World pop culture is becoming more universal and collective. In the age of the internet, enabling the enrichment of art from the bottom up, its development is practically unlimited.
For some it is casual entertainment – a guarantee of a nice time. According to others, mass culture is the result of postmodernism and modern art. It develops, enriches and gives color to gray reality. A reality in which traditional art is black and white and is governed by pre-imposed rules. Without the slightest element of madness, without a dose of unpredictability. And yet, pop culture is the perfect material for playing with convention, playing with form or perverse in content. People in love with mass art have long noticed this regularity. Thanks to it, artists and lovers can both enrich pop culture and have fun with it.
Much has been said and written about the development of mass art. This is certainly an important topic, but today let’s focus on what does not necessarily create new trends, but rather brings undisguised joy to both creators and recipients. If we share a love of pop culture, why don’t we learn to communicate with it? Let’s put in the individual works the most characteristic motifs, which later for a selected group of fans will be a clear clue as to the way the senders think. However, this is not all. Let us give great respect to the most classic works of pop culture, by mentioning them in subsequent works. Let’s promote brands, enhancing their cultivality. Let us give expression to our production, referring to the atmosphere of great works. Often, small nuances and imperceptible allusions have a huge impact on the reception of the whole. They often constitute its essence. So how is it with these references to pop culture? Are they really just proverbial flavors? Or are they more important? Let’s check on specific examples.
When in 1982 Jim Abrahams and David Zucker realized a parody of police series in the form of a comedy procedural titled, and then in 1988 they made the movie The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad !, no one expected that before our eyes creates a story. The adventures of Frank Drebin were full of charming absurdities and politically incorrect flavors. They were also a kind of mine of references to pop culture. A series of films about a slender policeman was one great reference to what society at the time lived. It is true that we did not deal here with a tribute, but rather a clever parody and satire, but it still holds its proper place in the history of art, as a brand deriving a handful of pop culture. In 1987, in a similar style, Mel Brooks realized his work entitled Spaceballs, which is almost entirely a parody of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. However, it was not without references to other iconic productions, such as Alien or Planet of the Apes. Later, Abrahams and Zucker commented on reality in subsequent absurd works (Hot Shots !, Hot Shots! Part Deux), but no one is able to take the palm of priority among productions using pop culture in a clever game with the viewer.
Comedies and productions colored with humor play the boldest with mass culture. It is in such films and series that it is easiest to smuggle flavors and references, blinking significantly at the viewer. Take, for example, the cult sitcom in some circles called The Big Bang Theory. The assumption of this series was to win the sympathy of pop culture lovers, so it’s no wonder that at every step and every second sentence there are bigger or smaller allusions or references. In this production is everything that is most important in the world of geeks and nerds. From conflicts between fans and Star Trek or DC and Marvel to the most popular Game of Thrones or Doctor Who series. unlike the variations of Abrahams and Zucker, he does not focus only on absurd play with form and content, but he approaches the benefits of pop culture with great respect. Thanks to this, lovers of mass art can feel very homely among Sheldon and the others. Visits to their apartment are for many, like a party with buddies who broadcast on the same waves. Thanks to this, viewers identify with the characters, establishing a kind of emotional relationship with them. In this way, she developed a mass of loyal fans, which is a great success for the television series.
The American series The Office (US), which is a remake of the British format under the same title, played a similar style with pop culture. Once again, the creators played mass culture with us with the help of more or less bizarre characters. One of the most characteristic heroes of Dwight Schrute would fit perfectly into the team (if only he did not have such a lousy character). Interestingly, the character herself became an icon of pop culture, receiving her own meme.
A situation in which winking at the viewer ceases to be a one-time gesture and becomes a cyclical tick occurs in many films and series such as. A convention in which creators give viewers the opportunity to identify with individual heroes works as it should, as long as the artists are honest in what they do. It happens that a given production, being aware of the power of nostalgia, cynically preys on pop culture classics. Fortunately, the proverbial geek and nerd is a cunning beast who can easily sense falsehood. That is why so many products are backfired. Without an emotional attitude to pop culture, don’t move.
