Monday, June 3, 2013

How Does Pop Culture Treat the Home?

I'm in the process of moving out of my apartment right now, and I'm a bit sad to leave my little craphole. It's been a great home for me the past four years, even though it currently looks like this:

Note: The second photo is exactly how it looked when I walked in from work this afternoon. My clothes didn't dry properly at the laundromat last night, so I figured the best course of action was to spread them out all over the kitchen floor. It worked.

The point is, I no longer see my apartment as a crash-pad but as a true home. Kavanaugh had similar thoughts about leaving his apartment a few months ago, and even threw in Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" for good measure.

It got me thinking about the best pop-culture references to the home. Here they are, broken down by type of pop culture.


The living spaces in movies and TV shows can usually be categorized as either "Home" or "Not a Home," so that's how we'll do it here.

The first two installments of the Home Alone series (the only two that count) featured little Kevin in houses that could aptly be called homes. In the first movie, as he prepares to take on the burglars, Kevin says, "This is my house, I have to defend it." Meanwhile, in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin is obviously not in his own house, but he knows his uncle's home well enough to foil two criminal geniuses, the Wet Bandits.

Homeward Bound is a great story about going home, and I defy you to hold back tears when Shadow comes running onscreen at the end.

Not a Home
As much as it pains me to say it, the Delta House in Animal House ss absolutely not a home. The reason: Frat houses are not homes. I wasn't even part of a fraternity, and my college house was beyond disgusting. We had a poster in the bathroom that said "JEFF GOLDBLUM IS WATCHING YOU POOP" that actually had poop on it one day. Not very homey.

Decorations like these keep frat houses from garnering "Home" status.
Another house that wasn't quite a home? Norman Bates' abode in the 1960 thriller Psycho. (That's right, 1960. Fifty-three years ago. Nobody does outdated pop culture references like How Blank does.)


In Home Improvement, the Taylor residence was a cozy home despite Tim the Toolman's constant efforts to destroy it. Other true homes include the fictional houses of the Brady, Cleaver, and Matthews families. 

Not a Home
The New Mexico dwelling of the White family (The White House?) in Breaking Bad is pretty ugly, but that's the least of its problems. The house is not a home because of the toxic relationship between Walt and Skyler. Similarly, the family house in Shameless cannot become a home because the father (played by William H. Macy) is such a negligent drunk.

The obvious song that comes to mind is Phillip Phillips' catchy current hit "Home," with the lyrics that you'll have caught in your head the rest of the day: "Just know you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna make this place your hoooome."

Some of my favorite older songs about the home are "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd; and "Home on the Range" by any class of kindergarteners.

Rappers, meanwhile, often choose to represent their hometowns. Jay-Z took his name from the two trains in his Brooklyn neighborhood, the J Train and the Z Train. Nelly's group, St. Lunatics, obviously reps its city pretty hard with songs like "Midwest Swing." And N.W.A. sings about coming "Straight Outta Compton."

Literature is not exactly "popular" culture anymore, but it still deserves a mention because of all the literary references to the home. Most people of my generation don't know that the aforementioned Homeward Bound was based on a book called The Incredible Journey. The animals' names weren't Chance, Sassy, and Shadow, but the story has actually been around since Sheila Burnford wrote it way back in 1961.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a lot about the home, albeit very unpleasantly. In The Tell-Tale Heart, a man buries his murder victim under the floorboards. In The Fall of the House of Usher, lightning splinters the home in two. And in one of my favorite stories, The Cask of Amontillado, a man chains his drunk friend in his wine cellar before entombing him brick by brick.
Poe must have been a riot to hang out with, huh? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have invited him into my home.

Finally, two famous literary characters, both orphans -- Annie and Oliver -- live in very different homes. Annie is adopted by Daddy Warbucks and lives out her days in a mansion, while Oliver spends most of his time in an orphanage before being sold off.*

My buddy Terry, whose family had more money than mine, once saw the movie Oliver on my parents' living-room shelf and delivered one of the funniest lines I've ever heard. Terry deadpanned, "Oh, Oliver. So, poor people watch movies about ... other poor people?"


In sports, there are many references to home. Baseball has the home run, golf has the clubhouse, and poker has the full house.

But nothing in athletics comes as close to the point of this post as home-court, home-field, or home-ice advantage. In international soccer, it's so difficult to score on the road that "Away Goals" is a tiebreaker in a tied series.

It's like the guy says in the Under Armour ads:

Some of the best home-stadium advantages in sports are Lambeau Field; CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks; the Golden State Warriors' Oracle Arena; Madison Square Garden; Joe Louis Arena; and tons of college stadiums, including Texas A&M's Kyle Field, Oregon's Autzen Stadium, Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium, LSU's Tiger Stadium, Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Notre Dame's Joyce Center. I know I left a bunch out, but that's the point. It's difficult for opponents to play anywhere on the road. (Well, except against the Miami Marlins this year.)


I stay using slang all day, e'ry day. I been wrote a post about it.

An oldie-but-goodie slang term for the home is "pad," but lately kids have been saying "crib." A good slang term for a buddy is "homeslice."

As you can see, the home penetrates all aspects of pop culture. And I only scratched the surface here. I'm done for the evening, though. After all, I have only a few more nights to enjoy this home before I have to start turning my next apartment into a home.


  1. I really like this post, especially because it's what I'm studying right now, and also especially because of how you've determined what counts as a home. Well, maybe some of these houses could be a home to these characters, but I totally agree that they don't deserve to call it a home.

    If you trash your frat house and assume that the pledge brothers will pick up after you, no home (maybe this is why it's a frat/sorority "house," and then conscientious old people get to live in a nursing "home"). I also think it's funny to read that scene in "The Cask of Amontillado" like some kind of weird home-making moment.

    Why am I writing such a long comment here? Why do I feel so much at home here? Sorry if it's getting weird.

    More Homes:
    I've gotta mention Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. 250 years in a creepy, ghosty home, plus there's witches and fat mean Judge. And there's a monkey, but that has nothing to do with homes.

    Modern Family's got some pretty sweet homes, and The Simpsons has done everything, so they did a home in that show too and they did it real good.

    Randy Newman's "Birmingham" is legit. Home, family, dog, and a big backyard with a pepper tree.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Matty. I agree that Modern Family and The Simpsons have hilarious depictions of the home. If you read this blog enough, you'll find that I rarely miss a chance to reference The Simpsons. You caught me, though.
    One more thing: There's no way most nursing "homes" count as homes. Have you been in one of those places? Every time my mom did something nice for me when I was a kid, she'd say, "Don't thank me. Just promise you won't put me in a home."