The cultural touchstones of Denny's Den - Denny Scott editorial
I’ve bemoaned this dozens of times to friends and family, but the lyrics of Disney songs that my siblings watched have firmly planted themselves in my brain. Every day I forget important things, like where I put my keys, but I can recite songs from movies like Hercules, The Little Mermaid and, yes, as I referenced last week, Pocahontas (though eagle-eyed readers may notice it was misspelled - my bad). Thank goodness my anniversary is on an easy-to-remember date, or else I’d probably be blaming Dinsey for forgetting it every year.
Back to Pocahontas. Last week, when, in this space, I wrote that I believe people shouldn’t be able to own beaches on public lakes, I said “not to get all [Pocahontas] on everyone, but at some point the earth isn’t just something we can all claim”. I wasn’t referencing the actual individual, but the movie, which is why it was italicized. Specifically, I was referencing a tune called “Colors of the Wind”. Part of the song goes a little something like this: “You think you own whatever land you land on, the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim” so it was quite fitting to the core argument I was making.
It occurred to me on Friday morning, however, when The Citizen received a response criticizing my reference, that I realized that anyone not familiar with the plethora of Disney songs bouncing around my head may have found the reference off, at best, and insensitive at worst, and that wasn’t my intention. It made me wonder if I’d made a misstep regarding how popular the film and the song were.
you’re reading these columns, whether it be founding Citizen Publisher Keith Roulston’s above me or editor Shawn Loughlin’s, to the right, you’re getting our view of the world through our experiences, our pop culture references and our belief systems.
That means that, for me, you may be seeing the world through a lens that includes MASH, Scrubs, and a dozen other television sitcoms in between, or Disney movies and television shows spanning from about 1990 to 2005 and from 2015 to the modern day. If I’m talking about music, it’s from a background that includes everything from the 1950s to today, from orchestral arrangements to hard rock and from old country to new country.
So if you’re not familiar with my pop culture references, I may inadvertently end up saying something that could be, at best, nonsensical and at worst, offensive, as may have happened last week.
I try to use references that I think most people will get. I’m not going to do too many “deep cuts” on Scrubs, for example, because, while I think it is some of the best television out there, it may not be as widely appreciated as I believe it should be. I did believe, last week, however, that Pocahontas was a pretty solid cultural touchstone to tie the sentiment of not being able to claim all the world. I was apparently wrong because every proofreader who saw it wasn’t familiar enough with it to either agree or disagree with its usage.
This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. A number of years ago, probably coming up on a decade here, we had a front page photo of some young boys playing dodgeball (there’s a lens for you - I don’t know if dodgeball is still a thing for young people today) at a local church camp. The photo, still one of my favourites to this day, shows a young boy twisting his body mid-air to avoid getting hit. My mind immediately went to The Matrix trilogy.
For those of you not familiar, the fantastical story deals with humanity living inside a simulation, and a few key humans being
aware of that. Knowing they live in, essentially, a video game, allows them to push the boundaries of physics and dodge bullets, often bending their bodies in weird ways to do so, just like the young dodgeball player. So I put a headline on the photo of “There is no spoon”, a quote from the first movie of the trilogy.
Despite the films being among the best-rated trilogies in the world, however, one of the people proofreading the paper didn’t get the reference, leading to us scrapping the headline and going with another.
So, it’s not the first time I’ve missed the mark with a cultural reference, and it may not be the last. However, given the nature of the reference, it could have been particularly offensive this time around and, for that, I apologize.