Welcome to Wonderland

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February 10, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Every generation likes to think that they’re special, or that they have some feature that wholeheartedly distinguishes them from every other one, in an attempt to find a sense of importance in their chronological existence.  In this fashion, our generation, for which I still don’t know what they’ve decided to name us yet, is exactly like all the preceding ones.  Our distinguishing feature is something that is so stupidly obvious that we overlook it on a daily basis despite the fact that it is something that dictates both our lexicon as well as the way in which we both see and shape the reality around us.

Our entire existence is predominantly presupposed and based upon references and allusions of various origins.  What I’m trying to say is essentially the following: instead of being “you are what you eat”, we have become “you are what you see on TV”.  While this is an aspect of more recent generations, ours is the first generation where people are actually born into this paradigm of pop culture inundation and subliminal repetition.  This is the defining feature of our generation, an ultra stylized speech pattern and a view of the world inspired heavily upon pop culture influences and visuals.[1]

The entire mumblecore movement is a prime example of this realization.  Most mumblecore films rely heavily on improvising, with little scripting.  And if you pay attention to a show like The League featuring one of the leaders of the mumblecore movement, Mark Dunplass, you’ll see just how heavily pop culture influences the dialogue of the show.  Pop culture has not only become a part of life, but it has become a way with which to examine and understand life.

Think about any Judd Apatow work, be it TV show, or movie.  They all follow the same formula: realistic characters and situations grounded in dialogue which borrows heavily from pop culture allusions.  Shows like Freaks and Geeks or even That 70s Show create an environment by implementing pop culture into itself to make it more accessible and relatable to the audience.  As a result of creating an understandable and relatable scenario, people begin to reiterate what they see into their everyday lives.  I can’t tell you how many kids in 10th grade all of the sudden became pop culture aficionados after seeing Knocked Up.  It happened because a movie like Knocked Up essentially told me and a bunch of other 16 year olds who grew up in the 90s that it’s ok to just spit out heavy handed pop culture references at rapid fire, because it’s the life we live in.

It’s basically a three step procedure:

1)      People talk about sports, music, themselves, movies, life in a way that reflects their own exposures to pop culture

2)      Entertainment gets a hold of the way people talk, stylize and dramatize it to the point of accessibility

3)      People begin to emulate that stylized speech pattern seeing it as a reflection of their own lives.  Therefore an already stylized form of speaking becomes even more stylized and laden with pop culture references

We speak in tones that are reflective of our entertainment sources and see things in metaphors of our own references.  People are like sitcom characters now, or certain situations resemble those seen in our favorite movies.  When in reality these characters and situations are actually modified versions of us.  I think we instinctively know this, that’s why we gravitate so strongly to shows and movies that are heavy in pop culture allusions and references, because they best represent us.  A show like The League could only exist at this point in time, because of its eccentricities, such as being highly improvised and its emphasis and pop cultural realization.  It’s also no coincidence that Arrested Development is coming back on air this May; it’s because as a culture we’re finally ready to accept it as the scintillatingly fast paced and highly concentrated form of comedic interpretation of life that has been gestation over the past decade.

We see things in relation to other things we have been exposed to, but because out generation has been so saturated with pop culture, and music, and movies, and sports we now see things in relation to these forms of entertainment as an extension of ourselves.  This is how we interpret life now, through the eyes of a medium that is innately reflective of ourselves to begin with.  It’s akin to looking in a mirror and asking your reflection to describe what it sees.  We live in a world where an entire year of college can somehow be surmised in an album that was released some thirty-five years prior.  We live in a world where the idea of Lebron James is greater than Lebron James himself.  We live in a world where people can be broken down into which sitcom character they are most like.  It’s an interesting world we live in; I for one would like to see where the rabbit hole will take us.


[1] The fact that a site like this exists is evidence enough.

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