Cultural references - a discussion

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  1. #1
    Goronda Type Vice-Webmaster Evil Figment's Avatar Vice-Webmaster
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    Default Cultural references - a discussion

    Just something that struck me while I was writing up a new chapter of my latest fanfic, but how do you deal with books, comics, movies et al in your version of the pokémon world?

    I mean, obviously this is not the world as we know it. EVEN Assuming Kanto is part of Japan (which, given the size of real-Kanto (about the size of a small US State), and the time it took Ash to circle it (one year from Viridian to Viridian) is iffy), it's a part of Japan where none of the towns we know of exists and so forth.

    So, it's another world. That would mean the movies are different, etc. That would also means that the cultural references that would make sense in our world (ex : the Pythons, Mozart, Da Vinci, etc), make no sense coming from them.

    However, to create random piece of art and famous figures for them to refer to (and then having to explain each of these figures and piece of art individually) is quite a hurdle, especially when you're only trying for minor details (eg, naming a movie the characters are going to watch, or having a character quote from a random book as a joke). It ruins the whole point of adding those details, because they are meaningless details to tack in.

    So, how do you handle that kind of situation? Do you just cut entirely cultural references? Do you refer to our own culture, regardless? Or do you create your own cultural background to refer to, explaining all of it as needed?

    Personally, I refer to our own culture. The reasoning is a pretty simple "Oh, damn. Even Tolkien did it." (If on a more subtle level). The more specific idea is, yes, I could say they are watching "The Dungeon of Shadows, a famous fantasy movie about a quest to save the world from an evil wizard, a movie that is considered a millstone of fantasy cinema for all it achieved..." - but then, does that really help? The actual name of the movie, the exact story it tells are irrelevant to the character : the relevant bit is that they are watching a milestone fantasy movie. So instead of explaining it all, why not just replace whatever movie THEY would be watching in their world with one that has a similar place in our world (ie, "The Return of the King")?

    It also make it easier with jokes. Sure, you could have them make jokes refering to things in their world, then explain them. It would not be very funny for the reader, though, and it's the reader you are aiming at with your stories. Making references to the famous humor group of their world, "The Jackasses", and then explaining at length why its funny doesn't work for that - it's not funny for a reader. Dropping a famous Python one-liner ("Nobody expects the spanish Inquisition!"), on the other hand, DOES work.

    The important part there, though, is NOT to justify it. You don't have to explain why the characters knows the Python- because he or she doesn't. What he actually said was a reference to something that existed within their world, you as the author replaced with a pythons line to make it easier for the reader to follow the joke.

    Anyhow, how do you guys all feel about it?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mintaka and Hurristat
    He's an evil director / He'll give out infractions / Do something wrong / And he takes direct actions
    Then what'll he do?/ He'll permaban you / You find your name slashed / With a message, 'Adieu'
    Sooooo...watch out!
    "It is said that the federal government, if it was in charge of the Sahara, would run out of sand in five years. Private enterprise, being more efficient, would do it in half the time - and they'd make money off the bridges." - me.
    "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." - Jack Layton's last letter. Rest in peace, Jack.

  2. #2
    v Gone D/P :o Dragonfree's Avatar
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    Hmm, I do a bit of cultural references from our world. But I do justify it - I've made up a whole background story about the animal world (our world) from which humans originally came to the Pokémon world. Normal computers as we know them therefore exist because humans brought them there, along with movies, books, etc. (I mention Lord of the Rings once in relation to an Umbreon nicknamed Ringwraith). Humans then moved over for good when the animal world was destroyed.

    Justifying it is good, in a way, because before the explanation of the animal world, a few reviewers have pointed stuff out and asked "How do they know about this?"

  3. #3
    Goronda Type Vice-Webmaster Evil Figment's Avatar Vice-Webmaster
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    I don't know about that. The readers don't ask you for a justification of the character speaking in english, do they? Yet chances are, unless this is a future world of some sort (and even then, english would have changed and evolved, as languages always do over the centuries), they'd speak an entirely different languages.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mintaka and Hurristat
    He's an evil director / He'll give out infractions / Do something wrong / And he takes direct actions
    Then what'll he do?/ He'll permaban you / You find your name slashed / With a message, 'Adieu'
    Sooooo...watch out!
    "It is said that the federal government, if it was in charge of the Sahara, would run out of sand in five years. Private enterprise, being more efficient, would do it in half the time - and they'd make money off the bridges." - me.
    "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." - Jack Layton's last letter. Rest in peace, Jack.

  4. #4
    yandere=awesome Yamato-san's Avatar
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    something I've seen in quite a few anime (as well as some cartoons) is take an existing license and slightly alter its title and logo. For example, Inuyasha's WcDonald (or whatever it was, been a while since I saw it). In a new series, Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai, I noticed shopping bags that said "GOP", and as for animations from here in the States, Wall-Mart was spelt with two L's in a recent episode of South Park. Of course, these alteration are likely on purpose because they want to avoid copywright infringement or whatever, and since fanfics aren't commercially published, we wouldn't have to worry about such things. Still, it is a fun little quirk and I'm considering using it in my fic at some point (considering how manga-like I try to make it seem).

    Yup, classes again. I'm gonna be at this for a while.

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