10 Misconceptions About Pop Culture History

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Popular culture is one of those subjects, much like politics, that everyone thinks they’re an expert in. After all, most people consume a lot of popular culture on a regular basis, so they assume that they have a good understanding of it. However, unless you’re a really big fan of one small piece of popular culture, there are a lot of things you may have missed. People tend to come up with an idealized version of the most popular and beloved celebrities or past events or eras, and tend to forget the realities of the situation… especially the uglier ones. Sometimes the truth is just beneath the surface, but people don’t see it because they don’t want to.

10. Marilyn Monroe Is Mistakenly Believed To Have Been Bigger Than Today’s Models

Marilyn Monroe doesn’t really need an introduction. We all know the basics of her origin story, and we see her constantly in memes that are thrown around Facebook and Twitter. Some of the memes claim quotes on her behalf that there’s shaky or no proof that she ever actually said. The other main variety of memes, though, like to make big claims about her weight without any proof.

You’ve probably seen this meme before, claiming that Monroe was actually much bigger than today’s current model’s. This feeds into the trope that society is getting worse, and that before long, we will be expecting actresses to have all their bones showing through their skin, or we won’t accept them as skinny enough. However, the truth is that researchers who did the real work tested Monroe’s clothes and found that, after looking at variance for women’s sizes between various brands and trying her clothes on modern mannequins, she was likely just about the same weight and body shape as your average, idealized model or actress today. So, the good news is that while our standards haven’t gotten any better, they haven’t gotten any worse either.

9. Prince Is Considered A Gay Icon, But He Turned Into A Jehovah’s Witness Later In Life

It may come as a pretty big surprise to those who don’t pay attention to their favorite celebrities’ religious views, but music legend Prince was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and reportedly even knocked on people’s doors to try to convert them. While it may sound cool to have Prince knock on your door, it may not be so cool when you realize he’s trying to convert you to a religion, and he’s dead serious about it.

In one of the last times he ever gave a truly comprehensive interview to the media, he talked to Billboard and told them he didn’t believe it was okay in God’s eyes to be a homesexual. He never publicly recanted this belief, and when he died, he had drugs like fentanyl and heroin in his system — drugs he did regularly. There were many songs he claimed to write while at home every day that he never released. Perhaps there’s good reason he never released them — heroin is not exactly good for inspiration.

8. Lady Gaga Doesn’t Believe In Premarital Sex, And Is An Extremely Devout Catholic

Lady Gaga once shocked the world with her crazy antics, such as dancing to a loud, catchy beat while wearing almost nothing, having a lot of accompanying male dancers doing the same, wearing dresses made of actual raw meat, and everything in between. She was the go-to for reactionaries looking for the next alleged threat to your children, and also became a target of some of the most inane and ridiculous conspiracy theories imaginable.

However, these days Lady Gaga is actually one of the most bland, boring, straight edge (now, anyway… she’s spoken openly about her past substance abuse issues) and well-behaved individuals you might ever meet. When she’s not on tour or otherwise working, she usually just hangs out at home and doesn’t go out and party. She doesn’t believe in premarital sex, and once preached against it to teens on live TV at an awards show. She has also brought up Satan before in interviews, talking about how his evil tries to creep up on us and ensnare us into doing bad things. She believes loving others and doing good is the best solution, of course.

7. Ensemble Movies Have Always Been A Valid Format — You Don’t Need A Protagonist

Back around the turn of the 21st century as the Star Wars prequels came out, and some of the older fans were really upset and tremendously disappointed. Some found solace in a reviewer who went by the name Mr. Plinkett. Plinkett, the alias of Mike Stoklasa, was presented as psychotic in order to be entertaining, and spent more than an hour breaking down The Phantom Menace, and proceeded to go on to review the missteps of the ensuing films in the prequel trilogy. These reviews were wildly popular, and seemed to give catharsis to some of the angrier fans.

One of his biggest arguments about why the movies were so terrible was that they needed a protagonist, which just means one single, obvious main character. He argued that The Phantom Menace simply wasn’t good on a technical level because it didn’t have one. As a student of film, though, he should know this isn’t an entirely fair or honest argument. An ensemble movie, where you have a lot of big roles (often played by big name actors), is a perfectly valid format that goes all the way back to theater, and is a good way to make something seem more epic in scale, or have a lot of egos in one production without them getting too angry with each other.

6. Rock And Metal Are Likely Fading Due To Economic Issues

Right now rock and metal as music genres are starting to fade into obscurity — although there will always be diehards who follow old bands, and there will still be some new ones. Some think this is because people simply don’t like that type of music anymore, or that the young generation has been spoiled by the internet and only wants electronic music, or other various concerns. However, the truth may be a lot more banal, and simply economic. The fact of the matter is that the middle class has been shrinking for some time now, so the idea of forming a garage band with a few friends has become something less and less realistic for most teens.

Even those who are middle class often don’t have the spending power they did a couple decades ago, so they’re more likely to find electronic music appealing, as you can make most of it at home from a computer without buying a bunch of equipment. With so few people living in houses with yards big enough to not annoy the neighbors, even many wealthier children find the idea of practicing on a drum set, for example, to be unrealistic, and many parents don’t want to shoulder the costs of expensive instruments and equipment.

