Pop Culture 101 (for the sheltered folks)

so, if you had to make a class for all the poor sheltered Christian school attending kids coming to college for the first time, what would be the material? This isn’t asking for your greatest hits and everyone replies with their favorite classics…these are people who probably haven’t even seen Star Wars. This is just to give them a passing knowledge so they can go out in the real world and not say “huh?” Every 5 seconds.

Basically, pretend you’re teaching a class to an alien to give them enough Pop culture information to pass as a human

What does Christian have to do with it? I went to a Christian grade school (K4-8th grade) and managed to make it out knowing who the Rolling Stones were and what Star Wars was and I watched You Can’t Do That on Television just like everyone else.

The compiled list would be hundreds, probably thousands of items long. People regularly make references to all sorts of media spanning back 50 years, alongside a gaggle of celebrities and cultural touchstones both in the receding past (20-30 years ago) and current, even ones that are a flash in the pan and won’t be remembered (the vast majority).

It also depends on what sort of milieu you drop our pod person. Young people might not care about anything that happened before 1990; there might be older people on this board who couldn’t tell you the difference between Super Mario and Ron Jeremy, despite both being ancient history in cultural terms.

We did a thread once about what five movies were most central to American culture - which isn’t the same as the best movies or the most popular movies.

My picks were:

The Godfather I and II
Gone With the Wind
Star Wars
The Wizard of Oz

In 2015, I’d be tempted to add The Avengers to the list but I think it’s too soon to tell on that one.

Fifty years?!? :eek:

“A boy’s best friend is his mother!”

“I tried to be a good captain, but they fought me at every turn!”

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”

“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!”

“Round up the usual suspects!”

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more, Toto!”

“With God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”

“You dirty rat!”

“Nyaaaah … what’s up, doc?”

…Shall I go on? :dubious:

Two or Three novels from Elmore Leonard, A couple novels each from Hemingway and Steinbeck, 2 or 3 of Stephen Kings best novels, one or two movies each from Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, The greatest hits of the Who, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

At this point, I think it would be way more important for them to know about certain internet phenomena than any particular book, movie, or song.*

What’s a vine? What’s Twitter? What’s a Youtuber? What’s Minecraft?

Kids today aren’t talking about Elmore Leonard novels. They’re talking about something or another they saw on Youtube.

  • except Star Wars. They need to know that one. I’ve only seen the original one once and none of the sequels. I’m pretty damn close to that mythical person who’s never seen Star Wars. Star Wars annoys me and I ignore it as much as I can…and yet, somehow, even I know what a sarlacc is.

Ok, I make no claim to what is culturally relevant in 2015. But if you wanted a quick overview of what “being a man was all about” for the 20th century (latter half) a couple Elmore Leonard novels and a couple Bruce Willis movies would be the perfect way to start.

“Pop culture” is such a broad continuum, that it really has to be lived, not taught. Would this hypothetical alien not recognize the name Charlie Chaplin or Marilyn Monroe? At what point can you say he’s prepared to go out into the world, and not ask “What?” or “Who?” at every reference?

My mother lived from 1913 to 2005. The amount of pop culture she was exposed to was phenomenal . . . just by living all those years. How on earth could you teach all of that to someone who didn’t live it?

If you want. That’s the point of the thread. Fifty years was an approximate moving cut off date. Depending on the social environment, not knowing anything about One Direction would mark you as pod person more than not knowing quotes from black and white movies from the Great Depression.

Do your acquaintances regularly drop references to The Caine Mutiny?

Duran Duran.

I think that covers everything.

Personally, I have no idea what The Caine Mutiny is (or One Direction, for that matter), but my acquaintances regularly drop references to Shakespeare, the Bible and Plato.

Edit: Looks up The Caine Mutiny. Hey, Bogie is in this! OK, fair enough, maybe I should know about that one.

Based on these criteria, people suggesting old movies and novels are barking completely up the wrong tree.

A person under 25 can easily pass as human if they have never seen any movie made before they were 5 and never seen any movie that wasn’t in the top 3 most popular movies for their age group the year it was released.

If a 20yo has never seen any movie made before 2005, chances are nobody will ever find out and nobody will care of they do find out. The same will be true if they haven’t seen two of the three Hobbit movies or never saw “Gravity” That’s just not that unusual and not important for pop-culture literacy.

So really, the number of movies will be maybe 10 or fifteen. Only children’s movies need to have been made more than 5 years ago. Not having seen recent kids movies like Frozen or the Lego Movie wont be unusual, especially for males. So really you only need to compile a list of the top 3 movies most popular with teens made since 2010. That’s 15 movies. Then add the most popular kids movie for each year between 2000 and 2010, another 10 movies. That will be more than adequate to ensure cultural literacy for a 20yo. In fact you could probably halve that number.

