A few weeks ago, I wrote about how context matters when consuming art. As sometimes happens when writing an entry, that one got away from me and I never got around to the point I originally started with (that entry was originally entitled “Referential” but I changed it when I realized that I wasn’t going to write anything about references), which was how much of our entertainment these days references its predecessors. This takes many forms, some overt (homages, parody), some a little more subtle.

I originally started thinking about this while watching an episode of Family Guy. The show is infamous for its random cutaway gags – little vignettes that have no connection to the story, but which often make some obscure reference to pop culture. For some reason, I started thinking about what it would be like to watch an episode of Family Guy with someone from, let’s say, the 17th century. Let’s further speculate that this person isn’t a blithering idiot, but perhaps a member of the Royal Society or something (i.e. a bright fellow).

This would naturally be something of a challenge. There are some technical explanations that would be necessary. For example, we’d have to explain electricty, cable networks, signal processing and how the television works (which at least involves discussions on light and color). The concept of an animated show, at least, would probably be easy to explain (but it would involve a discussion of how the human eye works, to a degree).

There’s more to it, of course, but moving past all that, once we start watching the show, we’re going to have to explain why we’re laughing at pretty much all of the jokes. Again, most of the jokes are simply references and parodies of other pieces of pop culture. Watching an episode of Family Guy with Isaac Newton (to pick a prominent Royal Society member) would necessitate a pause just about every minute to explain what each reference was from and why Family Guy’s take on it made me laugh. Then there’s the fact that Family Guy rarely has any sort of redeemable lesson and often deliberately skews towards actively encouraging evil (something along the lines of “I think the important thing to remember is that it’s ok to lie, so long as you don’t get caught.” I don’t think that exact line is in an episode, but it could be.) This works fine for us, as we’re so steeped in popular culture that we get the fact that Family Guy is just lampooning of the notion that we could learn important life lessions via a half-hour sitcom. But I’m sure Isaac Newton would be appalled.

For some reason, I find this fascinating, and try to imagine how I would explain various jokes. For instance, the episode I was watching featured a joke concerning “cool side of the pillow.” They cut to a scene in bed where Peter flips over the pillow and sees Billy Dee Williams’ face, which proceeds to give a speech about how cool this side of the pillow is, ending with “Works every time.” This joke alone would require a whole digression into Star Wars and how most of the stars of that series struggled to overcome their typecasting and couldn’t find a lot of good work, so people like Billy Dee Williams ended up doing commercials for a malt liquor named Colt 45, which had these really cheesy commercials where Billy Dee talked like that. And so on. It could probably take an hour before my guest would even come close to understanding the context of the joke (I’m not even touching the tip of the iceberg with this post).

And the irony of this whole thing is that jokes that are explained simply aren’t funny. To be honest, I’m not even sure why I find these simple gags funny (that, of course, is the joy of humor – you don’t usually have to understand it or think about it, you just laugh). Seriously, why is it funny when Family Guy blatantly references some classic movie or show? Again, I’m not sure, but that sort of humor has been steadily growing over the past 30 years or so.

Not all comedies are that blatant about their referential humor though (indeed, Family Guy itself doesn’t solely rely upon such references). A recent example of a good referential film is Shaun of the Dead, which somewhow manages to be both a parody and an example of a good zombie movie. It pays homage to all the classic zombie films and it also makes fun of other genres (notably the romantic comedy), but in doing so, the filmmakers have also made a good zombie movie in itself. The filmmakers have recently released a new film called Hot Fuzz, which attempts the same trick for action movies and buddy comedies. It is, perhaps, not as successful as Shaun, but the sheer number of references in the film is astounding. There are the obvious and explicit ones like Point Break and Bad Boys II, but there are also tons of subtle homages that I’d wager most people wouldn’t get. For instance, when Simon Pegg yells in the movie, he’s doing a pitch perfect impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. And when he chases after a criminal, he imitates the way Robert Patrick’s T-1000 runs from Terminator 2.

References don’t need to be part of a comedy either (though comedies seem to make the easiest examples). Hop on IMDB and go to just about any recent movie, and click on the “Movie Connections” link in the left navigation. For instance, did you know that the aformentioned T2 references The Wizard of Oz and The Killing, amongst dozens of other references? Most of the time, these references are really difficult to pick out, especially when you’re viewing a foreign film or show that’s pulling from a different cultural background. References don’t have to be story or character based – they can be the way a scene is composed or the way the lighting is set (i.e. the Venetian blinds in Noir films).

