I can’t remember how it started but I can’t seem to stop it now.
Every time I watch a movie or a TV show I think about what could be the earliest time one could premiere this without destroying the pop culture references.
I am not talking about stylistic means, I am talking about visual or textual references to the real world or other movies/shows.
To make an easy example: In the opening of Dirty Dancing baby makes a reference to JFK’s murder. Thus you couldn’t premiere this film before 1964 without making that comment a un-funny aneurysm.
Yesterday evening I watched Kill Bill Vol.1 and apart from the indirect references to eastern movies in general (and to Hattori Hanzo) there were two references that stood out: The owner of the restaurant is referred to as “Charlie Brown” and Sophie looks like a “villain from Star Trek” with ST being the later time anchor (Charlie Brown strips have been around since the 50s).
Interestingly there are only a few main anchors that pop up all the time: Fixed anchors like JFK’s murder, the moon landing in 1969 and it recent movies 9/11 and variable anchors like Star Trek and Star Wars. The latter ones are variable because if I can move a movie back in time I surely can move the referenced movie, too.
Luckily both Stars are basically endpoints, especially Star Wars. Since it plays in a galaxy far, far away it does not contain textual references to our real world and can be moved back in time to the dawn of cinema. Star Trek makes historical references to the 2nd World War and the Chicago of the thirties but I tend to play that game only until the beginning of the 50s.
The more references a movie/series uses the more fun it is to think about but the more likely it is that it will be “anchored in time”. To move Buffy as a whole back in time is a sheer improbability even if you accept to lose a third of the references. So I break it down to an episode level (so when Spike mentions that he fed of a flower person, it makes Woodstock the fixed anchor for that episode).
Once I’ve established the earliest premiere date I try to imagine how the movie would look like in the eyes of that year’s people. For example, premiere Back to the Future in the actual year 1955. That would work since people would assume that Marty’s car and the music and everything from the “future 1985” were invented by a writer. Like the same writers imagined a year 2015 with hover cars and a holographic Jaws movie.
Although there is a reference to a “John F. Kennedy drive” it mentions nothing specific and JFK was already a senator at that time, so that wouldn’t be a problem.
This way my mind keeps active even if I have seen that movie several times. Imagine Top Gun in the early 50s where the US military was testing their first jet engines. Imagine Armageddon (with all its special effects) shortly after the founding of NASA (although that would be prevented by the actual naming of Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon -> fixed anchor; Armageddon also mentions Star Wars (several times), the Kennedy murder, Evel Knievel and some other things which have to be taken into consideration).
Somehow it can be a lot of fun.