Sometimes when I’m winding down for the day, I’ll stream a TV show on my iPad. One of my favorites: the original Twilight Zone. Watching an episode recently unearthed an interesting perspective.
In one Twilight Zone episode, the main character goes back in time fifteen years and grapples with the cultural differences. The story starts in the year 1959. After a few minutes, and eye-rolling (though impressive at the time) special effects, the man somehow finds himself in 1941. Of course, the viewer is expected to immediately know this by the change in clothing style of the characters. If my grandpa were viewing the show, he’d surely have noticed immediately.
For me, it was impossible to discern between 1959 and 1941 by image alone. Women wore short skirts in the 40s and long skirts in the 50s? Could have fooled me! This viewer expectation by the Twilight Zone creators completely unraveled the plot for me. It transitioned from an engrossing story to a caricature of the old days.
A more recent example: In the pilot episode of the TV show Wings, several scenes rely completely on jokes about Noriega, a Panamanian soldier who was notorious in the late-eighties and mid-nineties. This time-sensitive subject has almost no context today, and it’s been a mere fifteen years.
Fifty years from now, how much of today’s culture will be misinterpreted, or misunderstood due to lack of context?
Could this same phenomenon have resulted in an inherent misunderstanding of the constitution? Of shakespeare? Of the bible?