Now, this doesn’t just apply to art either. A lot of common knowledge in today’s world is referential. Most formal writing includes references and bibliographies, for instance, and a non-fiction book will often assume basic familiarity with a subject. When I was in school, I was always annoyed at the amount of rote memorization they made us do. Why memorize it if I could just look it up? Shouldn’t you be focusing on my critical thinking skills instead of making me memorize arbitrary lists of facts? Sometimes this complaining was probably warranted, but most of it wasn’t. So much of what we do in today’s world requires a well-rounded familiarity with a large number of subjects (including history, science, culture, amongst many other things). There simply isn’t any substitute for actual knowledge. Though it was a pain at the time, I’m glad emphasis was put on memorization during my education. A while back, David Foster noted that schools are actually moving away from this, and makes several important distinctions. He takes an example of a song:

Jakob Dylan has a song that includes the following lines:

Cupid, don’t draw back your bow

Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know

Think of how much you need to know in order to understand these two simple lines:

1)You need to know that, in mythology, Cupid symbolizes love

2)And that Cupid’s chosen instrument is the bow and arrow

3)Also that there was a singer/songwriter named Sam Cooke

4)And that he had a song called which included the lines “Cupid, draw back your bow.”

… “Progressive” educators, loudly and in large numbers, insist that students should be taught “thinking skills” as opposed to memorization. But consider: If it’s not possible to understand a couple of lines from a popular song without knowing by heart the references to which it alludes–without memorizing them–what chance is there for understanding medieval history, or modern physics, without having a ready grasp of the topics which these disciplines reference?

And also consider: in the Dylan case, it’s not just what you need to know to appreciate the song. It’s what Dylan needed to know to create it in the first place. Had he not already had the reference points–Cupid, the bow and arrow, the Sam Cooke song–in his head, there’s no way he would have been able to create his own lines. The idea that he could have just “looked them up,” which educators often suggest is the way to deal with factual knowledge, would be ludicrous in this context. And it would also be ludicrous in the context of creating new ideas about history or physics.

As Foster notes, this doesn’t mean that “thinking skills” are unimportant, just that knowledge is important too. You need to have a quality data set in order to use those “thinking skills” effectively.

Human beings tend to leverage knowledge to create new knowledge. This has a lot of implications, one of which is intellectual property law. Giving limited copyright to intellectual property is important, because the data in that property eventually becomes available for all to built upon. It’s ironic that educators are considering less of a focus on memorization, as this requirement of referential knowledge has been increasing for some time. Students need a base of knowledge to both understand and compose new works. References help you avoid reinventing the wheel everytime you need to create something, which leads to my next point.

I think part of the reason references are becoming more and more common these days is that it makes entertainment a little less passive. Watching TV or a movie is, of course, a passive activity, but if you make lots of references and homages, the viewer is required to think through those references. If the viewer has the appropriate knowledge, such a TV show or movie becomes a little more cognitively engaging. It makes you think, it calls to mind previous work, and it forces you to contextualize what you’re watching based on what you know about other works. References are part of the complexity of modern Television and film, and Steven Johnson spends a significant amout of time talking about this subject in his book Everything Bad is Good for You (from page 85 of my edition):

Nearly every extended sequence in Seinfeld or The Simpsons, however, will contain a joke that makes sense only if the viewer fills in the proper supplementary information — information that is deliberately withheld from the viewer. If you haven’t seen the “Mulva” episode, or if the name “Art Vandelay” means nothing to you, then the subsequent references — many of them arriving years after their original appearance — will pass on by unappreciated.

At first glance, this looks like the soap opera tradition of plotlines extending past the frame of individual episodes, but in practice the device has a different effect. Knowing that George uses the alias Art Vandelay in awkward social situations doesn’t help you understand the plot of the current episode; you don’t draw on past narratives to understand the events in the present one. In the 180 Seinfeld episodes that aired, seven contain references to Art Vandelay: in George’s actually referring to himself with that alias or invoking the name as part of some elaborate lie. He tells a potential employer at a publishing house that he likes to read the fiction of Art Vandelay, author of Venetian Blinds; in another, he tells an unemployment insurance caseworker that he’s applied for a latex salesman job at Vandelay Industries. For storytelling purposes, the only thing that you need to know here is that George is lying in a formal interview; any fictitious author or latex manufacturer would suffice. But the joke arrives through the echo of all those earlier Vandelay references; it’s funny because it’s making a subtle nod to past events held offscreen. It’s what we’d call in a real-world context an “in-joke” — a joke that’s funny only to people who get the reference.

