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Public History and Popular Culture

By Kevin Lopez

My three unexpected references to history in popular culture are as follows:

U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek

1. The U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek. It is the star ship that is focused upon in the TV series. The U.S.S. Enterprise was the U.S.’s leading battleship during WWII. The following U.S.S. Enterprise was the U.S.’s first nuclear power aircraft carrier. It was deployed to hotspots during the Cold War such as Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S.S. Enterprise has been the flag ship of the United States naval fleet.

Darth Vader’s Helmet

2. The Imperial Empire, The design of Darth Vader’s Helmet and the Jedi. The Imperial Empire is a reference to the Japanese Imperial Empire. Empire Palpatine represents the Japanese Emperor. Darth Vader’s helmet is designed in the traditional style of a Samurai warrior’s helmet. The face cover was added due to his breathing problem. The Jedi represent the Samurai way of life. Their fight with the Imperial Empire is representative of the fight between the traditionalist Samurai and the Modernist Imperial Empire in Japan during the 19th century.

Severus Snape

3. In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series one of the major characters is named after Septimius Severus. This character is obviously Severus Snape. Septimius Severus was the 21st Emperor of Rome. He is well known as being stern and untrustworthy. He betrayed other Roman leaders and killed the then emperor to come to power. His legacy would be the Severan Dynasty.

The REAL U.S.S. Enterprise

By using the U.S.S. Enterprise, the writers of Star Trek tied the idea of a flagship to the U.S. flagship. It seems that it would be an easy way to connect the idea of a flagship in space to something the audience would already be familiar with on a daily basis. It also reinforces the idea that the U.S. Navy would always continue and be dominating. The idea that the first flagship is the U.S.S. Enterprise is appealing to the audience in that way. I did actually learn history from this reference. As a kid watching Star Trek: TNG, I became interested in the Enterprise. So I looked for more info on the Enterprise and learned about the real life Enterprise. So the fact that they used a real ship’s name connected me to the real ship. I would definitely argue that this is a great way to connect pop culture to history in a way that it can benefit both pop culture and history. I think this was an appropriate way to use history in pop culture. Naming a vessel in a Sci-Fi show after a real vessel seems like a logical thing to do.

Samurai helmet

George Lucas has said in many interviews that his ideas for Star Wars would largely based on his love of Japanese culture and history. There are interviews where he shows how he used the design of a Samurai helmet to make Darth Vader’s helmet. He used a piece of history and culture that he found interesting to create a new universe. His reasoning fell on his own knowledge and interest in Japanese history. I actually learned a lot through this reference to history. As a kid I loved Star Wars. I would watch any interview George Lucas gave did. I even named my dog after Luke Skywalker. In an interview I saw, George expressed his love of Japanese history and how it influenced his designs and ideas for the Imperial Army and the Jedi. Because of that interview, I fully became interested in Japanese history and culture. I learned all about the Way of the Samurai and their history. I think this was a very interesting way to use history to create pop culture. I think that history often finds its way into pop culture.

Septimius Severus

J.K. Rowling used many interesting references in names of her characters. She used many mythological names for her characters. She also used real names like Severus. I believe she used names that had meanings that gave info on the characters. With Severus, she gave insight into the type of man he was and how he would be inside the realm of the story. I think it was a clever way of using history to give insight into a character. After hearing her speak about her characters and also catching certain references on my own, it made me want to further study these historic figures to see why she would use their names in her books. I learned all about Septimius Severus because she used his name in her books. I think this is a good way to use history in pop culture. It creates interest on both sides. You get more insight on the character by looking into the historic figure and you learn about a historic figure because of interest in a pop culture character. It seems like the perfect formula. While this form may not always be perfectly accurate, it does allow you to look into an accurate telling of a historic figure.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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