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Friday cannon fodder: cultural gaps

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Empire State Building Celebrates 30th Anniversary Of “The Simpsons”
The Simpsons is popular enough that the Empire State building celebrated the show’s 30th anniversary.
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

If that title made any of you nervous that today’s CF might be headed in a too-serious direction, don’t worry. I’m not going to wax poetic about the differences between cultures and then come to some kumbaya moment. Instead, I’m going to admit to things that when people find them out, their usual reaction is along the lines of “no way” or “I can’t believe that.”

I have some glaringly large gaps in my cultural knowledge. I’m sure I have more than the two I’m about to divulge, but these two jumped to mind and stick out like sore thumbs.

I’ve never seen the movie Titanic, and I’ve never watched an episode of The Simpsons.

If those don’t strike you as quite as monumental as I set them up to be, consider this: a FiveThirtyEight poll (yes, self-selecting a bit, I know) found that 85% of respondents had seen Titanic. Compare that to the just 59% of respondents to a Gallup poll that identified as sports fans. Almost everyone has seen Titanic.

My Simpsons revelation is probably a bit less surprising. I don’t think The Simpsons has anywhere near the same level of cultural penetration as Titanic. That said, I would describe myself as “very online,” and The Simpsons strikes me as the type of TV show someone familiar with online culture, memes, etc. would have seen. My understanding is that the jokes and bits on The Simpsons were the pre-internet equivalent of online culture. Seems like my kind of thing.

So what cultural phenomenon did you miss out on? What famous TV show / movie have you never seen? Famous band you’ve never properly listened to? Classic novel you’ve never read? Don’t be shy. Embarrass yourself. Shock us with your cultural gaps.