Who You Crappin’: When Pop Culture References Go Wrong

By April 14, 2014Writing about Writing

Have you ever tried to impress someone with a prescient selection from the vast catalog of needless crap you keep tucked away in your head between your first home address and where you found your keys the day you got locked out of your house six years ago?

And instead of coming off like the funniest person in the room, everyone just looked at you with a sad, empty look, nodding and turning away, leaving you to crawl back into your erudite carapace of introversion like an embarrassed turtle in Splinter’s living room?


Pop culture references are a powerful means of establishing ethos. Yes, we are joined by the knowledge that Billy Ray Cyrus is either a poor father figure or terribly ashamed.


They have the incredible power of connecting minds through shared experience. There are plenty of reasons people make pop culture references, and there are just as many reasons those same people alienate themselves, expose their actual lack of knowledge, belie the faux age they purport in a given context, and generally make a fool of themselves.

Can you define pop culture? Well, pop stands for popular right? Popular implies that people know about it, and most people these days find out about things through watching television and surfing the internet. But, considering the massive amounts of data streaming constantly out of both of these venues, nothing can stay popular forever (to K-Stew’s chagrin).

So what happens to the references made in print to popular culture as time wanes and careers crumble?

Actually, nothing, I’m collecting them in the rolodex of my brain, squirreling them away for the next time I run into you in line at the DMV and I want to spice up the vacation story I plan on being hell-bent to share.

These are the moments of hyperbolic awkwardness I relish—the moments that make pop culture references the two handed, double edged, +1 Vorpal swords of truth they are. If only once I dropped a bunch of pop culture bombs I could be zoomed away in my own helicopter!

Get to the chopper!