POP Go the References

When we were discussing advice to young, new or would-be writers, I omitted some pieces of advice. One is:
Avoid ‘pop’ references. As far as I am concerned, they age your work and make it seem irrelevant very quickly.

Of course, some people like to be on the cutting edge, but it is a choice.

Do you want to be hip, or long-lasting?

Looking back at many books, movies and TV shows, I will say to The Husband, “How many people today will get what they mean?”

I also stop a show, or when we are reading, to explain things to my grandkids.

Many famous writers are going back and updating their stories. Some writers have updated their books several times, changing their characters from watching VHS tapes to CDs to streaming movies. How many do you think have that kind of clout?

How many would bother?

I don’t think that is necessary. I have seen a modernized version of Shakespearean plays and they were terrible; the originals have been popular for over four hundred years. (FOUR HUNDREDS YEARS!) Even if reworked stories aren’t horrible, (Cruel Intentions vs Dangerous Liaisons, which yes, I know, is not Shakespeare, but it was based on a novel from 1782), they pale in comparison.

I was more thinking of references to movies that were popular at the time of the writing, but are not destined to be classic. A reference to Top Gun is still relevant, as are Star Trek and Star Wars, but I would  not bet on quotes or references to the newest versions to be widely known or to stand the test of time,

nor would I bet that Top Gun references will be understood for much longer.

I read a book that made off-handed references to President Gerald Ford’s multitude of mishaps. Do you remember? He stumbled a lot, he hit more than one person with a ball while playing golf, but even I had to stop in the story which was and think what they meant.  I can’t imagine anyone under now 60 getting the allusion.

Yesterday morning I dropped Granddaughter #2 off with her Girl Scout troop. I spoke with two of the leaders, who are women in their 40s. In referring to how the girl’s father behaved when he was little, (as opposed to now), I said that I called him “Felix”. One of the ladies laughed and I asked the other, “Do you know the show, The Odd Couple?” No, she didn’t know and I suppose, never saw the movie, either.  (So I had to point out that at the age of three he looked under my refrigerator and told me that I had to clean under it.) I suppose that I was fortunate that one of them knew what I was talking about.

One of my favorite movies, “All About Eve”  was voted near the top, if not THE top movie of all times for possibly 3 decades and now, it doesn’t make the top 100. “Now, Voyager” another ‘classic’ Bette Davis movie, was quoted widely, (“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the Moon; we have the stars.”), and the  the cigarette bit was copied or lampooned,(a recurring theme): now-voyager-henreid-davis-cigarette-2



Recently, I tried to use a famous line from “The Hunt for Red October”, one I used when my sons, (now in their mid 30s), were learning to drive to keep them from tailgating:we-must-give-00a4f28d79


The person with whom I was riding, someone in their late 20s, had no idea what I was talking about, and my terrible Sean Connery impression fell flat.

Songs are nothing to go with, either, unless it is truly a classic, but ‘classic’ for one generation or two can get lost through the years. Last Christmas  we watched a number of old  TV  series’ holiday episodes on Netflix and Amazon. One had a number of famous songwriters as guests to sing their most famous works. One fellow, unknown to me, had everyone in the audience sing along, (“C’mon, you know it” or something to that effect), and everyone joined in. I had never heard the song in my life, even though I grew up with all kinds of music around me. I knew all of the others that they showed, however, and The Husband knew only a couple, (even though we are the same age).


What do you think? Do you think that in the here and now, a work can be enhanced by pop references, or do you agree with me that just maybe, avoiding them gives your work more of a chance to be enjoyed for many more years?


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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11 Responses to POP Go the References

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I have loved some of the re-dos of Shakespeare plays which have been undertaken by Kenneth Brannaugh — but because he stays true to the script (though abbreviated slightly) and his production crew goes to great lengths with the sets and costumes.
    But I remember watching (on TV) decades ago a “new” concept of the play, Julius Caesar, in which the title character was played by an actor dressed as Fidel Castro. It threw me totally off the actual story and I kept wondering — for the brief period I actually watched it — how and why anyone would re-conceive Ceasar as Castro.


  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Since I rarely watch movies, references to them (and many TV shows, now that all the streaming services have their exclusive shows) are often lost on me. While listening to a song on the radio, my daughter had to explain to me why Uma Thurman’s dancing was something anyone would want to sing about. So yes, I think it’d better to avoid them if possible. I was re-reading one of my earliest books, and realized a character spent a lot of time on his Blackberry. If I ever get a chance to revise that one, I’ll be sure to edit that out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoy pop references they have led me to discover new to me movies and music. Perhaps years down the road others will be prompted to look something up while reading a book. I don’t think a book should be littered with them though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a very good point, Angie. It’s always good to keep up with what is going on.I do get curious when I hear or see enough references to certain books, shows and movies. I j u st saw a still from the new Bill and Ted movie and it made me anxious to see it .It took me way back to when Joe-the-Husband was teaching history to highschoolers and he said that we had to see their Excellent Adventure so that he know what the kids were carrying on about in his class!


  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I have a book that could certainly benefit from an updating. I don’t even promote it, but it would be fun to fix it.


  5. trishafaye says:

    Good thing to keep in mind! Great post! And who doesn’t love a great Sean Connery??

    Liked by 1 person

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