Our Favorite 'Gatsby' References in Popular Culture
Forty years ago, the inaugural issue of People magazine featured Mia Farrow as The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan on its first-ever cover. In the decades since, almost every piece of media has taken inspiration from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, either directly or through clever (sometimes embedded) references to the novel. From television to music to books, Jay Gatsby and company undeniably loom large in our collective imagination. Here, we’ve rounded up our favorites. Enjoy, old sport.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
In his YA tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars, John Green writes about a green light in Amsterdam and a green car. He later conceded in an interview that these are, in fact, Great Gatsby references and that the green objects are analogous to the book’s blinking green light. What’s more, both works have epigraphs; in both cases, the quotes are attributed to fictional characters instead of actual literary figures.
Mad Men protagonist Don Draper, who is actually Dick Whitman, has a lot in common with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby (who had humble beginnings of his own as Jimmy Gatz). Both men come from financially struggling families in flyover states, and achieve success and status while in the military. Eventually, both end up in New York City—albeit in totally different eras—where they completely reinvent themselves. However, their pasts prevent them from ever fully moving forward and building close relationships with anyone.
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
In J.D. Salinger’s beloved The Catcher in the Rye, widely reviled protagonist Holden Caulfield recalls, “I was crazy about The Great Gatsby. Old Gatsby. Old sport. That killed me.” It’s a little surprising that Holden wouldn’t dismiss Jay Gatsby as a “phony”—especially because Gatsby does an awful lot of pretending. Still, given Gatsby’s obsession with the past and Holden’s fixation with youthful innocence, it makes sense.
Pretty Little Liars
The Great Gatsby is referenced a number of times in the ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars (based on the book series), where four girls try to solve the mystery of their best friend’s brutal murder. For one, the characters are required to read Gatsby in Mr. Fitz’s (short for Fitzgerald!) English class. The second season of the show features an unsettling eyeglasses ad on a billboard that is more than a little reminiscent of the T.J. Eckleburg billboard in Fitzgerald’s book.
“Summer Days” by Bob Dylan
Dylan sings, “She’s looking into my eyes, she’s holding my hand / She says, ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ I say, ‘You can’t? What / Do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.’” This is a reference to Gatsby’s own insistence on reliving the past and picking up where he left off with Daisy Buchanan. Dylan’s song is upbeat—perhaps illogically so—and matches Gatsby’s own overblown confidence in his ability to win the girl now that he has money and status.
In the Gilmore Girls episode “I Solemnly Swear,” at a seminar about running an inn, Sookie runs into an old friend, Joe, from early in her cooking career. He promptly asks her out on a date, prompting Lorelai to speculate that Joe is a Jay Gatsby-like figure who has been pining for Sookie, his Daisy Buchanan, for years. Ultimately, Sookie tells Joe she is married, and the fling fizzles.
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk has said of Fight Club, “Really, what I was writing was just The Great Gatsby updated a little. It was ‘apostolic’ fiction—where a surviving apostle tells the story of his hero. There are two men and a woman. And one man, the hero, is shot to death.” Straight from the horse’s mouth, this allusion is pretty tough to argue with.
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