Down with References - Image 1


Here's the problem, fellow humans: There is TOO MUCH INFORMATION in the world, and it makes it impossible to know what anyone is really talking about.
I realized this last night while watching SpongeBob Squarepants.
You see, I was shocked — SHOCKED — to find there was a criminal level of nostalgia in SpongeBob! I'm referring to the "special episode" which broadcast last night made in the style of the stop-motion animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Do you understand the immense demand of cultural memory that show asked of its audience? Let's look at the numbers:
Spongebob Squarepants is a character which first debuted in 1999 — that's thirteen years ago. So already this show is asking its prime time audience to be aware of a kids show from 2.5 presidents ago. Now, this particular special is aping the style of a stop-motion Christmas special that first aired in 1964 – a stunning forty-eight years ago!
Even just the concept of "special episode" itself dates back quite a ways: either during the late 1980s when Blossom discovered drugs in her backpack, or maybe the early 1980s on Family Ties when Michael J. Fox's friend killed himself or in the mid-1980s on Cheers when Norm fingered Cliff in the bathroom. I think that happened. Frankly, it's all a blur. Point is: I shouldn't be expected to keep this all straight and neither should you.
These cultural references separate us! If you don't know about the 60s Rudolph special , and also 90s SpongeBob, then you are NOT COOL ENOUGH. These days, you have to know The Beatles and Arcade Fire. The Hunger Games and On the Road. Duck Tales and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! IT'S TOO MUCH, WORLD!
Am I complaining about the media making people feel uncool simply because I am uncool? Yes, but that doesn't make me wrong! After all, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you!" -("Territorial Pissings" by Nirvana, quoting Catch-22 by Joseph Heller).
I blame Star Wars. Somehow that movie, released in 1977, was so successful that it culturally froze us in place. Every generation since has somehow watched all movies since 1977. Kids today on Halloween dress up like Luke Skywalker! That's like a kid in 1977 dressing up like Rhett Butler.

Down with References - Image 4
"Oh man, that's going to make the coolest Halloween costume."

But it's gotten out of hand:
The latest issue of Vanity Fair has an oral history of Freaks and Geeks, a television show that was broadcast in 1999. The show Freaks and Geeks made frequent references to the Bill Murray movie Stripes, which came out in 1981. The movie Stripes made reference to the movie Patton which came out in 1970. 1970 is a year that is now primarily associated with the That 70s Show which came out in the 1990s and itself was a reboot of the show Happy Days, which was an actual 70s show about the 1950s, which itself first debut as an episode of the show Love, American Style in the late 1960s. The title "Vanity Fair" is a reference an 1848 novel by William Thackery which made fun of high society in 19th century Britain. Great Britain as a nation is a rip-off of Ancient Rome, but with more self-deprecating sitcoms.
In fact, a line from the third paragraph of this essay is a reference to the movie Casablanca! Frankly, making a reference to an old thing in an essay which is protesting the reference of old things is the kind of meta-Easter Egg that you'd see in the "paintball episode" of the NBC sitcom Community, which is something you are expected to know about! And of course the "paintball episode" of Community itself had pronounced references to: 28 Days Later, Terminator, A Fistful of Dollars, Glee, and the fact that Community was in a ratings war with Glee.
(An "Easter Egg," if you feel like continuing this reference Adventure, is an intentionally hidden message in a piece of media.)
The very act of this essay talking about itself is something that would be done by Clarissa, or Kevin Arnold, or Ferris.
We can't keep up! Every week there are new albums, movies, novels, ebooks, blog entries, magazines — and many of them extremely good! I still haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises!
By the way, the phrase "Dark Knight" refers to a 1986 comic book by Frank Miller who named locations in that story after original Batman cartoonists Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. Batman was inspired by Dracula by Bram Stoker who based his ideas on European folk myths who ripped off Aesop who ripped off Homer who maybe didn't exist but will be played in a sure-to-be-nominated Academy Award winning movie by Daniel Day Lewis, I presume.
Down with References - Image 1
"He's some kind of Bat… man."

Academy Awards are also known as "Oscars" which may be a reference to the husband of Bette Davis, the actress whose name is the title of a 1980s one-hit wonder "Bette Davis Eyes" which was featured prominently in the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer, which was reference in the 2000 movie Charlie's Angels, a remake of a show from the 1970s.
I looked up the history of the term "Oscar" on Wikipedia which is a reference to the term "encyclopedia," popularized by Encyclopedia Britannica. "Britannica" is a reference to a battleship which is a reference to the Latin term for Great Britain.
While looking up that info, I saw an ad for an upcoming movie from Quentin Tarantino, who regularly makes visual references in his movies to movies by John Woo and Hark Sui and Akira Kurosawa, and uses music arranged by RZA, a member of the Wu-Tang clan who named himself after a martial arts movie.
RZA likes to sample music from James Brown, who borrowed from Motown's the Funk Brothers, who played with Ray Charles, who used gospel songs that were born on plantations and blues songs that were recorded by Robert Johnson who learned them from the fucking devil who is sometimes called Satan or Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, the Prince of Lies, 'Ol Scratch or, as we learned in the 1989 Robert DeNiro film Angel Heart, Lou Cifer.
THAT IS WHY: We must put a limit on this. I am — very reasonably, I think — asking that we say that THIRTY YEARS is our limit. No more referring to anything more than thirty years old.
That means no more Star Wars.
It could be worse! In a year I'm going to ask everyone to stop talking about Ghostbusters.