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I know from a dramatic standpoint, the use in episodes and movies of the Star Trek Universe of quotes, music, and cultural reference from sources predating the viewer help make legitimate connections to the characters, but from a CANON standpoint, why is it that no one seems interested in anything humanity has developed as a culture since the mid 20th century?

It would seem to me that the most contemporary instance from human culture is "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf as played by Zefram Cochrane. I haven't found any music or art released after the mid 20th century.

Why hasn't there been any popular human musicians, poets, authors, or quotable historical figures?

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    No money => no culture. Artists have no motivation </troll> Oct 24, 2012 at 15:22
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    @DVK: Since when do artists have money? </troll>
    – bitmask
    Oct 24, 2012 at 16:49
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    There are occasional references to various musicians and artists however focusing on them in a show would be pointless since we have no attachment to them.
    – Chad
    Oct 24, 2012 at 16:59
  • Yes, as I said in the question, the use of the, for dramatic effect is clear, but I'm asking if there is ever an in-universe explanation as to why this was done. Oct 24, 2012 at 17:08
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    I meant "most recent" in reference to Steppenwolf, Not Zefram. Edited for clarity. Oct 25, 2012 at 14:22

4 Answers 4

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I wouldn't say so. There's a few of them in the future:

There's three things you also have to remember, that make it seem like human culture is stagnating when it really isn't:

  • The old works - like Shakespeare - are so ingrained in our culture that they're not going to go away any time soon.
  • Upon becoming spacefaring, we would start to get inundated with non-human culture. If you look at the list on Memory Alpha, there's a lot of Bajoran, Vulcan, Klingon, even Cardassian art/music/literature known to us. The best of their works that humans have imported have simply crowded out the great-but-not-quite-best of the new human art/music/literature.
  • Like with Crusher and Frame of Mind, a lot of humans no longer simply indulge in existing works, and want to put some level of creative effort into their entertainment. Besides the prevalence and popularity of holodecks, it's also why theatre is so popular.

Oh, and if the Klingons General Chang (who quotes Shakespeare) and Chancellor Gorkon (who makes the claim) are to be taken seriously, then Shakespeare's works are also originally Klingon. They were just imported to human culture as well...

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    Now THAT is a constructive answer! Why was this Question closed? That's what I was looking for! Bravo! Oct 25, 2012 at 14:07
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Izkata's answer is the most important here: there are many references to Human-led events and cultural works between now and the period in which Star Trek is set. But I'd also like to add that, from the perspective of the characters on the show, the distinction might not be as important as it seems to us. Remember that Humanity is now just one race among many in the Federation: there may not be as strong a distinction between "Human" culture and Federation culture at large.

Imagine a citizen of Richmond from the 1700s looking at modern American culture and exclaiming, "what happened to the culture of Virginia? No one ever talks about the achievements of Virginians, or of the great artistic works coming from Virginia! Do Virginians not have any culture at all anymore?"

It's not that such a person would be right or wrong, it's that modern American culture is simply more homogenized than the question assumes: an author or musician from Virginia today might move to New York or California after college without a second thought, and will generally just be referred to as "American." Specific genres or styles may be associated with certain regions, but generally artists of the 21st century aren't strongly associated with their home states. (Hell, many Canadian actors and performers go their whole lives with their audiences not even realizing what country they come from!)

Similarly, "Human" culture in the 24th century might not be terribly distinguishable from Federation culture in general, and the crew of the Enterprise may not see any reason to make that distinction. Undoubtedly there are still great Human artists, but just as a list of Country music singers today might casually omit any Texans, a list of great Federation artists might casually omit any Humans.

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  • This seems to be an excellent answer to a different question. Apr 29, 2016 at 22:16
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A close friend of mine developed the hypothesis that artists are integral to Federation design; new art is in constant evidence in their furniture, buildings, fashion, and engineering design. The hypothesis is artists are tapped early and fundamental to the Federation, as evidenced by frequent design changes.

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It seems that while there are "art colonies" in the Federation few people are really producing anything original in comparison to past ages. Only once in a while does something like "Photons be Free" seem to come along to shake things up and that was created by The Doctor, a holographic character. There also seems to be no contemporary popular music except in non-human cultures. Humans seem to listen mostly to jazz and classical music, there's little to no mention of rock and roll, for example, except when in reference to past eras or visits to the past. What do teenagers listen to? Even kids in the future are going to rebel at some point (although there is "Klingon heavy metal" and Talarian music which sounds like early 90s hard rock).

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  • It's an era where anyone can have a garage band and anyone can listen. But there are no major record labels and a billion garages. Fame is fleeting but anyone can be famous for a minute. Aug 21, 2021 at 6:08

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