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):
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:
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?