Periodically some awful person will take it upon themselves to send me a link to Cracked.com. Then I’ll go read some irreverent, informative, dubiously authoritative list about history or science or pop culture, and when I get to the end their pitch perfect recommendation engine will tell me what else I might like. And so I’ll click that and start over, and so on, until my brain can handle no more entertainment and enlightenment. For months after I break myself out of that loop, I’ll refuse to click on any link to Cracked because there just isn’t enough time in the world to go that deep down the rabbit hole at a single website. Eventually I’ll break down and go back, resuming the cycle.
Most recently, I capped out at this list of styles that define their eras that were completely invented by movies. While I do remember having heard before that the mafia actually ripped off The Godfather for their style, I had no idea biker gangs had found similar inspiration in The Wild One. Apparently before that movie showed them how much fun lawlessness could be, they just rode around enjoying nature and singing songs about kittens. (I may have made up that last part.)
I’m impressed that films can actually invent an aesthetic or cultural sensibility so well that life starts to imitate art to the extent that we just assume art was imitating life from the get go. I’m now convinced, however, that books must be able to do the same thing. Surely in twenty years time, all the vampires are going to be sparkly because they think that’s how it’s done, right? Books don’t have the benefit of a consistent visual image, but they so often provide our only glimpse into worlds we don’t otherwise know, just as films would have done for disco and the mob. (Admittedly, literature, or at least Puzo, must deserve some of the credit for the mafia as well.) I don’t know a thing about 19th century England that wasn’t taught to me by the likes of Dickens and Austen, presumably much to the chagrin of my history teachers.
So help me prove that literature is just as powerful as film! Is there anything culturally pervasive and era defining that was actually invented out of whole cloth by an author so convincingly that everyone forgot what had come before? Indirectly, once adapted into film, this is probably not uncommon, but there must be a direct influence as well. There’s got to be something that never happened till Shakespeare said everyone had always been doing it, right?
And if not, would one of you please make it your goal to insert small but convincing false details into a supposedly realistic work so that some person many, many years from now can find this blog entry and let us know about it? How much fun would it be to be able to take responsibility for an entire subculture? Maybe not a menacing, lawless one though.