October 26th, 2021


Cultural Disintegration: A pop quiz on pop cultcha

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published March 27, 2015

Everyone that lives in America has access to the same libraries, music resources, Internet web sites, television programs, movies, news outlets, and public schools. We all have access to the same shopping malls, entertainment venues, and eating and drinking establishments. We work together, we exercise together, and we play together. Technology has made communicating faster and easier than ever before. So why is American society more segmented today than it has ever been? Why aren't we all together as a "culture" anymore? How come we don't share the same cultural and historical references? We used to. I happen to be old enough to remember when most of my fellow citizens celebrated the same American holidays, learned the same history, laughed at the same jokes, knew all the same new songs, and saw all the same new movies. It didn't matter what religion, ethnicity, or age we were, we were together as a culture. Not now. If you disagree, if you think all Americans have pretty much the same cultural and historical references, then try this little test for a few laughs. Ask the following questions to a few people under the age of 35:

  • Who was Wyatt Earp?

  • Name 5 movies that were made in the 20th Century.

  • Name a U.S. president from the 1970's.

  • Who was Irving Berlin?

  • What did George Washington say when his father asked him who chopped down the cherry tree?

  • Name a famous book written in the 20th Century.

  • Who was Perry Como?

  • In what century was the American Revolution fought?

  • Name a necktie brand.

  • Before television, people listened to radio at home in the evenings. Name one radio show.

  • Name a famous American painter.

  • Presidents Day is in February. Name the three presidents whose birthdays fall in that month.

  • Name an American explorer.

  • After LP's and before CDs, in what form was popular music marketed?

  • Name an astronaut.

  • Name a national political commentator

  • Who was the host of the Tonight Show before Jay Leno? Now ask these following questions to a few people over the age of 55 and see what answers you get:

  • Name one Lady Gaga hit song.

  • Who is Mackenzie McKee?

  • Explain the difference between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and icloud and what do each of these do?

  • How do you "stream" a movie or TV show?

  • Name the big hit by Iggy Azaiea.

  • What is a "troll?"

  • Who is James Corden?

  • Name at least two regular cast members currently appearing on SNL

  • What is Black Ink Crew?

  • Name the hottest brand of athletic shoe

  • Define the word "deck."

  • Name a spoof on KFaceTV

  • How many Xbox games can you list?

  • Do you prefer to talk or text?

  • Do you use a smart phone or a flip cell?

Certainly the age gap comes into play with these cultural references, but it's deeper than that. There has always been a so-called "generation gap" but in the past the commonality of American culture overrode the differences. Everyone used to know the story of George Washington and the cherry tree.

And you didn't have to be an old person to know who Cole Porter was, just as you didn't have to be a teenager to know who Elvis Presley was. We're living in a time now where there is very little crossover between generations, ethnicities, and even neighborhoods.

Our country is divided into so many groups and sub-groups that it fractures any common culture we once enjoyed. Add to that the fact that young people just don't know anything about anything that came before them.

Schools are simply not teaching or reinforcing American culture and love of country the way they used to do. Kids aren't getting it from home either because their parents didn't get it when they were young.

We can lose our culture entirely in no time at all. It only takes a couple of generations of not being taught. President Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

The same is true for the common American culture. If we don't honor it, teach it, and hand it down to our kids it will silently and steadily slip away and all we'll be left with will be a bunch of divided tribes, each suspicious of the others, from coast to coast.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's also a Southern California-based freelance writer.