Pop culture references. They're in songs, books, films, vocabulary. I have friends who quote television shows to the degree that the sayings have entered our vernacular. When there's a lull in the conversation someone undoubtedly pipes up "Is that gum?" or "Dust? Dust, anyone?" (100 points for anyone who can name those two television shows.)
Cultural references can be used for parody or homage. They allow a creator to create parallels between their own work and the work they are referencing. They borrow credibility from something that is trendy or well established in the (apologies for sounding like I'm writing a uni paper here) collective consciousness. The audience gets to feel clever at having identified the thing that the creator is referencing and perhaps in turn identify with it.
I love a good pop culture reference. Two that have caught my attention recently are in (and I'm going to lose all my hardened street cred here) Kesha's "Blow" and Lady Gaga's "Dance in the Dark". The first goes something like this:
Drink that Kool-Aid
Follow my lead
Now you're one of us
You're coming with me
Did you get that one? I've been researching cults recently so it jumped out at me right away. On November 18, 1978 Jim Jones orchestrated the mass suicide of 900 of his followers at Jonestown, Guyana. The cause of death was a cyanide-laced drink popularly believed to be Kool-Aid. (It was actually Flavor Aid.)
In Lady Gaga's Dance in the Dark, a song she states is about a young woman uncomfortable with her sexuality (surely it's not autobiographical?) the bridge goes:
Work your blonde (Jean) Benet Ramsey
We’ll haunt like Liberace
Find your freedom in the music
Find your Jesus
Find your Kubrick
You will never fall apart
Diana, you’re still in our hearts
Never let you fall apart
Together we’ll dance in the dark
Jean Benet Ramsey, Liberace, Jesus and (Princess) Diana all met tragic ends. Kubrick ... well, he was a brilliant film director who lived to a ripe old age. No tragedy there, he died in his sleep. But could Gaga be comparing herself to all these famous figures?
Even just the vaguest allusion to something can stuff a whole lot of meaning into something as seemingly meaningless as a pop song. I have to say I enjoy the cultural "borrowing", despite the fact that, in the examples above, it seems to be borrowing for the sake of credibility rather than for something important the artist wanted to say. You could interpret, I suppose, that Kesha was saying something snide about her fans ...
Do you enjoy a pop culture reference, or do you find them tacky and derivative?