September 30, 2009

Cultural Imperatives

Every month at work we have an all-staff lunch where everyone pitches in. We try to sit with those staff members we don’t see often or don’t know well. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and everyone looks forward to it.

Yesterday our table fell into discussion about cultural imperatives after a number of us quoted lines word-for-word remembered some details about a movie that others had not seen. Those who had seen “Princess Bride” agreed that one must see this movie to be considered culturally literate. Then people started chiming in on what they thought were cultural imperatives. Time ran short as we agreed on the following:

• “Princess Bride”

• Any Monty Python movie

• “Mr. Tambourine Man” as emoted by William Shatner *

I posted something about it on my Facebook page and got a few more suggestions:

• “Brokeback Mountain” story and movie

• “Godfather”

• “Blazing Saddles” or any Mel Brooks movie

I can’t help but notice that most of them are movies. Given a little time to think about it, I can think of a few more. But I’m curious as to what you would consider a “must.” What would you add to this list of cultural imperatives?

*Not culturally literate on this particular one? You can find it on my playlist on the right-hand column! You must sit all the way through it to hear the closing refrain.


bigislandjeepguy said...

at a company i worked at a long time ago, everyone would quote lines from "pee wee's big adventure". they also knew a lot of the "princess bride". and i cannot remember what movie it was that the boss said "we all had to see," so he made us watch it half the day, the day before thanksgiving, rather than letting us all go home early. something with bill murray and the guy from goodbye girl. obviously, so memorable, i don't even remember...hehehe.

was never much into monty python and never heard the shatner thing.

Java said...

Rocky Horror Picture Show (movie)
I Love Lucy, generally and/or specifically the Vitameatavegemin, Candy Factory, and Grape Stomping episodes (TV)
Gilligan's Island, a few general episodes (TV)
The Wizard of Oz (movie)
Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (stop-motion animation version from the 1964)(movie)
Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (book)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (Some animals are more equal than others.) (book)
Superman says The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis, but I hesitate to add it, since I haven't read it. (book)
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (book)
My Fair Lady (movie)
The Sound of Music (movie)
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (book)(the Disney movie version doesn't count)
Star Wars (episode IV)(movie)
Pirates of the Caribbean (movie)
Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie (song)
The Pink Panther (cartoon)
Bugs Bunny, The Roadrunner, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam (cartoons)

It's hard to stop! I'm glad you set my mind to thinking about this topic. I could distract myself with this for a hours.

Ur-spo said...

oh oh
don't get me started
I think cultural imperatives are more about books and theatre that have shaped western culture [limiting myself to that culture]
I could send you my lists of movies, books and plays if you are interested.
in the 20th century, there are also records
- and don't forget composers of great music !

Jeaux said...

Interesting challenge. And one that could easily degenerate into a solipsistic list of one’s favorite things. My ‘musts’ are not necessarily the greatest of all time, though some inevitably are. I’ve selected icons that I think have made significant inroads into the current cultural collective unconscious. In no particular order:

Music: Sgt. Pepper (The Beatles) / Pet Sounds (Beach Boys) / Thriller (Michael Jackson) / Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones) / Songs In The Key Of Life (Stevie Wonder)

Movies: Star Wars / It’s A Wonderful LIfe / Psycho / Gone With The Wind / Jaws

Novels: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / The Catcher In The Rye / A Christmas Carol / Lolita / Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (tied with The Da Vinci Code)

TV Shows: The Tonight Show / I Love Lucy / Saturday Night Live / 60 Minutes / Looney Tunes

I realize Looney Tunes isn’t a TV show, but that’s where you see them and I didn’t know where else to put it.

Neil said...

I'd very much prefer "cultural suggestions". I hate being told imperatives. To me, a culturally literate person is a well-mannered one, with respect for others. I never agreed with the idea that cultural literacy depends on knowledge of a movie. Any movie.

Ur-spo said...

you inspire - I am going to make my list and post it next week.

Greg said...

Rather than duplicate an amazing list of submissions thus far, I'll just direct you to one of my favorite lists of cultural imperatives (albeit a dated one), the song "You're the Top" from the Cole Porter musical ANYTHING GOES.

Rox said...

I know nothing of "Culture" but I do know that if you haven't seen The Breakfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High, you won't have a damn clue as to where I am coming from.

That's right. The 80s.

Jeaux said...

Good one, Greg. Cole always seems to get there firstest with the mostest. I was just listening to Sammy Davis and Carmen McRae's duet of that song. It's sublime. It's a turkey dinner...

Greg said...

Ah, Jeaux, you're the time of the Derby Winner...

David said...

While I certainly agree with many of the suggestions listed above, it's all about musical theater for me: West Side Story, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, etc.

Blobby said...

I'd say it's hard - but I have a freak memory to use quote just about anything.

I'm still a big fan of quoting many John Waters movies and 'Sixteen Candles'.

I know every word, pause and inflection for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' too. Probably true for most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes, Star Wars IV-VI too).

I'm stopping now.