Cultural Diversity and Giftedness in Pop Culture
  • Historical examples of geniuses facing prejudice:
    • Antonin Dvorak, the Czech composer famous for his Ninth Symphony, “From the New World,” had trouble receiving recognition from the mainstream music community in late-1800s Vienna because he was Bohemian. Brahms advocated for him with publishers, who resorted to calling him “Anton” instead of “Antonin” to make him sound more German.
    • Just a few decades prior to this, it was considered improper to write instructions for musical expression in languages other than Italian. Beethoven was one of the first composers of note to have his scores published utilizing German terms.
    • A century prior to this, Italian composer Giovanni Battista Lulli changed his name to Jean-Baptiste de Lully so that he could earn a living as a musician in what was considered to be the more refined French style.
    • Meanwhile, German-born Handle became the world’s greatest composer of English oratorio despite the fact that he never learned to speak English.
    • The officials at EMI Studios in London found the Beatles’ Liverpudlian accents to be uncouth.
    • Many of his contemporaries considered Jesus of Nazareth to be unfit as a messianic candidate simply because of his hometown.
    • Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing,” was unable to tour in the South because he was the first big band leader to integrate his band. Meanwhile, because he was Jewish, his records were marketed in Germany during the 1930s as being by Gene Krupa, his drummer.
    • Louie Armstrong faced racial tension from both Caucasians and African-Americans. The former felt he was too progressive, while the latter were uncomfortable with his image.
  • Science fiction and fantasy:
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien explores the idea of a non-dominant race, the Hobbits, finding themselves at the center of the War of the Ring because they have special talents that the dominant groups do not possess.
    • In the X-Men comic book series, the heroes are students of a “school for the gifted” because they have mutant powers that cause them to be ostracized by mainstream humanity.
    • In the classic “Star Wars” trilogy, the Empire is characterized as a xenophobic technophile dictatorship whose demise is largely brought about through contact with a tribal race of non-humans (the Ewoks).
    • Also in “Star Wars,” much of the plot develops as a result of the machinations of a pair of automatons (C-3PO and R2-D2) who are considered to be little more than non-sentient appliances by both the Imperial and the Alliance governments.
    • In the Harry Potter series, both Harry and Hermione face serious racism as a result of their non-wizard bloodlines.
  • Songs dealing with diversity:
    • “Everyday People” Sly and the Family Stone
    • “We Are the World” Various
    • “People Are People” Depeche Mode
    • “Black or White” Michael Jackson
    • “Pride (In the Name of Love)” U2
    • “America” from West Side Story Leonard Bernstein
    • “Colored People” DC Talk
    • “In the Ghetto” Elvis Presley
    • “Working Class Hero” John Lennon
    • “Ebony and Ivory” Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
    • “Bein’ Green” Kermit the Frog
    • “Strange Fruit” Billie Holiday
    • “Cry Freedom” Dave Matthews Band