Today is my birthday, which has put me in a nostalgic mood. In fact, I have just been thinking how much of our personalities and interests must be shaped when we are very young. Certainly family, community, and environment play pivotal roles in shaping who we are, but I think in the modern world pop culture plays a role as well. I need look no further than myself for an example.
In fact, I think the years 1966 to 1968 were pretty important for me. I was about three to five years old at this time, so I was finally able to form long term memories. And I remember various pop culture artefacts from that time. And looking back, I think they did play a large role in shaping me. I need look no further than television. When I turned three years old the most popular show on television was probably Batman. The United States was in the grip of Batmania at the time. If adults couldn't resist its lure, how could a three year old? I took to Batman as most children would. And while it was clearly a parody of the character and not the original, Dark Knight of the comic books, it did serve as an introduction to the character. It also introduced me to comic books. I have been both a comic book fan and a Batman fan all my life. Indeed, in a roundabout way Batman led me to become a writer. While very young I decided I wanted to write my own comic books. I even created my own superheroes. Eventually I would write fiction and eventually shift to nonfiction. It's then largely because of Batman, then, that I am a writer.
Of course, there were other shows on the air at that time. Underdog heightened my interest in superheroes, as did the numerous other superhero cartoons that aired at the time. On Saturday mornings the old Warner Brothers shorts would engender an interest in classic animation in a way that I bet Pokemon never has. Given that I was born in raised in Missouri, I would have probably developed an interest in the Old West anyhow (we were home, after all, to Jesse James), but Westerns such as Bonanza probably encouraged it. Both the United States and the United Kingdom were in the middle of a spy craze at the time, so television was filled with shows such as The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Wild Wild West. I then naturally developed an interest in spy dramas and espionage.
At that time American television was also dominated by what Sherwood Schwartz termed imaginative comedies. This was the era of Gilligan's Island, Bewitched, The Addams Family, and The Monkees. There were also sci-fi shows on the air, then, most notably Star Trek. If I developed a taste for fantasy. In fact, the earliest movie I can remember watching all the way through was an fantasy movie on TV--Jason and the Argonauts
Of course, television wasn't the only pop culture influence in my life. Even if I hadn't watched The Monkees and The Beatles cartoon loyally, I would have probably been a power pop fan. This was the era of the British Invasion, when music by The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, and other bands from England filled radio airwaves. Early power pop would give way to psychedelia which would give way to heavy metal, again influencing my tastes in music. I rather suspect my choice in music was developed very early.
That is not to say all of my interests developed so early. My ex-brother in law and my friend Al would introduce me to Doc Savage and the world of pulp magazines when I was about eight. And I wouldn't develop a real interest in medieval history until a little later. But it does seem to be that so much of what interests me developed when I was very young, when I was between three and five years old.