ABSTRACT

Can you name all of Brad and Angelina’s kids? President John F. Kennedy’s siblings? The sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women? Jacob’s sons from the Old Testament? My guess is the first question is easiest for most readers coming of age in the twenty-first century, whether we are actually interested in knowing the Jolie-Pitt children’s names or not. After all, you don’t have to try very hard to hear them mentioned in celebrity gossip or fan magazines that feature their pictures. Television, magazines, and the Internet help us much more with the first question than the others. The other questions require us to draw on knowledge of history, literature, and the Bible, information that is not circulating as freely and rapidly as information about contemporary popular culture. I admit that my ability to name any of Jacob’s sons is solely based on memories of the play Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Is popular culture turning us into a nation of shallow idiots?