The interesting thing about Pop Culture, as stated in the Introduction, is that it is not an entirely new idea. What is “new” is how it is spread. Today we have Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, etc, to get things to others and the world; whereas with our parents, grandparents, and people who are long since dead, it was done more with newspapers, television, radio, and by word of mouth. Pop Culture is spread by the technology that is available. It is a virus of sorts: transmitted through airwaves, ethernet cords, or occasionally someone with really bad breath at the water cooler in the office.
It’s hard to choose where to start when discussing Pop Culture. There are so many varied forms from years past to today. Every generation has had its share of what was popular for that time.
The Return of the Franchise.
You may think to yourself that Return is an odd choice: “Liz, the franchise never went away in the first place..” But if you really look back, certain franchise films didn’t have staying power, or rather were for a certain time and place, than other franchise films that have since spawned followings.
Franchises, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Marx Brothers, Superhero flicks, and regrettably even Twilight are successful ways to engage the public, to make them come back for more. Even continuations of a franchise, no matter how many years have passed since the original, still bring in the fans and inspire new fans to seek out the original. Star Wars is the perfect example of taking the already established franchise and fan base and expanding it. The addition of the, admittedly HORRIBLE, episodes 1-3 brought back the well cemented fans but also reached a new audience. Now with newer episodes and Rogue One, the series is bringing yet another generation of fans.
Franchises do extend past the cinematic world as well. Not that people have forgotten that books exist, Barnes and Noble seem to be doing just fine, but I just don’t feel that people read as much as they used to. Yes, E-readers have probably helped revitalize reading, but there is just something about holding a book, combing the aisle at your local bookstore or library, low key judging books by their covers, and then bringing home just the right one (or 6) to be enjoyed.
A book series can be just as enjoyable to watch and often the books are turned into a film or television shows, much to the delight and horror of the fans. For example, I was thrilled when, after reading books 1-4 of Harry Potter, that the film was being made. I remember going to the theatre in my hometown, sitting in the PACKED theatre, and falling in love with the movie. Sure, I had the typical complaints that all fans have:
- “That wasn’t in the books”
- They left out *insert part* from the books
- They cast the wrong person for that role
But overall I was pleased and the theatre had my money already so there was no turning back. I was committed to the franchise. The same can be said about Lord of the Rings, though I was NOT fan of The Hobbit. I never cared for the book and the movies were just not entertaining to me. Needless to say these were very successful, reached a specific fan base, and have sprouted endless memes.
The way Pop Culture ties into a franchise is shown through merchandise, constant quoting and fan theory discussions, and the almost cult-like following it develops (fandom is a nicer word, I suppose. I mean, look at Trekkies.) It engrains itself into the very fabric of our society, much like a virus, but with no way of eradicating it. As far as I know, there hasn’t been an antidote made for the Harry Potter fandom but why would you take it when Hogwarts is your home?
Franchises are not only developed out of books or the film industry. The radio provided entertaining serials like Little Orphan Annie or The Lone Ranger, and once the invention and spread of television came to be, the sitcom was born. While some sitcoms have faded from memory, others have staying power through reruns. The ones I grew up on that were in syndication at that point were I Love Lucy, Taxi, M*A*S*H, Mork and Mindy, and Golden Girls to name a few. I did enjoy current sitcoms in my youth as well, Boy Meets World being my all time favourite. That show particularly stuck with me because not only did I follow it from the beginning but it taught many valuable lessons that still resonate today, had engaging characters that you could relate to, and made you have all the feels. I still talk about The Feeny Call to this day. My parents were sitcom people at one point, but with having 2 children, I guess keeping up with the weekly 30-minute installment just fell to the wayside until we were much older.
I did miss out on certain pop culture “phenomenon” shows such as Friends, Seinfeld, and countless others. The only episode of Friends that I ever watched was the LAST episode of the series. I either just didn’t watch them because I hadn’t any interest or avoided them completely because they were soooo mainstream. Other shows like The Office or How I Met Your Mother, which were big hits, I tuned into once they were well into the series. I am thankful for streaming sites that helped me play catch up.
These examples of pop culture stick with us because of constant repetition. Reprints, reruns, streaming sites, and continuations or sequels, make this aspect of Culture inescapable. But why would we want to escape? Belle tried to escape and nearly got attacked by wolves. She went back to the castle with the Beast and the rest is history. What does this teach us? You can try to escape but something will always pull you back in.
There’s a reference to Stockholm Syndrome in there somewhere, too, but it’s escaping me….
Stay tuned for Chapter 2.