Created By: MrInitialMan on June 9, 2010 Last Edited By: MrInitialMan on June 9, 2010
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Whats This About A Sled?

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"It Was His Sled." Um... what was his sled? And who is this "his" you speak of?

This is a means of showing the difference between people from two different groups (usually generations) in which a character from Group A makes a pop culture reference (or mentions a famous person or movie or work) and one of three things happens:

  1. The person from Group B doesn't get it at all because of a failure of Popcultural Osmosis. This seems to be the most common
  2. The person from Group B gets it wrong because of a failure of Popcultural Osmosis (and he's guessing).
  3. The person from Group B gets it wrong because of a clash of Popcultural Osmosis (and he's referencing something that referenced the original, referenced a reference of the original, etc.).

This can happen because the person from Group B:

A) is a bumpkin or is otherwise cut off from modern pop culture

B) is an outsider (of the clique or an immigrant or foreigner)

C) is old-fashioned and not knowledgeable of current popular culture.

D) is young and the bit of pop culture is (relatively) old.

E) simply is not familiar with a genre or a work

F) the work itself is thought to be so popular that all who know it think it will be passed on through Popcultural Osmosis -- with the result that it isn't.

Note that the last is the natural conclusion of Popcultural Osmosis, when even All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" is forgotton (along with the Crying Game itself).

This is also why one must be careful with Character Named Tropes. For example, if you're not familiar with 19th-century English literature, who is Inspector Lestrade; if not well-read in 19th-century French literature, Inspector Javert may be unknown to you; and if you've never watched anime, Inspector Zenigata will be a stranger.

Examples:

Type 1

  • Troper Tales: The trope title It Was His Sled made absolutely no sense to me, as I knew nothing about Citizen Kane beyond the fact that it was a famous film -- and I do mean nothing, as in, I did not know there was a sled involved, or that Mr. Kane said "Rosebud" at any point in the movie.
  • Zombie Land. Little Rock doesn't know who Willie Nelson is, much to Tallahassee's horror.
  • In a Scrubs episode, the Janitor tells Eliot that he changed the address in his personel file to "1 Cemetery Lane" because Dr Kelso keeps calling him "Lurch". Eliot just looks at him in polite incomprehension.
  • Running Man: "Who's Mr. Spock?"
  • Community: Shirley: "You remind me of Jack and Diane... I hated Jack and Diane." Anne: "Who's Jack and Diane?" Shirley: [furious] "Okay, I get it! You're young!"
  • Truth in Television: A teacher expected a kids choir to know the lyrics and melody to One Tin Soldier via Popcultural Osmosis ; those kids should have heard it a million times, so there was no music or practice needed. They hadn't, resulting in a very awkward moment on performance day.
  • (Troper tale from a contributer): Heh, I remember my singing coach in college trying to get me to sing "Hey Jude" with her. I'd heard the name before but had the darndest time convincing her that I literally did not know the words to that song. Not even one of those songs where you're like "Oh, I do know this one... just never really paid much attention" or anything, I really didn't know it. But she was like, "Of course you do! Sing with me!"
  • I had a similar experience in grade school, where literally everyone else in the class knew the words to "Puff The Magic Dragon," and I had barely even heard of it.
  • In a similar thing, in Sister Act 2, Delores wants to hear her students sing, so she singles them out and has them sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb". One girl doesn't know it.
  • Sam on Quantum Leap occasionally fails to get Al's pop-culture references, such as in "Glitter Rock," when he doesn't know who Pete Townshend is, leading to a Who's on First? exchange. This is mostly due to time-travel-related memory loss, although (as in this example) it might occasionally occur just because Sam is a huge nerd.
  • TV Tropes: This is the reason that tropes such as Bugs Meany Is Gonna Walk got renamed to Conviction by Contradiction.
  • Temperence "Bones" Brennan's Catch Phrase for virtually any Pop Culture reference: "I don't know what that means." (She notably did know who Stewie was when it came up.)
  • Third-hand Troper Tale: My father's doctor (in his 70s) was talking with his five year old granddaugher (this was like 10 years ago).
Granddaugher: Blah Blah Blah Britney Spears Blah.
Grandpa: Who's Britney Spears?
Granddaugher: Don't you know anything?