I know some people who hate Family Guy and Seinfeld, but I realized a while ago that they don’t hate those shows because of the contents of the shows or because they were offended (though some people certainly are), but rather becaues they simply don’t get the references. They didn’t grow up watching TV in the 80s and 90s, so many of the references are simply lost on them. Family Guy would be particularly vexing if you didn’t have the pop culture knowledge of the writers of that show. These reference heavy shows are also a lot easier to watch and rewatch, over and over again. Why? Because each episode is not self-contained, you often find yourself noticing something new every time you watch. This also sometimes works in reverse. I remember the first time I saw Bill Shatner’s campy rendition of Rocket Man, I suddenly understoood a bit on Family Guy which I thought was just a bit based on being random (but was really a reference).

Again, I seem to be focusing on comedy, but it’s not necessarily limited to that genre. Eric S. Raymond has written a lot about how science fiction jargon has evolved into a sophisticated code that implicitely references various ideas, conventions and tropes of the genre:

In looking at an SF-jargon term like, say, “groundcar”, or “warp drive” there is a spectrum of increasingly sophisticated possible decodings. The most naive is to see a meaningless, uninterpretable wordlike noise and stop there.

The next level up is to recognize that uttering the word “groundcar” or “warp drive” actually signifies something that’s important for the story, but to lack the experience to know what that is. The motivated beginning reader of SF is in this position; he must, accordingly, consciously puzzle out the meaning of the term from the context provided by the individual work in which it appears.

The third level is to recognize that “ground car” and “warp drive” are signifiers shared, with a consistent and known meaning, by many works of SF — but to treat them as isolated stereotypical signs, devoid of meaning save inasmuch as they permit the writer to ratchet forward the plot without requiring imaginative effort from the reader.

Viewed this way, these signs emphasize those respects in which the work in which they appear is merely derivative from previous works in the genre. Many critics (whether through laziness or malice) stop here. As a result they write off all SF, for all its pretensions to imaginative vigor, as a tired jumble of shopworn cliches.

The fourth level, typical of a moderately experienced SF reader, is to recognize that these signifiers function by permitting the writer to quickly establish shared imaginative territory with the reader, so that both parties can concentrate on what is unique about their communication without having to generate or process huge expository lumps. Thus these “stereotypes” actually operate in an anti-stereotypical way — they permit both writer and reader to focus on novelty.

At this level the reader begins to develop quite analytical habits of reading; to become accustomed to searching the writer’s terminology for what is implied (by reference to previous works using the same signifiers) and what kinds of exceptions and novelties convey information about the world and the likely plot twists.

It is at this level, for example, that the reader learns to rely on “groundcar” as a tip-off that the normal transport mode in the writer’s world is by personal flyer. At this level, also, the reader begins to analytically compare the author’s description of his world with other SFnal worlds featuring personal flyers, and to recognize that different kinds of flyers have very different implications for the rest of the world.

For example, the moderately experienced reader will know that worlds in which the personal fliers use wings or helicopter-like rotors are probably slightly less advanced in other technological ways than worlds in which they use ducted fans — and way behind any world in which the flyers use antigravity! Once he sees “groundcar” he will be watching for these clues.

The very experienced SF reader, at the fifth level, can see entire worlds in a grain of jargon. When he sees “groundcar” he associates to not only technical questions about flyer propulsion but socio-symbolic ones but about why the culture still uses groundcars at all (and he has a reportoire of possible answers ready to check against the author’s reporting). He is automatically aware of a huge range of consequences in areas as apparently far afield as (to name two at random) the architectural style of private buildings, and the ecological consequences of accelerated exploitation of wilderness areas not readily accessible by ground transport.

While comedy makes for convenient examples, I think this better illustrates the cognitive demands of referential art. References require you to be grounded in various subjects, and they’ll often require you to think through the implications of those subjects in a new context. References allow writers to pack incredible amounts of information into even the smallest space. This, of course, requires the consumer to decode that information (using available knowledge and critical thinking skills), making the experience less passive and more engaging. Use references will continue to flourish and accellerate in both art and scholarship, and new forms will emerge. One could even argue that aggregation in various weblogs are simply exercises in referential work. Just look at this post, in which I reference several books and movies, in many cases assuming familiarity. Indeed, the whole structure of the internet is based on the concept of links — essentialy a way to reference other documents. Perhaps this is part of the cause of the rising complexity and information density of modern entertainment. We can cope with it now, because we have such systems to help us out.

