URBAN LEGENDS Generally speaking, an urban legend is any modern, fictional story, told as truth that reaches a wide audience by being passed from person to person. Urban legends are often false, but not always. A few turn out to be largely true, and a lot of them were inspired by an actual event but evolved into something different in their passage from person to person. More often than not, it isn’t possible to trace an urban legend back to its original source–they seem to come from nowhere. (Harris, Tom).
Rightly so, Harris aptly defines urban legends.
This paper argues that urban legends are here to stay and evolve because like real life forms, they adapt to the culture and the environment as well as to the people within that environment–including their beliefs, values, fears, hopes, dreams, even phobias, confirming to one and all that urban legends are part of all cultures and societies. From 1776 on, the myths and legends have been called upon to explain American institutions and identity. There was a need to properly explain the views of the people about the myths and its relationship with a spiritual power. At that time, the American Revolution occurred at a time in which nearly all white Americans considered themselves Christians. The central concept of liberty was not a religious and a political term (Yancey, David, 2000).
Today, urban legends abound in society and continue to Are urban legends spread more easily now that electronic communication tools are readily available? The Internet technology, like most technologies, has changed drastically in the last few years. Arcades may look much the same on the surface as they did a decade or two ago, but the games have become far more violent, sophisticated and addictive.
Secondhand stories about something horrific, iconic, or even magical, that are told to us in a way that makes them very believable, even though the contents of the stories may not truly be backed with any tangible proof. Urban legends tend to capture our imaginations. In his essay, which was first published in the Los Angeles Times in 1995, Neal Gabler presents the question as to “why are we so ...
When one visits an Internet arcade, it is not surprising to see children playing and shooting at things that look like real weapons. (Funk. Jeanne 1993).
Young people are not the only ones victimized by the modern day legends. One of the more famous Internet email legends was that one on the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe. Combining all the ingredients that make it an interesting and realistic story, the email portrays a mother and daughter eating at a Neiman Marcus cookie store. They eat the cookies and enjoy it immensely such that the mother asks for the recipe.
She is told that she can buy it for two-fifty. She is shocked to find that she is charged on her credit card $250 instead of $2.50. The company does not refund her money claiming that their product is highly valued and cannot be distributed cheaply. The mother exacts vengeance by distributing the recipe freely over the Internet and even encourages everyone to send it to everyone they know (Urban Legends and the Internet).
However, in truth, this recipe does not produce the same kind as those sold at Neiman Marcus. In fact, when this was circulated, there were no chocolate cookies sold at Neiman Marcus.
Upon discovery, this story has been around since the 1940s (Urban Legends and the Internet).
Indeed, this just goes to show that urban legends are here to stay and will continue to flourish, especially with the presence of the technology such as the Internet. Are there connections, patterns, similarities between urban legends that thrive? Urban legends that thrive often are extensions of the way the people in that culture lives. More often than not, if an urban legend involves a story where most people are afraid of, it will spread fast. Moreover, those that involve what most people believe in also stay and remain in that culture for a long time. Indeed, legends evolve as the culture of that country evolves. There are new ones added and old ones modified as it is transferred over time.
Most of these are the ones connected to a nations values and religious beliefs. Even during earlier times, the white Americans constructed stories of self-creation in which the mythic status of the stories was effaced, so that they are widely taken to be factual accounts. For example, the Native-American self-conception was inseparable from the first creation of the world. (Ortiz, Roxanne, 1997).
A Sneaky Blind Man I feel as though an Urban Legend is a story passed on by each generation, mostly being false, but having some truth to it, said Phil Donohue. As a boy, his older brothers told him many stories, at the time he thought they were true because he trusted them, now looking back he sees that they were just urban legends. Urban legends are tales with morals in them and are passed ...
These origin myths, just like narratives express values and how the people then saw their relationship to a spiritual power. It is said that people pass these on and tell these stories in order to make a sense of their world. Man’s duty lay in completing God’s original creation.