5. Elvis Presley Was Nothing More Than A White Face For A Black Genre

Many people like to think of Elvis Presley as the King of Rock and Roll, and he still has a huge following today. Despite the fact that he died a very fat man, who was regularly overusing drugs and overeating, many people still revere him today as a sex symbol, and some people back in the day thought that the way he gyrated his hips and got the girls going was simply sinful. Many think that he wrote his own songs, especially since he had a co-writer credit on most of them, but his contributions were very little.

Sometimes he would change up an arrangement or add something here or there, but for the most part Elvis was not really a songwriter. He had a co-writer credit as part of a deal his manager set up, but he really didn’t contribute in any significant way. In fact, most of his songs were written by black artists like Otis Blackwell, many of whom hailed from genres like R&B or soul. Now, it could be argued Elvis was a friend to black artists and helped elevate their music, as white people wouldn’t listen otherwise. But he will always be controversial because some feel he used too much black music, or inspiration from it, without giving proper credit where it was due.

4. As Spending Power Decreases, Trap Music Has Seen A Huge Surge In Popularity

For those who don’t know the term, “trap” music is rap style originating primarily from the southern states in the USA, and typically has a grittier, more atmospheric vibe, with a lot of synthesizer use. The “trap” in trap music refers to the kind of place where a drug deal might take place, and the lyrics generally reflect the hardships of life on the streets. This type of music has become increasingly popular lately, including among middle class, suburban white fans, thanks to artists like Migos and Gucci Mane. 

Some people think the surge in popularity is because rap itself, and the electronic style that is often fused with it today, is simply in fashion. However, even when white people are rapping today, the songs that become hits seem to still be about trapping, or seem to be about that life. The reason for this is almost certainly due to the depressed economy. As the middle class shrinks, and even those who can still be said to be part of the middle class struggle more and see their spending power decrease, lyrics about struggling through, working hard, and eventually getting rich (even if you don’t always do so through proper means) are increasingly relatable.

3. Censors May Have Been More Restrictive, But That Doesn’t Mean People Were Less Crude

You might think of people who watched television in the early days to be huge prudes due to the censorship laws. You could point to ridiculous facts, such as Leave it to Beaver making somewhat “controversial” history (at the time) by showing the top of a toilet, shocking audiences around the country. Or along those same lines, how about Alfred Hitchcock showing a toilet flush in Psycho, which was perhaps even more shocking to audiences? However, what many of these people don’t know is that it wasn’t so much shocking because people were prudes, but because they were amazed that it finally broke through the censors. After all, people know how toilets work already. Everybody poops, after all.

Leave it to Beaver, which even the most conservative among us can understand is so wholesome it’s saccharine, had plenty of lines that, at least looking back, seemed to be packed with plenty of double entendres. Whether that was intentional or not remains to be seen, of course, but it’s hard to imagine any writer passing up an opportunity to pepper a script with plenty of hidden dirty jokes about “the Beaver.” And of course, that’s not the only show to seemingly slip in an innuendo here and there. Fans have been picking up on them for years, laughing in retrospect at just how filthy their favorite wholesome sitcoms could be.

2. Marvel Retconned Who The Most Popular Heros Were, For Licensing Reasons

Today, Marvel has one, if not the most successful, long-running movie franchises of all-time. A huge part of the credit for it goes to an insane amount of planning and long-term, slow buildup, and the prescience to lock a lot of important contracts down early before the actors became way, way too expensive. Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, and Thor have become synonymous with Marvel and the Avengers, but it wasn’t always so.

The truth was that characters like the X-Men, Spider Man — the latter of whom they finally got the legal rights to for use in both standalone and Avengers films — and many others were always the more important heroes, and if Marvel could have had their way from the get go, they likely would have used characters that were much more well known. Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy may be hugely popular now, but before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they were hardly A-list superheroes. If nothing else, this once again shows the genius of Marvel’s planning, as they made you forget about all the heroes they couldn’t originally use.

1. DC Deserves Plenty Of Blame, But Superman Is A Very Hard Story To Tell

DC gets a lot of well deserved flack for their recent spate of movies. The wanted to do what Marvel did, but without the same level of planning and buildup. This means they’ve found themselves changing things constantly as they go. However, while they do deserve a lot of blame for what many consider lesser movies than their Marvel counterparts, the original Superman movies were hardly that highly acclaimed, either, or made people take the genre more seriously (particularly outside of Superman: The Movie… let’s not even talk about the third or fourth in that particularly series…). A huge part of the problem is simply that Superman is an incredibly hard story to tell, and most of DC’s new series of movies were based largely around him as an introspective character.

There is only so much you can do with a character who is basically an all-powerful god most of the time, or an oversized toddler in a caped onesie if he comes into contact with kryptonite. His internal struggles are also entirely unrelatable to any of us. The truth is, Superman would be best as part of an ensemble movie where he just comes to fight and help now and then, appearing perfectly together, happy, and heroic, as we all imagine him to be, without the need for a self-reflecting origin story that no one asked for. By setting the bar so high with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, DC essentially painted themselves into a corner. With billions in box office from those Batman films, the decision was made that the best way to present any of their heroes, including Superman, was in a darker, grittier setting. And frankly, that’s just not what people want to see from the Last Son of Krypton, the ultimate Boy Scout whose appeal has largely been based on his ability to inspire hope.

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