Daily Writer’s Challenge: When Culture Takes a Twist

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I was upstairs in my office last night thinking about today’s first post when I overheard some very familiar dialogue from the TV.

It was the scene where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are arguing.  The music that crept up the stairs—a refrain from “As Time Goes By”—the snatches of dialogue—were a dead giveaway.  It was Casablanca, no other.  I’ve seen the movie easily a dozen times, and it takes very little to remind me of the scenes.

There is the moment when the Nazis come into Rick’s Cafe, get drunk, and start to sing the German national anthem.  Rick and the French then stand and try to drown them out singing the anthem of France. 

There is the “…we’ll always have paris…” line.  There is the scene when Rick gives up his “letters of transit” so she and Victor, her freedom fighter lover can get away from the Germans.  A classic.  Oh, and then that magical moment when the French Captain Renault lets the Germans know that some of their men have been killed, and says, “…round up the usual suspects.”

And then I remember  the scene where Rick and Lisa talk about how wrong it is to pirate DVD’s…  And everything screeches to a halt. 

What happened?

Two cultures collided, and wreckage ensues.

You see, there is a whole generation of kids who will only know that movie as the weird black and white “anti-piracy” commercial that shows up on some DVDs.  The movie will be a non-starter for them.

Today’s Writer’s Challenge is to look for pieces of the culture you grew up with that have been changed by movies, books, television…  and especially radio and TV commercials.  Try to pinpoint a place in your personal history where one thing, something that was of daily understanding for you, transformed into something else, something that the next generation would miss—perhaps, altogether.

Why do this?  Understanding how and when a culture changes is a powerful and valuable realization, one that belongs in your Writer’s Bag O’ Tricks.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

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4 responses to “Daily Writer’s Challenge: When Culture Takes a Twist

  1. Anna didn’t often take the bus to get home. It was the late fifties. There was a slight recession going on, and people were being urged to ‘Buy Canadian’. But she did have some spare change and wanted to be home before her mother returned from work.

    She put her quarter in the ticket holder, and took a seat by the window half way down the bus. She looked up to see a young black man entering the bus. He walked down the aisle and sat in a seat opposite Anna.

    Before he could make himself comfortable and unfold the newspaper he held under his arm, a boisterous cry came from another passenger in the front seat.

    “Have that nigger move to the back of the bus”, a tall, elderly man cried out.

    The other passengers looked around; focusing on the young black man with fierce expressions on their faces.

    Anna was frightened. She didn’t want an outburst. Despite herself though she went up to the driver and demanded that he stop the protest, defending the young black man’s right to occupy a seat of his choice.

    The driver ignored all the controversy, and simply proceeded with his job of driving his passengers to their destinations. The protest continued for the rest of the journey; the verbal assaults reduced to a steady grumbling.

    They came to Anna’s stop. As she walked up the street she turned to see that the black man had also got off the bus and was following her. He caught up to her and thanked her. But Anna was too frightened to converse. She was alone with a black man. She had seen that film about the lynchings because a black man had raped a young white girl. She didn’t want to be raped. She ran from the scene, and got home, thankfully before her mother arrived.

    “I put dinner on for you, mom”, she said when her mother walked into the kitchen.

    Her mother did not respond; did now acknowledge Anna’s attempt to go out of her way to find some acknowledgement from her mother. Her mother was in a state of frenzy. Something had happened that had rendered her incapable of speech.

    Anna was still thinking of the black man, and wondered if perhaps it was her mother who had been raped.

    • Well done, Loreen. Just the kind of thing I meant.

      • Thank you Richard. I really appreciate not only your wonderful challenges, but this acknowledgement that I have met it. I only wish more people would respond to such a great opportunity. (More work for you, but I am sure you would enjoy it!). Again, thanks for all the work you do helping other writers.

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Posts – Ninth Edition « Uphill Writing

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