Some towns then expressed an intended design; their growth and prosperity measured providential intent. In this context, most of our forefathers had a vague idea about questioning God. For them God was the all-powerful force that made them win battles and expand territories. It was quite unlikely for people to question God at that time because people then had strong traditional religious beliefs that were also handed down to them. These myths developed during specific periods and evolved due to a strong need to explain what was happening around them. For example, the myth that colonists were a chosen people to possess North America fed the myth of the Nature’s Nation.
This was born during the revolutionary period when the European white colonists, were best fit to affect God’s purposes. The early national period saw the creation of a new myth: that of America as a Christian nation that would bring a millennial new age of freedom. (Taylor, Greg. 2004).
Is memetic theory, as described in The Blue Star Meme demonstrated in current urban legends? According to author Dave Gross, The “blue star” urban legend is a wonderful example of a meme, and can be compared to a virus, in that it briefly takes over the information reproducing abilities of a human mind – which we like to think are usually devoted to reproducing accurate, useful or at least intentionally amusing information – and uses them to reproduce more instances of itself (Gross, Dave).
Some urban legends and ideas will stay and others will fade, thus, undergoing some sort of natural selection of things. According to author Flinn (1997), the memetic theory involves describing, explaining and understanding of social behavior from the memes-eye perspective which asks, What makes this person want to do this thing? Flinn (1997) explains it succinctly when he says that Social contagion can be explained by the memetic stance because culture has an independent evolutionary dynamic that is derived from the genetically evolved human capacity and predisposition to replicate culture. And since social learning is an evolved psychological trait, it follows that we have an evolved predisposition to replicating the behavior of those around us.
In the wake of the alarming rate of juvenile delinquency and the accumulating cases of teenage suicide since the mid 90's, it's not surprising to see that the majority started to accuse young people as a source of social problem. Nowadays, some may even consider young people as a group of easily-agitated gangsters euipped with the potential ability and the desire to disrupt the present social ...
Successful social contagions are those elements of culture that operate as both stimulus and response, and that are adapted to the evolved architecture of the human brain. (Flinn 1997 as qtd in Marsden).
It seems that the memetic stance can explain social behavior and also the reason why certain sociological phenomenon occurs. (Cloak F.T. 1975).
In conclusion, there is perhaps no simple discourse on the role of urban legends in modern society. People continue to be both awed and taken aback by the folklorists tale that emanate from the Internet or by word of mouth.
In effect, the more gruesome of these stories contain basic human fears such that people are warned and prevented from pursuing things that may lead them to danger. They may be humorous stories or fearful, but one thing is clear–they issue a warning and a cautionary note that tell people how unpredictable things can be and that it is best to be always aware of the true nature of these urban legends and how they originate as they are passed on from one individual to another, taking each one with a grain of salt. WORKS CITED Cloak F.T. (1975).
Is a cultural ethology possible? Human Ecology, 3:161-182 as qtd in Marsden, Paul. Memetics and Social Contagion: Two Sides of the Same Coin Funk. Jeanne. Reevaluating the Impact of Video Games. Clinical Pediatrics, vol.
32. no. 2, 86-90. 1993 Gross, Dave. Applying Natural Selection Thinking to Urban Legends. The Blue Star Meme.
Chapter 1 anomie Emile Durkheim's designation for a condition in which social control becomes ineffective as a result of the loss of shared values and of a sense of purpose in society. conflict perspectives the sociological approach that views groups in society as engaged in a continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources. functionalist perspectives the sociological approach that views ...
Accessed 10 October 2005 at: http://users.lycaeum.org/~sputnik/tattoo/meme.html Harris, Tom. How Urban Legends Work. Howstuffworks. Accessed 10 October 2005 at: http://people.howstuffworks.com/urban-legend1.htm Marsden, Paul. Memetics and Social Contagion: Two Sides of the Same Coin? University of Sussex. Accessed 10 October 2005 at: http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1998/vol2/marsden_p.html Ortiz, Roxanne, 1997. The Proof of Whiteness More Than Skin Deep. Paper for the Conference The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness.
University of California, Berkeley. Accessed 10 October 2005 at: http://www.reddirtsite.com/papers.html Taylor, Greg. 2004. Mythical Proportions. Christianity Today. December 2004.
Yancey, David, 2000. Retrieving the American Past. Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing..