Noting the cultural watermarks in “Schoolhouse Rocks”

Rediscovered a bit of old Schoolhouse Rock! recently and was struck by the “Elementary, My Dear” song because of its Noah and the Ark premise.

I doubt this video would be produced, released, and accepted by the general market today. It would be deemed “too religious.”

Now I’m not celebrating or lamenting this. I’m simply pointing it out as an indicator of a fractured American society.

Consider: for the creators of this project to produce this story, they assumed that the Noah story was known so well that it would be easily understood by everyone in the audience. The fact that it’s a Noah story is irrelevant to the overall message: multiplying by two is relatively easy.

This irrelevancy indicates that nearly everyone in the audience — whether they agree with the story or not — knows the story. The producers pulled something familiar out of a shared cultural experience (Noah and the flood) to explain something new (multiplication).

Over the past 25-30 years that part of our shared cultural experience has gone away. But what, if anything, has taken its place? That’s the question to ask and explore.

Is it Star Wars? That’s what I immediately think of. That, or possibly Mickey Mouse (although Mickey Mouse is not a narrative …). Is the Star Wars story the modern-day equivalent to basic Bible knowledge?

If so, what does that mean? Again, I am not advocating a Biblical position as much as I am attempting to uncover what our present-day shared cultural experiences are.

For it is the shared cultural experiences that unite us … and if we don’t have a strong shared experiences, then maybe we’re fractured.

I wonder if it’s more the latter than we want to believe.

That’s why popular cultural literacy is important.


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