’s pop culture is worthless anyway. Saint Paul said, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…think about such things.” A modern Hollywood executive would say to us, “whatever is vapid, whatever is ugly, whatever is vulgar, whatever is pointless, whatever is disgusting, whatever is flat-out stupid, think about these things.” In most cases, a person is better off not knowing pop culture.
I think it depends on your audience. For example, a friend of mine knows country music like nobody’s business. I know it fairly well, and I can use country music references with him–perhaps I’ll say, “I wanna go two-point-seven seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu” and he’ll know exactly what I’m feeling. (From a Tim McGraw song, for those not in the know.) But if I use Simpsons or *Princess Bride *references with him, he has no idea what I’m talking about. Similarly, references to the Brute Squad, to “a hundred and six miles to Chicago,” and to red Swingline staplers are going to mean nothing to those who don’t know The Princess Bride, the Blues Brothers Movie, and Office Space; respectively.
I don’t think anybody is missing out. Certainly, my country-music-loving friend doesn’t seem to be missing anything. He, like your friend, could learn these references if he wished; but he doesn’t want to. If your friend wants to learn, fine; but if not, that’s OK too. But it all depends on the audience, and what they can reasonably be expected to know, I think.
eh, no biggie IMO. I don’t follow sports, don’t have cable, and pretty much stopped going to movies when Hollywood decided to stop making films in favor of attempted blockbusters. I watch about 4 hours of PBS for each hour of network television.
If I don’t get a pop cultural reference, I ask for an explanation. Often this results in a tip for a movie to rent.
It actually works out pretty even, my making aliteration to classic novels, and them to movies I’ve never seen nor heard of.
I didn’t have a TV from 1988 until 2001, except that we rented one yearly to watch the football playoffs, and we might rent one for something like the Olympics. I “missed out” on a lot of things people discussed in the office, like “Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” etc. Didn’t bother me.
When my first novel came out people commented on how similar in tone it was to certain TV shows, assuming that I’d been influenced by them, and I’d never even heard of them. I was most assuredly not influenced by them and resented the implication. On the other hand, I couldn’t really admit to not having a TV because then I’d sound like a cultural snob. (I have been sounding like a cultural snob since 1988, so I’m pretty good at it.)
People also said as a novelist I needed to keep up with this stuff. I don’t agree. If I were writing for television, then yeah, it’d be a mistake not to watch it for a decade or so. If I were writing screenplays I’d have to keep up with what was appearing in theaters. But I was writing books, and books without a lot of cultural references, and I did read lots of books during those years–like more than 200 the year before I wrote mine.
I’m happy that people enjoyed these TV shows but I don’t really think I’ve missed out by not seeing them.
I have on occasion made connections with new people by referencing things from popular culture. I see lots of movies. But if they want to connect with me it’ll be easier if they’ve read some books than if they’ve watched some TV.