9 thoughts on “Referential”

  1. I don’t know Mark- I get the feeling that you’re saying that these kinds of references are something new, and they’re really not. Plays, books, poetry, and art have been including these kinds of references for… well… for as long as I can see. These sorts of in jokes are littered all through the works of guys like T.S. Elliot, or Shakespeare, for example. It makes sense, as our entertainment media becomes more prolific that exposure to these things would spread quickly, too. I think that referential art isn’t anything new. It might be possible that a wider audience is being exposed to it, but I’m not sure about that. That kind of referential writing is really interesting, but is really difficult for people removed from the original circumstances- it’s one of the things that makes being a Lit student difficult. When I read some older works, I have to constantly be aware of the possibility that I’m missing some key references to popular music of the time, or public figures, or politics that were big or important to the audience of the time, but are meaningless to me.

    Things can be made even more difficult when you look at the works of authors who were part of writing groups or circles. Then you have the weird circumstance where readers may not even realize what the actual origin is. Consider the works of Lovecraft and his contemporaries- they’d litter their personal works with references and allusions to each others works. Lovecraft created the idea of the Necronomicon, and he and his fellow authors worked it through their stories to the point where the average sci-fi/horror junkie can tell you almost instantly “Oh, the book of the dead!” How many realize that Lovecraft made it all up? That there is no Necronomicon?

    Anyway, great post. I’m definitely one of those people who don’t get the jokes on Seinfeld. I never watch the show, so on the times when other people talk about it, the jokes are totally lost on me.

  2. “I get the feeling that you’re saying that these kinds of references are something new, and they’re really not.”

    Well, I didn’t mean to imply that this was completely new, but it seems to be a little more prevalent these days. I’ve been writing a lot recently about the cultural and historical context of various works, and it’s a subject that’s always intrigued me. The Bible, for instance, is incredibly opaque and vague if you don’t put it in it’s proper cultural and historical context, and I used to argue with people on 4d constantly about such things. This pretty much goes for all of recorded history and art as well — it’s how we, as human beings, progress. We leverage our knowledge to create new knowledge, and I feel like the practice of doing so is becoming much more commonplace and possibly even accellerating. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because our ability to create and distribute content today is unprecedented, as is our ability to aggregate and consume massive amounts of information. Concepts like the Long Tail are just emerging now, and the amount of data and content being produced is incredible.

    Perhaps it’s not so much that there are more references in any single piece of work (though I think Family Guy is pretty dense in that respect) as there is so much more content being produced today. In either case, there’s more referential art today than there ever has been before. Again, this is perhaps expected. I don’t think any of this is particularly groundbreaking, it’s just something I find interesting and like to explore (hence the rambling nature of my post:P)

  3. Heh, just watching Robot Chicken now. There are more references packed into a single 10 minute episode of that than anything I’ve seen before. Maybe I’m just not familiar enough with the works of Shakespeare, but I don’t think he was that referential:P

  4. A lot of the references in classical literature – poetry, drama, etc. – were to two sources, the bible and mythology. That was a common touchstone for pretty much everything, though of course references to other works certainly happened a lot, especially when someone wanted to look smart.

    I think the difference that you are pointing out is not so much that there is a lot more referencing going on, but that the referencing is more shallow in time – for a TV sitcom, or other work to reference another show, movie or what have you that might only be a couple years or at most a couple decades old is a not quite the same as using references to history or mythology.

    One reason I’ve always liked Dennis Miller is that he mixes the two, it’s a novel experience to get the whipsaw effect when he bounces back and forth between, say, a reference to Britney Spears and Shakespeare or Proust.

  5. I was just randomly googling image results for Ghost in the Shell when I stumbled on this (which is totally unrelated to what I’m about to say) and I was really surprised when I read your post. Last quarter I wrote a paper for an English class that I think was making a similar point. Basically I was asked to right a paper about what I think about the books that I had to read and how I think I had been affected by them. The books I had to read for that class were: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. My paper was mostly about how I’ve noticed a lot of references in popular culture to these books that I wouldn’t even know are references if I hadn’t read those books. Here is a part of my paper:

    A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of Family Guy. In the episode, Peter and his wife Lois are at their house talking about what to do with their son Chris—who had been kicked out of school. Peter stops what he’s saying mid sentence because he sees his arch enemy standing in the yard right outside the window—a yellow chicken the size of a human. The chicken dives through the window into the house and starts to get into a fist fight with Peter. As the fighting intensifies, Peter and the chicken move out of the house, and across town. They take the fight across busy lanes of traffic, through a construction site, and even up a Farris wheel. The fight scene last for what seems like 5 minutes and then they finally get so exhausted that they can’t fight any more. By this time, both of them are bloodied and bruised all over.

