Anyone who watches Family Guy, or really any show Seth MacFarlane is involved with, knows that he and the writers have a passion not only for non-sequitor flashbacks and cutaways, but also pop culture references both ubiquitous and obscure. It’s one of the things you either love or hate about his style. I, for one, love it.
While there’s much to dislike about the now (in)famous cultural vegetables article in the New York Times, one very salient point that was made in it was in discussing Phineas and Ferb and how the writer’s niece would laugh at jokes she couldn’t understand because she had an inherent understanding of the comedic rhythm employed. I can relate to that because I used to do that. I’d laugh because something sounded funny or silly, then later when I’d learned what the reference meant or where it was drawn from that made it better.
Another thing that can be seen as useful about material so drenched in pop culture references is that it does bring things back to the fore. Every so often a movie, song or TV show will resurge in popularity. At times, it’s rather random, at others there is a catalyst-reference in another film.
Having seen a few Flash Gordon serials I was always curious to see the feature film version, but I never had until just after seeing Ted.
I was also one who either sought out older shows and music, but also had a lot of things introduced to me by my parents. If some kids are disinclined to be culturally indoctrinated in any way, shape or form a film like this; if parents approve of course, could create talking points. I know I already explained to a younger friend the significance and the funniness of the Teddy Ruxpin joke.
The more instantaneous, in many ways, the world gets the more important it can be to recall certain touchstones of the past regardless of what the subject. Whether it be something meaningful like the significance of the Berlin Wall coming down or who’s Tom Skerrit.
Time is a continuum not a vacuum, creating art in a vacuum can be a precarious, needless to say many artists do watch, read and listen to other artists in bygone eras, and whether consciously or unconsciously that exposure influences what is created now. However, literal referencing of said artistic influence, no matter how great or small, underlines a specific figure or work in the past that someone can glean something from.
Therein lies the significance of noting it. Rather than tirelessly discuss each reference I caught, I’ll list them below. A few of them added thanks to that same friend who saw it quite a few times more than me.
Pop Culture References in Ted:
Family Guy cast members
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Belinda Carlisle video
Tintin (Destination Moon)
Saturday Night Fever flashback
Peter Griffin (References as character in dialogue)
“This is art.”
Veiled North by Northwest chase
Ted Is Captured / Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Flash’s Theme – Queen
Only Wanna Be With You – Hootie And The Blowfish
Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
All Time High (From The Motion Picture Octopussy) – Rita Coolidge
I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany
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