How Pop Culture Reflects Real Life

I am not ashamed to admit I am a fan of pop culture. I love watching movies. I enjoy a good book. I am eager to spend hours, eyes locked on several television shows and streaming content. Lately, I found myself reflecting on the countless stories of enjoyable fiction. I realized that most of these stories and characters are grains of truth. 

Think of it this way:

I wonder if people who love a famous song are willing to tell you what the song is really about. What are the lyrics trying to evoke? An interesting example is the late and forever legendary Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame. I was listening to Chester’s final album with the band. One of his songs has an amazing beat. Bennington’s voice echoes with such breadth and power. But take a closer look at the lyrics. 

I’m dancing with my demons

 I’m hanging off the edge //Storm clouds gather beneath me//Waves break above my head

 Headfirst hallucination//I wanna fall wide awake now//You tell me it’s alright

 Tell me I’m forgiven, tonight//But nobody can save me now//I’m holding up a light

 I’m chasing out the darkness inside//Cause nobody can save me

A similar take is a fantastic film A Star is Born directed by Bradley Cooper. He stars as the titular character Jackson Maine. 

Here is an excerpt from the song Shallow

Tell me something, girl//Are you happy in this modern world?

Or do you need more?//Is there something else you’re searchin’ for?

I’m falling//In all the good times, I find myself longin’ for change

And in the bad times, I fear myself//Tell me something, boy

Aren’t you tired of trying to fill that void?//Or do you need more?

Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore//

Let’s take a look at another song, Black Eyes that opens the film

Black eyes open wide//It’s time to testify

There’s no room for life//And everyone’s waiting for you

And I’m gone, sitting by the phone//And I’m all alone by the wayside

And I’m gone, sitting by the phone//And I’m all alone by the wayside.

These three songs are a great listen but if you look deeper, they are a cry for help. Chester Bennington tragically took his own life in 2017 and while Maine is fictional, he took his own life. Both were gifted and given much. People will take what they want to learn, accept or reject from the film. I feel Bennington and Maine had inner demons they tried to fight and in the end, they lost. Forget the fact that they were loved by millions, and those close to them. They were beautiful, yet fragile human beings who had emotions that people deal with every day. 

WOKE can mean many different things. I like to be entertained and learn something. I find joy in being moved and gaining insight. I guess it’s the Sunday school in me or making up for my less than successful grades in Language Arts class in high school.

What a time we are living in right now, We need insight now more than ever.

Woke simply means being aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues. Songwriters write songs. The songs are an extension of the person writing them. What are they feeling?; What did they see?; What did they experience that has changed them profoundly?; What did they want to express? You can say the same for authors or filmmakers. They wanted to tell a great story that hasn’t been told before. Then again, the late John Singleton who directed Boyz in the Hood is a cautionary tale of black people living in a rough neighborhood. They are overlooked and not given the same opportunities as white people and drama begins to ensue. Singleton was expressing himself based on what he saw as a young man. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in 2020. It forced people to live at home, isolating themselves. Most facets of society took a hit. People had to adapt to the new normal at that time that year. I am sure there are stories of depression, anxiety, anger, discomfort, and loss. How did the nation react to such human emotions.? Aside from the protests in support of racial injustice, there was an ongoing discussion of essential workers, lack of healthcare, lack of income, and lack of reasonable housing costs. It seems that the rich prospered while others struggled. I wonder what art has to say about this?

I was very fortunate to have watched the Karate Kid films, Rocky films, Alien films, and Revenge of the Nerd films. I also got the chance to appreciate The Martian, Cast Away, Mission to Mars, Tangled, and Gravity. 

These films struck a powerful chord within me. 

The Karate Kid films taught me about the power of helping someone in need and remaining strong against those who wish to do you harm. Myagi was an immigrant that served the United States of America with honor. But the country betrayed him and he lost his family. He had every reason to hate the States. He instead found hope and inner peace and managed to help a boy become a man. He also gave hope to another wayward woman in The Next Karate Kid. The Rocky Films taught me the power of the underdog. Someone as kindhearted and simple as Balboa who does not think himself to be anything valuable is given a chance to be great. He lost friends and faced odds bigger than him. He learned to persevere. 

