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Second hand culture

Started by Josquius, March 17, 2023, 04:29:16 AM

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Josquius

During my teen years, I watched/listened to The Simpsons a lot.
It was a great show. And the timing of when it was on (ah the days of live broadcast reliance) just lined up for when I tended to need something on in the background.
The Simpsons of course is a show much older than me being a teen and from quite an alien cultural background. Via The Simpsons, and many other shows...I learned references that I had no first hand knowledge of.

For example, one I've seen today was a photo of Salma Hayak now vs. 30 years ago. Someone commented "She definitely has a picture of herself in the attic aging for her"- this was heavily upvoted.... But have that many people really read A Picture of Dorian Grey? Even film adaptations weren't exactly blockbusters. Its just one of those things that has escaped its original source and become a reference that basically everyone gets.

So, a point of the thread- what do you think the greatest examples of second hand culture are? That is, references that are pretty universally known whilst only a minimal amount of people have actually read/seen/heard the original.
This isn't just meaning tropes that were established in one film and copied in every film thereafter. What I mean is stuff like "Luke. I'm your father!" where everyone will instantly go "Star Wars!". The reference is clearly linked to its original despite the original remaining relatively obscure (which obviously isn't Star Wars).


My nomination for a top example here would be 1984. The basics of what its about are almost universally well known. Anything privacy invading- big brother is watching!... but I don't think so many people have actually read it. And again, the film adaptations aren't THAT well known, especially to anyone who wasn't an adult in 1984.
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HVC

#1
There a bunch from aesops fables. Here are just a few. Some are direct quotes, and some are synopsis of the moral in the tales.
Being lazy is bad; unless you still get what you want, then it's called "patience".
Hubris must be punished. Severely.

Eddie Teach

I think a lot of people read 1984 in school.
To sleep, perchance to dream. But in that sleep of death, what dreams may come?

Grey Fox

On a forum full of people with something other than english as their first language there is probably going to be tons of examples.

My example: I've never even seen a copy of Moby Dick, To Kill a Mocking Bird or any of Hemingway's books and yet I know and understand references to them.
Colonel Caliga is Awesome.

The Larch

One from Spanish culture, "tilting at windmills", from El Quijote.

Oexmelin

Yes, you are describing "culture". Rules and references that are taught explicitly (i.e, Dorian Grey references work because it's been a book read in school for many), inherited directly (things your parents have used as references, have listened to, etc.) and indirectly (think of all phrases lifted from Shakespeare). This is why the division of larger cultures into smaller and smaller subcultures puts a lot more stress upon smaller and smaller sets of references, that tend to get overused (or propped up with a lot of money, as there is a lot of value in that sort of recognition). Think of how Harry Potter was, for some time, a "go-to" reference to analyze everything from personality type to international politics.
Que le grand cric me croque !

Admiral Yi

Iconic Shakespearian quotes.  To be or not to be.  A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.

The Minsky Moment

For many centuries in Europe the Bible supplied an enormous amount of common cultural reference points despite the vast majority of people being illiterate.  And it still does even though I suspect that a lot fewer people have actually read it then claim to have read it.
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
--Joan Robinson

Sheilbh

Quote from: Admiral Yi on March 17, 2023, 06:35:53 AMIconic Shakespearian quotes.  To be or not to be.  A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.
Beyond the iconic lines are all of the Shakespearean turns of phrase that became idions: too much of a good thing; without rhyme or reason; I haven't slept a wink; clothes make the man; heart of hearts; own flesh and blood; eaten me out of house and home; it's all Greek to me; be all and the end all; wear my heart upon my sleeve; all that glitters isn't gold; wild goose chase; brave new world; world is my oyster etc.

In terms of those idioms in English I think Shakespeare is probably second only to the King James Bible.

QuoteFor many centuries in Europe the Bible supplied an enormous amount of common cultural reference points despite the vast majority of people being illiterate.  And it still does even though I suspect that a lot fewer people have actually read it then claim to have read it.
I agree about the past - I'd say probably until around my generation there was just a level of assumed Biblical literacy. Many were believers, there was a big silent majority where it was just part of the culture and because of its power critics also were very Biblically literate.

I think from my generation - so from the mid 80s - I'm not sure that actually exists any more. I think there is a bit of a sketch of some of the big stories like Moses or the outline of Christ's life. But I think it's a world away from the Biblical literacy of popular culture even 70 years ago. I think it's similar in the rest of Europe too.

I am relatively Biblically aware but I need end notes to realise there are allusions and I don't really know about and would need an explanation of Biblical texts that inspired art for centuries - like, say, the Book of Judith. I think there is a point in the twentieth century where it shifts for Europeans and - to nick a Biblical line - we view it through a glass darkly.

It might be different in America because faith still matters there and there is a higher level of basic Biblical knowledge.
Let's bomb Russia!

Savonarola

For English speakers Alexander Pope would probably be the third after Shakespeare and the bible (A little learning is a dangerous thing, damn with faint praise, to err is human, fools rush in where angels fear to tread)
In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peaceā€”and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock

Sheilbh

To nick another poet's line they really are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

An angle I was wondering about is memes in culture because there's so many where I recognise the meme and get the meaning (in that context) but don't know or haven't seen the thing it's actually from. Which I imagine is increasingly common in our online culture.
Let's bomb Russia!

crazy canuck

Quote from: Sheilbh on March 17, 2023, 11:11:50 AMTo nick another poet's line they really are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

An angle I was wondering about is memes in culture because there's so many where I recognise the meme and get the meaning (in that context) but don't know or haven't seen the thing it's actually from. Which I imagine is increasingly common in our online culture.

My oldest boy recently watched a documentary about the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor, and commented that he now understood why the Simpsons had Homer working at a nuclear plant and the fish were mutants.

 
I want you to panic

https://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2019/jan/25/i-want-you-to-panic-16-year-old-greta-thunberg-issues-climate-warning-at-davos-video

"Woke" is now almost exclusively used by those who seek to deride it, those who chafe at the activism from which it sprang. Opponents to the idea are seeking to render it toxic. They use it to stand in for change itself, for evolution, for an accurate assessment of history and society that makes them uncomfortable and deflates their hagiographic view of American history.

The Minsky Moment

Quote from: Sheilbh on March 17, 2023, 09:58:43 AMIt might be different in America because faith still matters there and there is a higher level of basic Biblical knowledge.

I wouldn't make that assumption.  There are certainly more people that identify as religious but that may be more a matter of cultural signifying then substance.  There are a lot of Americans in Bible study groups etc. but my sense - reinforced by many anecdotal encounters - is that there are a lot more that proclaim themselves to be devout Christians, but whose first hand familiarity with the text is quite limited.   Which helps explains things like all the people who see no cognitive dissonance about wearing their What Would Jesus Do Bracelets while they take their AR-15 to the Build the Wall rally.
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
--Joan Robinson

HVC

Which is funny, because as protestants they get to interpret the bible rather than the catechism informing belief. not that American Catholics seem like good Catholics anyway. Probably too much Protestant contagion  ;) :P
Being lazy is bad; unless you still get what you want, then it's called "patience".
Hubris must be punished. Severely.

Barrister

Quote from: HVC on March 17, 2023, 01:19:45 PMWhich is funny, because as protestants they get to interpret the bible rather than the catechism informing belief. not that American Catholics seem like good Catholics anyway. Probably too much Protestant contagion  ;) :P

That's the thing about evangelical Christians though - you don't get to "interpret" the Bible - it's the literal word of God.  It means what it says.

Which is what makes Minsky's point all the more poignant.
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