Selected Strange and Unintended Consequences of Pop Culture Trends


As writers of television, films, and books tend to find out, you can’t control what people do with the stories you create. Once you release them to the general public, fans tend to grab hold of aspects of your work that you least expected, cruising right past the message to embrace, say, the cool gadgets or fashion, or even something that has literally nothing to do with the stories themselves. We imagine, for example, that with Brave, The Hunger Games, and The Avengers all premiering within a few months of each other, there are going to be a whole lot of kids signing up for archery lessons at summer camp this year, and we can bet Suzanne Collins wasn’t thinking about that at all while writing a series of novels about kids murdering each other. We’ve compiled a few weird unintended — and often fairly disastrous — real-life fads inspired by hit pop culture franchises. Let us know if you can think of any more (although, honestly, maybe we don’t want to know).

The Harry Potter series left hundreds of owls homeless

You know how every January there’s always an incredibly sad news piece about all the puppies and kittens that were adopted as Christmas presents and then promptly abandoned when they started to poop everywhere? Imagine that, but with owls, and over the course of ten years. Now you understand what J.K. Rowling hath wrought. Bird sanctuaries all over Great Britain are filling up with domestic owls because apparently now that there are no more movies in the works, everyone is bored with their hooting, non-letter-carrying pets. Let’s hope no one decides to take a cue from the actual Harry Potter story and gets their arch enemy to kill their owl while soaring over London in a flying motorcycle.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles left thousands of turtles homeless

You know what’s even worse than a bunch of people deciding getting an owl is a good idea because they saw one in a movie? A bunch of people deciding that getting a turtle is a good idea because they saw one in a cartoon. At least you could imagine that you might be able to train an owl to get your mail, but a real turtle is never going to jump up and demand pizza from you. That didn’t stop so many people in the UK from getting turtles in the ’90s that their rivers, lakes, and sewers were flooded with them, though.

The success of The Hunger Games movie is destroying the television industry

Going back to Suzanne Collins’ dystopic series, the national televising and mandatory viewing of a bunch of children killing one another as entertainment makes for a pretty obvious condemnation of reality TV, doesn’t it? But according to Reuters, “The success with which The Hunger Games film harnessed social networks[…] underscores a growing threat to billions of dollars in movie-advertising revenue on which broadcasters rely.” In other words, Lionsgate did most of their promotion through Twitter and Facebook instead of buying out blocks of TV programming, and if that continues to become a trend, networks are going to lose more and more money. And what do networks do when they’re losing money? They fire Dan Harmon and greenlight a few more hours of reality TV. Whoops.

The ultra-chaste Twilight Saga introduced BDSM to the masses

Well, indirectly, at least. Though Bella and her vampire boyfriend, Edward, don’t get their “freak” on until after they’re married (and even then it’s far from freaky, save for the fangs), their story captured the imagination of many a fan-fiction author, including one E.L. James, who was inspired to write 50 Shades of Grey. Never mind that she knows nothing about the actual BDSM community and gets alm0st everything wrong! The book’s taken the country by storm for reasons no one can entirely explain, and has completely eclipsed (see what we did there?) the wait-until-you’re-married attitude that Twilight author Stephanie Meyer was trying to instill.

Science fiction stories about evil cyborgs make scientist want to be a cyborg

You’d think all the cautionary tales about relying too much on machines would deter someone from wanting to be a machine without a good reason. There’s the Borg, there are terminators, there are Cylons, there’s the Matrix, and apparently none of that has deterred scientist Kevin Warwick, who decided to become the first “human cyborg” by implanting a microchip into his nervous system that reacts to nearby electrical fields. Why? Because it’s cool, we guess — but considering that he apparently also owns a Dalek (an evil cyborg alien, for those who aren’t versed in the ways of Doctor Who), he’s got to have something nefarious brewing. Children, Daleks are not role models. They have plungers and whisks for hands, and they’re kind of psychopathic.