January 11, 2006
Cultural Touchstones

Last night's episode of Scrubs featured a choreographed fight scene set to "King Fu Fighting." Hilarious, yes, but it got me thinking about cultural touchstones - those memes or IPs that can be referenced and commonly understood. (Of course, in the case of the Scrubs fight scene, there are layers of references, as "Kung Fu Fighting" itself is a reference - but that sort of analysis is for another time.)

Sitcoms like Scrubs or Family Guy often reference multiple different cultural touchstones to communicate a joke and descriptions of books and movies (whether to friends or to industry insiders) are often peppered with references to other works.

It is interesting is that fandom reverses this idea, using a single touchstone as a starting point, then expanding references around it - which can take the form of a collection of sound clips tied together by anime (and made by anime fans) or any given Star Wars parody.


On January 12, 2006 at 9:31 AM, Stefan Werning said:

Yes, it's really interesting that a 1974 rendition of kung fu fighting as part of American mainstream culture is still one of the main reference points today (regardless of the omnipresence of kung fu and much more differentiated martial arts styles like Thai boxing in Ong Bak etc. in current games, movies and the like).
Apart from that, however, the lyrics of the song (which I as a German never really paid attention to) are so blatantly orientalist, it's really astounding. Probably I'm likely to notice because I'm teaching a course on Orientalism in Western Media in Bonn at the moment but it's an impressive example at any rate: the 'funky China Men from funky China Town' :) The intertextual referencing of the song in other media then would be a sort of 'meta orientalism' or at least a different form of Orientalism since it's three degrees of separation from the 'original' theme. And it's a good song, too... :)