Type 2

Type 3

  • An example from Older Than They Think fits here, as a clash of Pop-Cultural Osmosis: An in-universe example has Superboy saying to Superman "Second star to the right and fly till morning." When Superman says "Peter Pan. How appropriate." Superboy replies "What are you talking about? Captain Kirk said that." in reference to Kirk's closing line at the end of the 6th movie where he was clearly quoting Peter Pan.
  • Someone uses the fanfare from Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" to refer to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and someone else think's it's a reference to Ric Flair (who used the same as his Leitmotif)

Possible Titles

  1. Was WHAT His Sled
  2. What Was His Sled
  3. It Was Whose Sled
  4. What Was Whose Sled?
  5. Whats This About A Sled
  6. Pop Culture Blind
  7. Pop Culture Blind Spot
  8. Popcultural Osmosis Failure
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • June 1, 2010
    Superior

  • June 1, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    • Zombie Land. Little Rock doesn't know who Willie Nelson is, much to Tallahassee's horror.
  • June 1, 2010
    Ronka87
    Not up to finding it at the moment, but I think there's a whole page or part of a page devoted to this concerning Romeo And Juliet.
  • June 2, 2010
    Starscream
    Or maybe it's because some of us simply aren't interested in pop culture (I know I'm not, for the most part).
  • June 2, 2010
    DaibhidC
    • In a Scrubs episode, the Janitor tells Eliot that he changed the address in his personel file to "1 Cemetery Lane" because Dr Kelso keeps calling him "Lurch". Eliot just looks at him in polite incomprehension.
  • June 2, 2010
    Hertzyscowicz
    Wouldn't the title be "What Was His Sled"?
  • June 2, 2010
    Stratadrake
    Or perhaps It Was WHOSE Sled?
  • June 3, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    Both this titles could work, but I was thinking along the lines of "Was What his sled?", making the title a response to "It Was His Sled".
  • June 3, 2010
    Game_Fan
    Seems like Culture Blind.
  • June 4, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    This doesn't really fit Culture Blind. Culture Blind is not knowing one's own way of life, as the trope describes it.

    This is when someone doesn't get a reference to a work popular amongst another subculture or age group. See the difference?
  • June 5, 2010
    gneissisnice
    It should really be What Was His Sled? Anyway, I never even saw the movie but I know the spoiler that Rosebud was his sled (sorry just ruined it for all of you too), so it's a very famous line that a lot of people should know. And by the way, Starscream, I find it odd that you're not interested in pop culture, yet you're on tvtropes.
  • June 7, 2010
    Chabal2
  • June 7, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I've also never seen the movie, but still got the reference. It's actually a pretty widely known example of, well, the phenomenon that the trope describes, that I've seen referred to at least a couple of times outside of this site.

    Also, "Was what his sled?" is not a grammatically correct response to "It Was His Sled." It would be a (still not really correct) response to "Was that his sled?", perhaps uttered after an extremely fast-moving sled passes by, noticed by one person but not by their conversation partner. So, no, the title doesn't make any sense at all. I'd second "It Was Whose Sled?" as an alternative that makes much more sense, but I'm not sure this is a trope to begin with.

    Culture Blind actually does fit this at least to some extent -- remember that Tropes Are Flexible, and Culture Blind does not have to specifically be about "not knowing one's way in life" or some such. It's about any characters showing a "lack of understanding about culture, behaviour, social norms or other things that they should, by their own backstory and the world they live in, know." Not knowing about some really big, famous work that everyone else in the culture seems to know would definitely fit, although Your Mileage May Vary as to where the line lies for a work that's well-known enough.

    But for major, culturally significant works, anyway, Culture Blind fits. For more obscure works, not knowing about them is more justified than what Culture Blind implies. On the other hand, at that point it just becomes People Sit On Chairs. "An instance in which someone does not know an obscure bit of pop-culture trivia" isn't really a trope, I think (though someone who does know a lot of such trivia would be, and probably is, if I could remember its name).
  • June 7, 2010
    FalconPain
    The examples in Culture Blind really don't have the same flavor of "wow, he doesn't get the reference" as the ones for this YKTTW.

    My standard example, from PVP.
  • June 7, 2010
    Chabal2
    Beam Me Up Scotty and What Are Records should also be mentioned.
  • June 7, 2010
    IgnoreMe!
    Running Man: "Who's Mr. Spock?"

    Community: Shirley: "You remind me of Jack and Diane... I hated Jack and Diane." Anne: "Who's Jack and Diane?" Shirley: [furious] "Okay, I get it! You're young!"
  • June 7, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Well, it Needs A Better Name anyway. Was What His Sled simply makes no sense, especially not as a supposed response to "It Was His Sled".
  • June 7, 2010
    TorchicBlaziken
  • June 7, 2010
    MasoTey
  • June 7, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    I like Maso Tey's suggestion. I think it sums it up best.

