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Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure

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Soujirou: Oh, back then, Bisonnote  was dressed up as Mike Tyson. Pretty cool.
Konata: Who's Mike Tyson?
[later that day]
Soujirou: Today, I felt the generation gap in a deep and very personal way.
Lucky Star Manga vol. 6

What was whose sled?

This is a subversion of Pop-Cultural Osmosis. When used in-universe, it's usually as 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 four things happens:

  1. "Who's X?" — The person from Group B doesn't get it at all because of a failure of Pop-Cultural Osmosis. This seems to be the most common.
  2. "Oh, X! He was in Y, right!" — The person from Group B gets it wrong because of a failure of Pop-Cultural Osmosis (and he's guessing).
  3. "Wait, Y was based on a real X?" — The person from Group B gets it wrong because of a clash of Pop-Cultural Osmosis, and he's referencing something that referenced the original, referenced a reference of the original, etc.
  4. "Impressive, you know X... oh, you don't" — The person from Group B gets it wrong because of a clash of Pop-Cultural Osmosis, when person A is referencing something more recent (the reverse of 3).

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 subculture or is 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) is amusingly displaced from the time of origin;
  • F) simply is not familiar with a genre or a work;
  • G) the work itself is thought to be so popular that all who know it think it will be passed on through Pop-Cultural Osmosis — with the result that it isn't.
  • H) just is not interested in pop culture.

Note that A–F can go both ways (for example, someone too old to know Britney Spears or The Backstreet Boys may have fond memories of I Love Lucy or Herman's Hermits), and G is the natural conclusion of Pop-Cultural Osmosis, when even All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" is forgotten (along with The Crying Game itself) except for the trope name itself, rendered a Non-Indicative Name.


This, by the way, is the reason character-named tropes are often renamednote . For example, if you're not familiar with original Sherlock Holmes tales, you won't know who Inspector Lestrade is; if not well-read in 19th-century French literature (or Broadway musicals), Inspector Javert may be unknown to you.

With the advent of cable television, the Internet, and more things to do in less time, this is becoming more and more Truth in Television. Most everyone in the US watched I Love Lucy because it was one of three television choices; not everyone watched American Idol because it was one of a thousand television choices (and hundreds of thousands of entertainment choices).

One of the many, many reasons for Not Self-Explanatory.

Compare "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny, Adaptation Displacement, Forgotten Trope, It's Been Done, Fleeting Demographic Rule, Recognition Failure, Pop-Culture Isolation, Informed Real Life Fame, Lampshaded the Obscure Reference, Before My Time, and Technologically Blind Elders.

Contrast: It Was His Sled, All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game", and especially Pop-Cultural Osmosis.


Other Examples:

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  • During a flashback in The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon is explaining to his editor about the real nature of the Holy Grail. The editor asks why he's never heard of it and Langdon answers that the cover-up "is backed up by the world's biggest best-seller". The editor immediately expresses surprise that Harry Potter talks about the Holy Grail.
  • Invoked in the 1632-series: Two time-travelling spies identify each others by the code names "Romulus" and "Vulcan". The idea is that, since American pop culture hasn't penetrated the public consciousness of the 17th century, anyone in a position to recognize the names will assume that Romulus's counterpart is Remus.

    Web Original 
    Real Life 
  • This phenomenon is the bane of anyone who studies myths and folklore. In many cultures there were certain myths so prevalent that no one actually bothered recording them, as everyone assumed everyone else already knew it. Then those cultures died off or changed, leaving many myths with references to others we don't actually know because there were no records made and people stopped learning them as they became less important.
    • An example might be the Prophet Enoch: there are two or three passing references to him in The Bible including his being listed as an ancestor of Jesus Christ, and St Paul speaks approvingly of him and extols The Book of Enoch as a God-inspired work every Christian should read. But you will search the Old Testament in vain for The Book of Enoch. It's as if a major prophet has dissappeared without trace save for a few cryptic references. There is a Book of Enoch in the Ge'ez language of Eastern Africa, but only the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches accept it as Canon.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): What Was Whose Sled


Calvin Doesn't Get the Quotes

One of the reasons why Honeybee and Calvin don't click is Calvin doesn't get any of the movie quotes or movies she references.

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Main / PopculturalOsmosisFailure

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Main / PopculturalOsmosisFailure