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Old fart references

Argon
Updated:

In a currently running serial that I enjoy a lot, I found the protagonist (mid-twenties and not the type to watch retroperspectives in arthouse theatres) quoting a line from the Blues Brothers (movie). I also remembered getting confused feedback when I put in a reference to The Exorcist in one of my stories. I guess it has something to do with getting older when your favourite movie references fall flat with today's readership.

Looking a bit farther, I find this to be a phenomenon that can be observed with a lot of stories. Seeing that a lot of us writers are getting closer and closer to the use-by date, we do not share the young people's frames of reference anymore. That is okay when our protagonists are old farts too, but it gets irritating when contemporary supposed high school or college kids talk like mid-level managers, only listen to The Beatles and know 1970's movies.

Don't even get me started on the shy, withdrawn, 16-year-old girls who, once they meet the thirty-something hero (successful, well off, just dumped by the bitchy ex-fiancée), learn in short order how to i) access the internet (LOL, chances are the dude can learn from the girl), ii) drive his huge pick-up, iii) fly his Cessna, iv) suck his dick (but are virgins!) and of course, v) are naturals on the shooting range, and vi) talk like news anchors. Apparently, there's a 32-year-old nymphomaniac NRA spokesperson hidden in each adolescent girl, just waiting to pop out upon contact with the right guy. And, oh yes, they like to dress like Linda Ronstadt :o)

I guess what I want to bring across is that we must be vigilant against our own mindset and frame of reference getting in the way when we write about "the youth of today". Listen to your kids or grandkids! Watch the Grammy Awards to learn what's hot today! Get drunk and watch an episode of a vampire tv series or of a sitcom with the latest teeny idol. Resist the gag reflex and note the lingo and the references.

Cheers

Argon

PS: I am guilty of the same sins in some of my stories.

ustourist

@Argon

There also needs to be care taken not to alienate the old farts though. Too much reference to modern culture will turn some away, and the use of modern idiom could lead to future stories being avoided like the plague.
Surely the answer is to avoid any contemporary or 'trendy' references or words and leave the story capable of being moved from decade to decade by the reader (or in the case of some of us ancients, should that be decayed to decade?). It is no different to avoiding current prices or politicians names, as most will soon be forgotten and it does unnecessarily date the piece unless it is on a specific timeline for some reason.
Particularly with sex stories, if the girl is described as having a butt the size of a water buffalo or lips like a rectal prolapse, us oldies may recognize who it refers to, but sex would also be the last thing on our mind after envisioning the people on whom descriptions were based.

Switch Blayde

@Argon

We had this cute 16 or 17 year old girl as the fitness attendant at my club's fitness center. Naturally I talked to her whenever I could. She was going to major in dance and dancing was her life (she eventually became a Phoenix Suns dancer).

I once mentioned Fred Astaire to her. She never heard of him. I mean, he was before my time too, but you'd think any serious dancer would know about the greats from the past.

Ernest Bywater

@Argon

I also remembered getting confused feedback when I put in a reference to The Exorcist in one of my stories. I guess it has something to do with getting older when your favourite movie references fall flat with today's readership.


Heck, I'm in my 60s and would've missed that because I never watch horror films. I've learned that when you reference something else you best make sure you somehow note where it's from so people can look it up because they won't all know it off hand. Nor does everyone one know what's hot today and keep up with it.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ernest Bywater

I've learned that when you reference something else you best make sure you somehow note


Heck it never hurts to make note of referenced items in a story. It might not be needed, but some readers are just curious enough to look them up at times. Some referenced items will have only one possible link but others might have hundreds. The right answer might make a world of difference for some critical readers.

richardshagrin

Old farts eat beans. Old shits take exlax. Better to be either than dead, they can't eat or take anything. Or read stories on SOL.

I don't think authors need to have footnotes about anything. If they have to, put something in a Blog, authors note, appendix or forward. Footnotes are for dissertations. Lets read stories, not publications to get advanced degrees. Your target market will know what you are talking about. If not, fuck'em.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@richardshagrin


I don't think authors need to have footnotes about anything.


You don't need to use footnotes, often you can put a references in the main story. In Flames of Life I have the main character call another character Grasshopper and mention the show reference a little later. In Star Performance I have the opening lines and closing lines of a number of songs for a concert scene and mention the titles and the original hit performers as part of it. Both incidents have the full reference information as a natural part of the narrative or the dialogue, that's how I usually do it - when I can. There are a few times I've made a reference where it needs a note, and I stick it in at the end of the scene. If you don't put it in the readers who don't instantly understand your reference simply think you're an idiot and will stop reading after a few such incidents.

BTW: Unless you're writing fanfiction or within a very specific genre, it's unlikely your whole target market will understand every reference you make.

edit to fix typo

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

You don't need to use footnotes, often you can put a references in the main story

I have seen the web address in the text of a story (Dual Writer) and as a footnote at the end of a chapter. Very useful if you don't know the person referred to (a latin guitarist in DW case).

Perv Otaku

See also:
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-understood-that-reference
and
http://pewterkat.tumblr.com/post/87552622937/small-flower-prince-dreadpiratecherry

Some shows like Farscape and Supernatural derive a lot of humor from one character not understanding the pop culture references routinely spouted by another. These will probably be a lot less funny to future generations that won't understand the references themselves.

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