Revenge of the Nerds is a ragtag group of misfits who just want to live life loud and proud in the name of all things geek and nerd. They are bullied and they just want to be treated like human beings. There is some of that Animal House humor thrown in there but there is a lot of heart. Sigourney Weaver carried the Alien franchise. Ripley was undervalued and disrespected at every turn. She was at death’s door many times over until she finally met her end. But she is a survivor. She never gave up even when she felt alone. Those films among other things got me through 2020. 

There are many films, books, and television shows that seem to evoke the state of the world in the past present and future. They are entertaining but evoke an insightful message. 

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. From World War II to Pearl Harbor. From Vietnam to 9/11 to Afghanistan. From slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter. From LBGTQ+ IA rights to Indigenous folk. From the 2016 election to the 2020 election. From gun violence to women’s rights to mental health. The list goes on and on.

People may brush this off as propaganda or an agenda. But I feel 100% that we are living in an age where science fiction is becoming science fact. I find value in movies, tv shows, and books showing the world we are living in now and what we can do to make it better. Look up the late Nichelle Nichols and how her role in Star Trek inspired Martin Luther King Jr. In turn, Martin Luther King Jr. inspired Nichelle to remain on the show, leading to her trailblazing career that spanned decades. Her portrayal as a dignified and capable officer broke ground for Star Trek and showed Black characters thriving onscreen.

The following films, tv shows, and movies I will discuss will show a mirror of the ever-changing world. What a time we are living in right now,

We need insight now more than ever.

what can we learn is pivotal so we can change for the better

let’s see what the film says about the culture

you decide

Lincoln (2012)- “This amendment is that cure! We’ve stepped out upon the world stage now. Now! With the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment now! Now! Now!”

Selma (2014)-

Martin Luther King Jr.: Those who have gone before us say “no more”! No more!

[church congregation repeats in unison]

Martin Luther King Jr.: NO MORE!

[church congregation again repeats him]

Martin Luther King Jr.: That means protest!; That means march!; That means disturbing the peace! ; That means jail!; That means risk!; That is hard!

[church congregation applauds]

Martin Luther King Jr.: We will not wait any longer!

[church congregation applauds]

Martin Luther King Jr.: Give us the vote!

Jimmie Lee Jackson: [stands up and applauds] That’s right – no more!

Martin Luther King Jr.: We’re not asking – we’re demanding! Give us the vote!

[church congregation resoundingly repeats and applauds]

Maze Runner– a group of kids must survive the aftermath of a global virus.. a global virus–making sense of the new normal

Divergent and Hunger Games– corrupt leadership and governments acting in their interests instead of the common people. different ideas, beliefs clashing and imploding

Tomorrowland (2015)- A girl goes on the offensive to raise awareness to help save the planet from a dreadful future as she discovers a man who used to be a part of a once-promising distant future.

Star Wars prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars: The cost of war and the role of politicians, governments, leaders, soldiers, innocents and how society falls. George Lucas evoked WOKE FOR A LONG TIME. I want to remind everyone this is a show for kids. An animated show on Cartoon Network for years.

The Monuments Men– “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.“–Lieutenant Frank Stokes

Captain America: Civil War– two political ideologies at odds

An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumples from within? That’s dead, forever.”–Baron Zemo

Captain America: The Winter Soldier– the price of national security

When a man fights for his country and then becomes an outsider and finds out his work was undone and the fight continues.

Black Panther-black in America.. vs black in Wakanda

Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”— T’Challa / Black PantherBlack Panther

Man of Steel- fear of the other

Batman V Superman-fear vs trust

Justice League (Snyder Cut) -broken but never alone

Sucker Punch– the poisonous nature of sexism, objectivity, and abuse against women

The Lorax– tampering with nature and climate change.

Jurassic Park: life finds a way when you play God along with folly corporate ambition

Avatar the Last Airbender: genocide and corruption of power.

To be young, gifted, and Black….. “We all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured. Yet you are young, gifted, and Black. We know what it’s like to be told there’s not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. We know what it’s like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it’s like to be beneath and not above.”
“That is what we went to work with every day,” “Because we knew … that we had something special that we wanted to give the world. That we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing. That we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see”. -Chadwick Boseman

Another definition of a hero is someone concerned about other people’s well-being and will go out of his or her way to help them – even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is true without a doubt, a real superhero.” Stan lee.

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