Skip to content

Obscure cultural references?

In an episode of Ted Lasso that Elysha and I watched this week, Ted was placed in hotel room 5150.

In response, Ted and Beard made a Van Halen joke.

Later in the episode, a woman referred to Ted Lasso as Magnum PI.

In the Marvel movie The Eternals, a character made a reference to Miss Havisham when describing the interior of a spaceship.

I was pleased with all three references. Each tickled by cultural funny bone, but my question is this:

How many Americans occupy the very middle of the intersecting Venn diagram of people who understand all three references?

As a storyteller, I attempt to avoid cultural references at all times, fully aware that a reference not understood by audience members makes those audience members feel left out and confused.

I’m also fully aware of the fragmented nature of American culture today. The monoculture is dead. Subcultures rule. What you think of as ubiquitous and universal is completely unknown by many others.

So how many Americans understood all three of those references:

The title of a rock band’s 1986 album (and only their third bestselling album)

The titular character of a show that went off the air 34 years ago. And yes, the show was rebooted in 2018, but the lead in the modern day version of Magnum PI doesn’t even have the mustache that makes the connection between Thomas Magnum and Ted Lasso so apparent, thus muddying the cultural waters even more

The supporting character in an 1861 novel by Charles Dickens

I’d love to think that most Americans understand all three of these cultural references, but really I’m not sure.