Aging Pop Culture: Does popular culture have a sell-by date?

Recently I feel like I've travelled back in a time machine. The Harry Potter craze has taken hold (did it ever really go away?), Pokemon is popular again, and I've been reading The Princess Diaries books. Looking at clothes in shops currently, I could quite easily put together an outfit that my mum would have worn when I was a kid. This whole 90/00s feel has been around for a while - I remember a few years ago actually debating whether to buy a pair of jelly shoes (I thankfully didn't waste my money).

Popular culture seems to be so fond of nostalgia. Already the "millennial" generation (urgh, still kind of hate that phrase) seems to spend a lot of time looking back at memories from their past, in a way that makes us seem like old grandparents in their armchairs talking about the Blitz. But I wonder, does pop culture have a sell by date? At what point does it stop being trendy and start becoming dated?

My inspiration for this blog post came from reading The Princess Diaries. Obviously I'm a little bit old to be reading a middle-grade book, but I've recently finished Book 6 and I can't help but wonder whether these books are still popular with its intended audience today? I don't actually know any tweens so am unable to ask one for feedback, but I still see the Princess Diaries books in the teen section of Waterstones and the Disney movie is still a classic.
But I can't help but find the pop culture references in the books to be dated. I wonder whether a 12 year old today would read about Mia using dial up internet; her lucky Queen Amidala knickers; her constant references to Britney (is a 12 year old going to know about her kiss with Madonna?) and really truly understand what Mia means? For me, I read it and go "ahh I remember when that happened" but I feel like a tween today would read this and it feel the same as I do when I watch movies set in the 70s and 80s. Is The Princess Diaries that epistolary novel that encapsulates what it's like to be a 15 year old girl (who happens to be princess of Genovia)? Or is it an epistolary novel that encapsulates what it was like to grow up in the early 2000s? I'm starting to think the latter. Mia lacks relatability to modern-day teenagers - the situations remain the same but the context is way off. For me, it seems like in the future the books will become a time capsule for life in its time period, much like some older books would. It cannot be a timeless piece of literature, because it is firmly set within a specific period.

Another series of books that are up for debate are the Harry Potter series. I'd personally argue that these are timeless and do not set themselves in the time in which they are set (the 1990s), mostly due to the fact that they do not take place in the 'muggle' world. But my boyfriend disagrees. He's currently reading them and argues that the dialogue dates it. I suppose this is the case in the films - I haven't said 'wicked' since I was about 12 - but feel as though the books are still relevant to kids today. Yes, the biggest 'Potterheads' are aged about 18 to 35, but Rowling is still gaining readers at a steady pace. They may have grown up on the movies, but children's sections in bookshops still have HP taking pride of place. You still have little kids going around the Leavesden Studios tour donned in Hogwarts robes and fake glasses. Harry Potter doesn't rely on pop culture, it creates pop culture.

I love it when media shows an awareness of the culture around it. I love the references to movies, tv and books in The Princess Diaries. And look at Gilmore Girls - Lorelai can barely utter a line without making a joke referencing something. People complain that The Simpsons relies too heavily on pop culture references these days, but so do the earlier seasons - we just didn't get them back then because we were young (or they were too US-centric for us Brits to understand). But both Gilmore Girls and old episodes of The Simpsons are still well loved today. The references that seem to have become dated might not remain so in the future. Pop culture has come full circle - with the release of the new Star Wars films, Mia's Queen Amidala knickers might not seem so weird and geeky anymore. The younger generations might see what we thought was cool back then (damn I miss my Nokia 3510i with its polyphonic version of Toxic by Britney as my ringtone) and have it become popular again, but in a 'retro' way.

Let's face it guys - we're getting old.

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