The whole internet thing is mostly a teen phenomenon of the past 7-8 years. It’s going to be crucially important for a 20yo to be intimately familiar with how to use Facetube and YouBlog or whatever. That means they will need to spend at least a few weeks just posting and reading comments and playing with the systems to familiarise themselves with both the software and the social dynamics. This can not be taught in class.

But by far the biggest will be TV and popular songs. A “normal” 20yo will have been exposed to almost a quarter of a million hours of TV. It’s going to be hard to pass as normal without an intimate familiarity with all the kids programming from the past 15 years. And that means all the characters from infants shows like Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba, Pokemeon, at least a majority of the plot developments of major kids shows like The Simpsons, Power Rangers and so forth. Then you need at least working familiarity with shows like Bear Grylls, Oprah (still within the consciousness of a 20yo), TMZ and a plethora of reality TV shows. And thanks to re-runs you will also need familiarity with Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and a host of other shows that well predate a 20yo.

There are going to be over a hundred shows that a 20yo will need to be intimately familiar with to pass successfully and another 500 that they will need to have pasing familiarity with the setting, characters etc. When someone makes a joke that a guy looks like some character from Yo Gabba Gabba or Freinds, they need to be able to recognise that almost instantly to pass.

Music will be much the same. The amount of music that a person of that age has absorbed by osmosis is vast. It will basically need to include every top 20 song of the past 10 years as well as a sizable selection of popular songs from previous eras.

Reading material is really optional. It’s perfectly reasonable for a 20yo not to have read any specific novel. Even really popular kids books like Harry Potter only managed about 20% market saturation at their peak, which was before this person’s time. So really, you can skip the reading material altogether.

In term so older culture, I think a lot of people are overestimating how literate the average 20yo is in that regard. If a 20yo didn’t know who Charlie Chaplin or Marilyn Monroe was, that wouldn’t ring anybody’s alarm bells. I would expect that over half of 20yos wouldn’t know both of them. More recent big name stars are probably more relevant but even there, if they haven’t appeared in a major movie in the past 10 years nobody is going to be surprised if a 20yo doesn’t recognise them.

Do you think you’d need to read/watch The Fellowship of the Ring in order to appreciate/understand The Two Towers? So how can you Understand 20010 without understanding 1990 and 1980?

By not living during those times.

Based upon this observation I am going to select movies from the past 15 years that would need to be watched. For movies like Harry Potter of Fast and Furious I will just list the first in the franchise… mostly I will try to select movies that capture a certain ethos or mood of the time.

1- Fast and Furious 1
2- Harry Potter 1
3- The Avengers
4- The Dark Knight
5- The Notebook
6- American Psycho
7- The Prestige
8- Avatar
9- Gladiator
10- Requiem For A Dream
11- The Devils Rejects
12- Saw I
13- Hostel
14- Superbad
15- Snatch
16- Donnie Darko
17- Snatch
18- Shutter Island
19- Memento
20- The Social Network
21- The Hunger Games
22- Bourne I
23- Taken I
24- Django Unchained
25- Divergent

Most Popular 2000-2010
Most Popular 2000-Present

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Movies I have seen from your list:

2- Harry Potter 1
8- Avatar

I’m not big on pop culture.

This list doesn’t look quite right to me if we need to talk about understanding popular culture, especially if the sheltered student/alien will be interacting with college students. Where’s Twilight? How many people under 21 have seen Requiem For A Dream or Snatch or would be expected to have seen them? I take the approach that more people will have seen at least one movie of a franchise or genre than any standalone movie. Therefore, here’s my list:

Movie Franchises or genres:
-Star Wars
-Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight)
-Superheroes (Avengers, Batman, etc.)
-Lord of the Rings
-Torture porn (Saw, Hostel, etc.)

Debatable - James Bond, Transformers, Fast and Furious, Pirates of the Caribbean

Movie with a ton of pop culture references that would be a great jumping point:
-Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
-current comedy that is quoted a lot…(I have no idea - Princess Bride and Monty Python were common in my college circle but that was awhile ago)

TV shows:
-Avatar (The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra)
-Game of Thrones
-The Walking Dead
-The Big Bang Theory
-??? I’m drawing a blank what would be universally popular among teenagers and young adults 10 years ago to now. There’s no unifying Saved by the Bell or Fresh Prince. Maybe Hannah Montana or iCarly or Gossip Girl? If this question was asked 10 years ago, I might say Buffy but that’s getting old now.

TV show with a ton of pop culture references that would be a great jumping point:

Are we talking about movies and TV shows that everyone else has seen or we talking about movies and TV shows that best encapsulate the spirit of the times? Because you can make a short list of movies/songs/etc that encapsulate a generation a lot easier than you can make a short list of movies/songs/books/shows that everyone has watched read or listened to. It’s kind of impossible, by definition, to make a short list of all of the cultural reference points of a decade.