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Memes and "Hidden" Skyhooks

cr88's picture

 (I wrote this post during an earlier discussion, but I realized I forgot to put it up on Serendip)

In thinking about memes and their origins this week, I couldn't help but think of this particular scene from one of my favorite movies, "The Devil Wears Prada." 

If you haven't seen the movie, Meryl Streep's character, a high-powered fashion editor, sneers at Anne Hathaway's fashion-unconscious character for thinking she is somehow exempt from the workings of the fashion world. Streep explains to Hathaway that the "lumpy blue sweater" she is wearing is "not lapiz, not turquoise, but cerulean blue" and explains that she chose to feature cerulean blue in her magazine a few seasons ago. Through a sort of sartorial "trickle-down" effect, cerulean eventually made its way from the runways to what Streep's character describes as "some tragic casual corner" where Hathaway's character eventually picked it out. Apart from being funny, this scene made me think of how little we are able to trace the origins of fad and fashion. We may believe that we like a certain piece of clothing, or a film, or a song, but isn't this just because someone "higher-up" in whatever industry decided in advance that this was what should become popular? There really do seem to be "Skyhooks" that determine what memes succeed; we simply assume there are not because we can't see them when we insist memes evolve arbitrarily.

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