    Peter tells the chicken that he can’t remember why they were enemies to begin with and the chicken can’t remember either. To make up for hard feelings the chicken asks Peter to have dinner with him and his wife at some restaurant. It looks like Peter and the chicken might get along after all by the way the dinner goes, but that all changes when the bill arrives; Peter insists on paying it but the chicken refuses and insists that he pay. This soon escalates into an all out fight, except Peter gets an upper hand this time and finishes the chicken once and for all by brutally bashing his head in against the ground. Peter returns home to the same place he and Lois had been; Lois looks like she hasn’t moved at all. And Peter picks up with the conversation at the same place he was before. That whole thing is probably seven minutes out of the whole episode.

    I saw this Family Guy episode after reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and I immediately realized a connection. The long digression in the Family Guy is similar to those found in Tristram Shandy; in chapter XXI of volume I, Elizabeth is in labor upstairs while Walter and Toby are down stairs having a smoke, “—I wonder what’s all that noise, and running backwards and forwards for, above stairs, quoth my father, addressing himself, after an hour and a half’s silence, to my uncle Toby, —who you must know, was sitting on the opposite side of the fire, smoking his social pipe […] I think, replied my uncle Toby, taking his pipe from his mouth, and striking the head of it two or three times upon the nail of his thumb, as he began his sentence,—I think, says he:—But to enter rightly into my uncle Toby’s sentiments upon this matter, you must be made first a little into his character, the out-lines of which I shall just give you and then the dialogue between him and my father will go on as well again.” (Sterne, 56)

    Then there is a thirty two page digression that crosses volume I and II about Tristram’s uncle Toby, among other things; Toby was a soldier who was injured in the groin at the siege of Namur during one of King Henry’s wars. He returned to England and stayed with his brother at his house in London while he recovered from the injury. This is when Toby became obsessed with fortifications (his hobby-horse). After three years Toby was not completely healed and he decided to go to Shandy-Hall which is in the country. At Shandy-Hall Toby and his assistant Corporal Trim converted the bowling green into a replica of Namur. In chapter VI of volume II Tristram returns to the scene were Elizabeth is in labor upstairs and Walter and Toby are downstairs having a smoke, “—What can they be doing, brother? said my father.–I think, replied my uncle Toby,–taking, as I told you, his pipe from his mouth, and striking the ashes out of it as he began his sentence;—-I think, replied he,–it would not be amiss, brother, if we rung the bell.” (Sterne, 88)

    The whole novel is one digression after another and Tristram admits this a couple times, “Digression, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading;—take them out of this book for instance,–you might as well take the book along with them.” (Sterne, 64) Now I know that the digression in the Family Guy episode is a nod to Tristram Shandy. If I had not read Tristram Shandy I’m sure I still would have thought that it was funny, but I would not have understood the subtle reference in it. Being able to see the connection to Tristram Shandy takes the humor to a whole new place for me and makes it that much more enjoyable.

  6. My two alltime favorite bits of referential humor come from Family Guy and Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

    The first one is quick, and almost subtle. Stewie tricks another toddler into a trap, and as he closes it, he recites very quickly under his breath “Steve walks warily down the street, With the brim pulled way down low…”

    I laughed like hell the first time I saw that, since that happens to be the opening lines to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” As non-obscure as that one is, I wonder…do 17 year old kids today get that reference? Hell, do they get the majority of odd references in Family Guy? Some of them dig pretty deep…

    My second, and all-time favorite is from Dirk Getnly’s Holistic Detective Agency. On the whole I much prefer the Dirk Gently books to the Hitchiker’s Guide, as they’re darker, and the wackiness is more firmly grounded in somewhat everyday settings.


    “It’s all right, it’s just a horse in the bathroom,” he said quietly.

    Richard leaped on him and wrestled him to the ground.

    “No,” gasped Reg, “no, get off me, let me go, I’m perfectly all right, damn it. It’s just a horse, a perfectly ordinary horse.” He shook Richard off with no great difficutly, and sat up, puffing and blowing and pushing his hands through his limited hair. Richard stood over him warily, but with great and mounting embarrasment. He edged back, and let Red stand up and sit in a chair.

    “Just a horse,” said Reg, “but, er, thank you for taking me at my word.” He brushed himself down.

    “A horse,” repeated Richard.

    “Yes,” said Reg.

