DISCUSSION: Pop Culture References in Books
Okay. This is kind of a strange one, but I run into it all the time. I’m knee-deep into a novel and the prose drops a reference to someone like Taylor Swift, or a piece of ‘current day’ technology like Samsung Galaxy S8. It always makes me pause.
It has nothing to do with my opinions or preferences. I’m an iPhone user, and I don’t normally listen to Tay-Tay, though her songs have a habit of worming their way into the core of my brain. It’s not about what or who I prefer.
I wonder about the person who’s going to be reading that book 10 years from now. 20 years from now. Are they going to know who Taylor Swift is? Will Samsung even be a company then? Probably. But maybe not.
What I’m getting at is that these references have an expiration day. And if you’re reference is expired, doesn’t that take something away from your book? It’s certainly not always the case. Just look at one of my favs, Ready Player One.
RPO is near non-stop references to 80s pop culture, and it works very, very well. But there’s a difference. Ready Player One basically tells you in the beginning, you’re going to hear a bunch of things about the 1980s, get ready (player one)! Also, each reference is given a quick origin as it’s brought in. It’s not just a name dropped in, the way so many of them are.
There’s also something about references from the past. If you were to read a book written in 2018 that references an actress from the 60s, I think you can get away with that. In 10 or 20 years, she’s still going to be an actress from the 60s. But if that book drops the name of the latest teen heart-throb, that guy probably won’t be around in 5 years. Sorry, heart-throbs, nature of the business.
Then again, maybe I’m just nuts.
Is it just me? How do you feel when you come across a pop reference?
Fun fact about this post: As I wrote this post, my cat was asleep beside me, with her head resting on an ARC, and totally left a little cat drool on it!