The creators of Disney / Pixara and other mainstream animation specialists who know the message for children and the convention for adults know this well. How do they do that Well, they entangle wherever possible allusions, flavors and references, noticeable only to the viewer who is at least a dozen years old. Very often these motives dangerously balance on the border of political correctness or good taste. In this respect, of course, the world championship is a series of films about Shrek, in which both children and adults have fun. Another animation worthy of mention is Toy Story. All three parts of the adventures of Chudy and Buzz are filled with elements at which every self-respecting nerd can’t stand laughing. There are of course many more similar productions. Even Pixar’s short films, which precede each cinema screening of this studio’s film, contain pop culture flavors. Disney has long found a way to please children and adults while watching a movie together.
Of course, references to pop culture are not only present in animations and comedy series. Nowadays, virtually every major cinema blockbuster must wink at the viewer in order not to be picked up too seriously. Recently, Marvel has been ruling on this subject, putting his heroes on the lips dozens of cut ripostes and liners, drawing handfuls of pop culture. Just remember the last Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man, who every time glitters in this respect. His memory for “very old films” is a gem that will soon become such a motive, reproduced by subsequent works of mass cinema.
While most of the productions make fun of pop culture, some movies and series take the classics scheda extremely seriously. Some do it better, others a bit worse. Without the right distance, it’s very easy to fall into pomposity, and hence the straight path to unintended kitsch. Luckily, we’ve had several pop culture gems these days. The Ready Player One image is a great example. This example is unique because probably for the first time in the history of cinema, the director, referring to the iconic classics of the past, pays homage to himself. Steven Spielberg, of course, places dozens of flavors unrelated to his filmography in his new painting, but it cannot be denied that it was this artist who set the tone in popular art in the eighties and nineties. So no one is against Steven Spielberg in his latest work summarizing in such a spectacular way what he has been doing for the last decades.
The second such significant case, where references to pop culture are not just a humorous allusion, and the essence of the story is of course Stranger Things from Netflix. Before the first season, nobody expected such a success of this production. However, the series surprised and it was thanks to the large number of flavors and references that made nostalgia in the eighties suddenly felt so. Long after the premiere of the first season, cinema and television enthusiasts had fun in finding references to the classics. They appeared not only in the content. The creators carefully puffed up the flavors in the audiovisual setting and construction of individual episodes. For many, it is still an unsurpassed example of how to enjoy the benefits of pop culture.
Finally, it is worth considering what productions are characterized by the greatest “honey” and “cult” for creators and fans in love with pop culture. Of course, there has been only one leader for years. It will not surprise anyone that the most recognizable brand in contemporary mass art are Star Wars. Thanks to the fact that the tale from the farthest corners of the galaxy still lives its own life, it is such a tasty morsel for everyone who loves pop culture. Set designs, costumes, characterizations from the film are probably known to everyone, so it’s no wonder that the artists who want to introduce a pop-cultural accent to their work, at all occasions refer to Star Wars. Of course, there is a risk that the topic will become common and viewers will be fed up with Darth Vader, Yoda or Han Solo, but the way Disney and Lucasarts deal with the brand guarantees its long life.
The competitor in the form of Star Trek is far behind in terms of recognition, but Enterprise-themed motives appear in pop culture here and there. Much more popular are elements alive taken from comics, and now also Marvel and DC movies. Agent 007 is included in the price, as well as the heroes of the most famous computer games. Thanks to the power of the internet, fans largely determine trends, create fashions and introduce new brands to the pop culture canon. The image of a geek with watery eyes, a strange hairstyle and trousers tucked under his neck is no longer valid. Now it is he who has the greatest influence on the direction in which popular art develops. Thanks to new possibilities, each of us influences trends in some way.
How to describe your feelings when during a new screening, Peter Parker shoots like a rifle with texts about old films, and we only have “This guy thinks just like me !!!”. How do you define a thrill during the sequence in which the characters visit a hotel from a horror movie that impressed us so much when we were young? What to think when the hated Dwight Schrute from the show turns out to be a huge fan of the production of Battlestar Galactica, which is for us an opus magnum science fiction? We live in beautiful times for mass art. Pop culture has never been so free and free before. Let’s all take it and eat it.