    Richard went out and looked up the stairs and then came back in.

    “A horse?” he said again.

    “Yes, it is,” said the Professor. “Wait–” he mentioned to Richard, who was about to go and investigate–“let it be. It won’t be long.”

    Richard stared in disbelief. “You say there’s a horse in your bathrom, and all you can do is stand there naming Beatles songs?”

    The Professor looked blankly at him.

    “Listen,” he said, “I’m sorry if I…alarmed you earlier, it was just a slight turn. These things happen, my dear fellow, don’t upset yourself about it. Dear me, I’ve known odder things in my time. Many of them. Far odder. She’s only a horse, for heaven’s sake. I’ll go and let her out later. Plese don’t concern yourself. Let us revive our spirits with some port.”

    “But…how did it get in there?”

    “Well, the bathroom window’s open. I expect she came in through that.”

    Richard looked at him, not for the first time and certainly not for the last time, through eyes that were narrowed with suspicion.

    “You’re doing it deliberately, aren’t you?” he said.

    Now, when I first read this novel, I didn’t really get the joke that well. It seemed like Richard was just reacting to the asurdity of the horse coming in through the bathrrom window. I knew “Let It Be” was a Beatles song, and I could infer that “Wait” and “It Won’t Be Long” were also Beatles songs, but it was many years before I started listening to the Beatles, and understood that the payoff in the second part of the joke is that there is a Beatles song called “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”

    I don’t know why, but that whole exchange really tickles me.

  7. Hmm, not being a big Family Guy fan, I can’t say whether it’s any more dense in references than your average piece of classical literature. But I think “Gulliver’s Travels” would probably give it a run for its money–have you ever tried reading “Gulliver’s Travels” without footnotes? Heck, my book had little footnotes saying, “This is a parody of Lord So-and-So” and even that wasn’t helpful, because I’d have to go look him up on Wikipedia and dig around and fail to find the information I needed and in the end still have no clue how the dancing elephant is supposed to be poking fun at a lord.

    Ditto the average T.S. Eliot poem, which one cannot even BEGIN to fathom without having read the Bible, Homer, and half a dozen other famous works.

    So, not that I’ve conducted an extensive study or anything, but I think referential humor is just as popular as it’s always been.

    “I know some people who hate Family Guy and Seinfeld, but I realized a while ago that they don’t hate those shows because of the contents of the shows or because they were offended (though some people certainly are), but rather becaues they simply don’t get the references.”

    Hey, watch who you’re painting with that wide brush. Even when I DO get the references, I still HATE Family Guy and Seinfeld. Part of it is, I hate shows where half the humor is about how stupid the characters are. Stupid people are NOT FUNNY. Sorry, I have to deal with enough stupid people in my daily life; I’m not going to volunteer to spend my free time annoyed by them. So, any show where a large chunk of the humor consists of, “Oh, look, Stevie did something idiotic again. What a moron! Haha!” I will immediately change the channel.

    And then there is the crude, sexual, or physical humor. Fart jokes aren’t funny, sorry.

    “For some reason, I started thinking about what it would be like to watch an episode of Family Guy with someone from, let’s say, the 17th century.”

    OMG, I thought I was the only person who did things like that! Half the time when I’m alone in the car, I’m imagining I’m trying to explain technology or science or something to someone from the past. Actually, since I’ve become an English teacher in Japan, I end up imagining how I would explain different grammatical rules or American pop culture references to my Japanese students. Hey, quick shoutout–how many other Kaedrin readers do this? Is it a common thing?

  8. priorities

    So, I am in Chicago at my parents’ place, and am preparing to go back to Marshfield tomorrow after having successfully unloaded all our stuff there yesterday. I decide to swing past the blogsphere to see what’s going on. At RedSt…

  9. foucault, There are lots of little references in Family Guy that I’m sure most of their audience doesn’t get. It just means that when they rewatch the episode a few years later, they’ll enjoy it more when they recognize more of the references. And good call about Adams, I didn’t even think of that…

    Kacie: “Hey, watch who you’re painting with that wide brush.”

    Hey yourself – I did qualify it:P Seriously, though, I can totally see why people would dislike Family Guy or Seinfeld even if they did get the references, so no big deal:)

    “Fart jokes aren’t funny, sorry.”

    No need to apologize, but, well, I like a good fart joke. What can I say?

    “OMG, I thought I was the only person who did things like that!”

    When I bring up stuff like this, lots of people say they thought they were the only ones who thought about that stuff, so I don’t think we’re alone:)

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