I've finished reading the revised edition of The President's Daughter, by Ellen Emerson White (and yes, I did read the two side by side the whole time - which is a bit awkward.) The experience left me wondering about mentioning any current popular things by name. Now we could all be so lucky to have our work still being read 25 years later - and find these kind of changes necessary - but is it worth it to mention hip and trendy things that a few years later might make your work seem out of date?
Some of the references that Ellen Emerson White had to change (that were all perfectly understandable in 1984)
Tab - changed to Coke
Old Time Rock and Roll
Tom Cruise imitation (a la Risky Business)
Stray Cat Strut
Meet the Press with David Brinkley
"set the record to the right song"
TV references to Hill Street Blues and the Brady Bunch are changed to watching the shows on DVD
TV references to the Bionic Woman, Bewitched and Gilligan's Island and a reference to UHF are eliminated.
"soaking in Palmolive" - taken out, since the commercial reference is now obscure.
And the list goes on and on.
When I first read this one of the things I really enjoyed were all of the pop culture references that I did get. To me it just showed a book reality that existed in the same reality I lived in.
But clearly if this is to be presented as a book with a modern sixteen year old girl as the main character these things had to change. Ellen Emerson White was fortunate to have the chance to update the series and give it renewed life.
It still leaves me wondering - how much pop culture is too much to put into a story? Is it better to make up the names of TV shows and bands in order to not run the risk of the pop hero you put in the story ending up in jail before the story is published? Or is it better to be hip and mention things that your audience will recognize and enjoy getting the connection between the book world and the real world?
I once wrote a story that had my characters going to the Berlin Wall. At the time it seemed impossible that a time would come when it didn't exist. But a few years later it was torn down.
I suppose it's impossible to know all the things that will one day date your story.