I have been in love with pop culture for as long back as I can remember. I guess that it started with the Batman TV series which began its run in 1966. Even before that, I loved Lucy and Jack Benny. I grew up watching cartoons that are now forgotten Beanie and Cecil, Tobar the 8th Man, Rocket Robin Hood, and Marine Boy. All of these fascinated me and I continually wanted more.
After a certain age, I became a walking TV guide. I knew everything that was on and whether it was worth watching or not. In the first grade, I fell in love with comic books, and many nights my collection of comics sat next to me in my corner of the sofa while I watched TV.
My mother loved musicals and so I was thrust into the worlds of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loew and many others. While reading comics I found that the characters would quote old movies or books and so slowly I began to watch old films as they showed up in the TV listings. This was years before you could record or stream anything so if it was on that was the only chance to watch it.
I also began to read. My mother read to me as a child. Before bed, she read me all kinds of things until I was old enough to read for myself. As I stated before comic book characters would quote books and I wanted to know what the quotes meant and where they came from. I developed an early interest in Shakespeare, Greek myth, and Arthurian Legends.
I was reading well above my grade level even though you couldn’t tell that from my grades. I began to blossom as a student when the emphasis was changed from grammar to reading classic literature. It was then I could shine.
I don’t know what draws me to pop culture, both past, and present. I have written on it extensively. Book reviews, movie reviews, and history. In fact a couple of years ago I wrote a fascinating story about a forgotten show called The Goldbergs. Not the new one but the show that was on the airwaves from 1929 until the 1950s. The show was a radio show, a tv show, a play, a movie, and a musical. And every script was written by the same woman Gertrude Berg. She was pretty interesting too. You can read her story here, https://pcmworldnews.com/news/2021/01/the-goldbergs-debuts-on-television-january-1949-2/.
I like to list all I could about my love of pop culture. If you walked into my apartment you would be greeted by a bookshelf filled with books on show business of one kind or another. The shelf is decorated with pop culture icons of the Golden age and the present age action figure of Green Lantern and The Flash. Going further in you would find sculptures of the main characters from Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows. Looking up you’d find peaking out of teacup Jacque and Gus the two mice from Disney’s animated Cinderella. In my office, there is a replica of Sleeping Beauty Castle from Disneyland and it is surrounded by every character you could ever hope to meet in that place. Even on my desk, staring at me is a small animatronic Yoda that talks when I push a button. A small Starship Enterprise also sits on my desk right next to a Tardis from Doctor Who. On my walls are movie posters, an authentic replica of Bilbo’s and Frodo’s sword sting along with a map of Middle Earth. In the hallway, one wall is devoted to a map of The Magic Kingdom and the other is displayed all of the celebrity autographed photos I have collected over the years.
I have a Mickey Mouse wall clock, a Superman wall clock and on other shelves, I have a set of action figures that are the great authors including Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. In my bedroom, there is a collection of 7-inch vinyl figures that depict most of the Justice League of America.
And that is truly only a partial run down. Most of this stuff will mean little to those I leave behind but it does give great joy to me. I think that is what pop culture is. Pop culture is a bringer of joy.
Most of pop culture starts with a story. The Greek and Norse myths as well as Arthurian legends are all stories most of which were handed down verbally until someone decided to write them down. We wouldn’t have Grimms Fairy Tales if the two brothers didn’t travel extensively in Germany collecting the folk tales that were there. In many ways that is the whole of pop culture. It is the handing down of stories from one generation to the next.
The first question I have about my definition is what about music or poetry? They are part of pop culture too. In many ways, songs and poems and paintings and sculptures all tell stories or they are part of a story. So they fit in the definition.
That brings me back to us. What draws us to the movies, to TV shows and novels, and all the rest? What draws us to stories?
The answer is simple. We are also all stories. Every event in our lives is a story and every moment of our lives makes up our story which is intermingled with all the other stories of the people we know. Whether they are family or friends or even enemies we are part of their stories and they are a part of ours.
Then there is the big story. Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage and we are but players on it.” Shakespeare was absolutely correct. We are all part of the biggest story ever written and it begins; “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
That statement is the beginning of all the great stories that ever happened or that ever will happen. In some sense, it is a myth but unlike the myths of the Greeks or the Norsemen, this myth is true. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in the big bang theory or not God, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth.
What does this mean for us? It means that we are part of God’s story that we were meant to be here and that all of our lives have meaning even if we don’t see it. It is for this reason that we go-to stories. That we go to pop culture. We go to these to find the meaning to our own lives and that meaning is in those stories. I didn’t realize that The Lord of the Rings could speak to addicts until I did some digging and found that Frodo and Gollum’s passion for the ring ate away at their wills until it possessed them the way an addiction possess the addict. Scrooge’s adventures with the three ghosts of Christmas is a mini version of therapy where you look at the past and the present to try and change the future. The Wind in the Willows teaches us the need for solid friendships and The Secret Garden is a story that makes it clear that hard work, a solid spiritual life, and good eating cab restore health to both mind and body.
I could go on and on. Batman is an example of the unlimited potential in every human being. Superman says it best in his slogan he is the embodiment of truth, justice, and the American way even if the American way is under scrutiny at this moment. Our stories, our myths, our pop culture is what makes us who we are and helps us find who we can be.
CS Lewis was an unbeliever until one fateful day he was having a discussion with his friend JRR Tolkien and another and in that discussion, Tolkien pointed out that Lewis loved the old stories the myths of the ancients but he said that The Gospel was a myth too. Only it was the one true myth. The one true story, the one true part of pop culture or any culture that makes sense of all the rest.
If you don’t know who CS Lewis is…well, that’s another story.