The reason we study so many older works of literature in school, so we’re told, is so that we can get an idea of the popular media that influenced the culture of that time period. Stories like The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Hamlet have had a significant impact on the development of both America and western culture as a whole. These stories were either a significant part of America’s identity as a literature and cultural powerhouse, or greatly affected the public both inside and outside of America. Many of these writers weren’t known until after their deaths, but their works became influential long before some of us were even born.
But stories are nothing new to the human race. Oral tales, fables, and ancient religious texts are some of the oldest records of stories we still have. These stories, too, shaped the course of human development, and some are still well-known to this day.
But what about today’s great, influential works? What kind of media shapes the culture of America today? What kind of creative works will people in the future be studying?
Thanks to the advancement of technology, new creative works are shared with the world every day. Many of them can be found by other authors on this blog, in fact! But clearly there are far too many now to read them all, so how do we determine the most influential ones? It’s simple, really; ask yourself, what media did you consume as a child? Movies, TV shows, or books? Many of us reflect fondly on the animation from Disney, or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. These are the what shaped us, and shape many children growing up today. Of course, something doesn’t have to be for children to be influential to our culture, but many of the most fondly looked upon pieces of our modern media are from the YA rating section of books, or are for even younger audiences. Disney has been a driving force behind the invention of new animation techniques and basically created the animated industry as we know it – and recently, they’ve purchased more and more influential franchises to put under their name. Harry Potter has introduced a whole new wave and understanding of magic and alchemy, and has shaped generations into viewing magic in a very different light from their predecessors. Characters like SpongeBob and Mickey Mouse are as recognizable if not more as Gatsby from The Great Gatsby.
It’s interesting to think about a generation in the distant future that may learn about our cultural icons like how we learn about old literature nowadays in school. People may groan about having to study Pokémon all day, like how we groan about having to study Shakespeare’s plays. Imagine a world where people who enjoy SpongeBob are labeled “theater nerds” and people who enjoy Shakespeare are labeled “history buffs”. That may very well be what our distant future is like!