|For those who don't know - this is Bob Hope|
"Who's Bob Hope? she asked, with a forceful lunge toward the front row seating where the teachers sat twitching expectantly. "Was he a politician?" said one of the teachers, in a loud but not entirely confident voice. "A scientist!" said another, as if it were a revelation.Although the audience shrieked with laughter, my first response was one of profound and disturbing shock...how could anyone not know who Bob Hope was? I mean Bob Hope! The man was positively an icon, whose presence was ubiquitous for a large part of the last century. Hadn't they seen any On the Road movies? It was I suppose, my first really painful realization of the great and inevitable divide between a shrinking older world and a new rising one, to whom vast chunks of 20th century culture mean little.
Lest we Forget
The divide stretches way beyond popular culture and Bob Hope, bless his gold golf sticks. Since that disturbing evening with Lucy, I've now learnt that significant numbers of teens don't know who Adolf Hitler is - as much as 20% according to some studies. Some at least, have heard of Charlie Chaplin, since they apparently confused him with Hitler. This of course, is more than just an age/culture divide. Such a result suggests glaring omissions in our education system. Doesn't history figure anymore? I wonder if they know who Winston Churchill is, or rather, was?
As far as age and popular culture goes, maybe the young folk don't even know who John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix are, or were and I suppose it's hopeless to ask if they've heard of Lucille Ball, Orson Welles or the Marx Bros.? And why should they? I only do because I've spent the bulk of my life so far in the 20th century and watch a lot of old black and white TV. I am getting older but I'm not quite a contemporary of Groucho. No, the world moves on, creating new icons and cultural memories.
It's funny..or not so funny, to consider that when we're young, there's a whole big group of people ahead of us who are a mine of information about a great many things but as we grow older that group starts to shrink, until eventually, if we live long enough, there's hardly anyone ahead of us and a whole big group behind who don't know much. Ah but if I keep going along this vein, I'll begin to depress myself.