What cultural icons from our era will be considered classics in 50 years?

Here and Now

In post-War American culture, it’s relatively easy to identify some of the classics that retain enduring value years after they were first introduced.

The Beatles, I Love Lucy and The Catcher in the Rye were all created decades ago, and yet they’re still well-known to teens and twenty-somethings today.

And yet, as the Internet allows for ever-increasing personalization and allows like-thinking individuals to find and connect with each other, is it possible the notion of a classic — something that really unites a generations and transcends time — is going to go out the window.

Maybe. And Maybe not.

Slate recently offered up some nominations for what it thinks are cultural icons and trends that could still be known decades from now.

John Swansburg, culture editor at Slate, said it’s never been easy to know what a classic is. He cited Moby Dick, which languished for 50 years before anyone discovered it.

“We’ve always been bad at knowing what our own classics are,” he said. “But it’s hard to know 50 years from now what our definition of a classic will be.”

Swansburg said that the proliferation of music today, and its fractiousness, makes it hard to predict why and whether any one pop song will endure.

In nominating “I Gotta Feeling,” Swansburg said he chose it because it likely will have been played in every wedding and Bar Mitzvah from now to eternity.

“It’s not going away. It’s such a fun song to dance to. It is so relentlessly positive that you want to hear it when you get together with your family and are dancing,” he said.

As for “The Star Wars Kid,” it was one of the very first viral videos — a new artform from the past 10 years.

“We chose Star Wars kid because it was an early example of that and because it showed the good and the bad of that,” Swansburg said.

While, on the one hand, it made the star of the video famous. On the other hand, he was made fun of and persecuted by hateful comments.

“That sort of encapsulates the viral video experience,” Swansburg said.

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