    From Culture Blind, to prove they're related, rather than one and the same:

    "Where a character displays a complete lack of understanding about culture, behaviour, social norms or other things that they should, by their own backstory and the world they live in, know. They don't have a plausible Fish Out Of Water excuse like Time Travel into the past or future, or just arriving on a different planet, or even another country; they should know this stuff already. However, due to the Rule Of Perception, if the audiences don't know about it, someone has to explain it."

    This does not fit Whats This About A Sled. Culture Blind is when a character does not know about what SHOULD be his/her own culture. Whats This About A Sled is showing the difference between generations or groups when one group doesn't get a pop culture reference made by another. Actually... *Fixes description*

  • June 8, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Well then, I guess that makes sense and makes a fine trope.

    The new name is nice, but now it's pretty far removed from It Was His Sled, so the link may not be immediately intuitive. Personally I like Stratadrake's suggestion of It Was Whose Sled, because it's both very similar to It Was His Sled, immediately suggesting the link, and displays a complete ignorance of the subject matter (i.e. not even knowing who the character in question is).
  • June 8, 2010
    Kilyle
    Heh, I remember my singing coach in college trying to get me to sing "Hey Jude" with her. I'd heard the name before but had the darndest time convincing her that I literally did not know the words to that song. Not even one of those songs where you're like "Oh, I do know this one... just never really paid much attention" or anything, I really didn't know it.

    But she was like, "Of course you do! Sing with me!"
  • June 8, 2010
    randomsurfer
    ^I had a similar experience in grade school, where literally everyone else in the class knew the words to "Puff The Magic Dragon," and I had barely even heard of it.
  • June 8, 2010
    spideydude
    Would Pop Culture Blind be a good title?
  • June 8, 2010
    gneissisnice
    In a similar thing, in Sister Act 2, Delores wants to hear her students sing, so she singles them out and has them sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb". One girl doesn't know it.
  • June 8, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    I think this is launchable. Thank heavens for the possibility of redirects; there's a lot of good suggestions for titles. So we have...
    1. Was WHAT His Sled
    2. What Was His Sled
    3. It Was Whose Sled
    4. What Was Whose Sled
    5. Whats This About A Sled
    6. Popculture Blind

    Which do you think should be used as the main trope title?
  • June 8, 2010
    gneissisnice
    I vote for What Was His Sled. It's a direct reference to It Was His Sled, and the thing that's causing confusion in this case is what the "it" was, mostly because those who are familiar with the story without actually having seen it (such as myself) know that Rosebud is what they're referring to, but we don't know who he is (and it doesn't really matter). Only the "what" really matters in this case.
  • June 8, 2010
    the grene kni3t
    If this is just about characters not getting pop-culture references for one reason or another, Pop Culture Blind might be clearer than an It Was His Sled-related title.

    (Type 1 example:) Sam on Quantum Leap occasionally fails to get Al's pop-culture references, such as in "Glitter Rock," when he doesn't know who Pete Townshend is, leading to a Whos On First exchange. This is mostly due to time-travel-related memory loss, although (as in this example) it might occasionally occur just because Sam is a huge nerd.
  • June 8, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    @the grene kni3t: What I'm thinking of doing is launching this trope under one of the titles; the rest will probably be redirects. (Something like, say, Dance Trope Dance is a redirect to Zig Zagging Trope or Aint No Rule is now a redirect to Loophole Abuse.)

    Also, Pop Culture Blind makes it sound like the person in question knows nothing of Pop Culture (in much the sam,e way that Culture Blind is how someone knows little to nothing about his own culture), wherein this can include situations where someone is ignorant of only an aspect of pop culture, or quite simply different.
  • June 8, 2010
    MasoTey
    Actually . . . would Pop Culture Blind Spot work?
  • June 9, 2010
    Chabal2
  • June 9, 2010
    randomsurfer
    • Temperence "Bones" Brennan's Catch Phrase for virtually any Pop Culture reference: "I don't know what that means." (She notably did know who Stewie was when it came up.)
    • Third-hand Troper Tale: My father's doctor (in his 70s) was talking with his five year old granddaugher (this was like 10 years ago).
    Granddaugher: Blah Blah Blah Britney Spears Blah.
    Grandpa: Who's Britney Spears?
    Granddaugher: Don't you know anything?
  • June 9, 2010
    MrInitialMan
    Maso Tey: Sounds a bit clunky to me.

    Chabal2: Not really. That's more like a Shout Out. What Was His Sled would be:

    Person A: "It's a good day to die"
    Person B: "Quoting Star Trek?"
    Person A: "Um, I was quoting Starcraft"

    See the difference?

    Actually one more possible title: Popcultural Osmosis Failure
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=cgipbb5jjt1btdyx323zqdnk