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The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre By Helen Young ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Middle Ages in Popular Culture:


Multiple Middle Ages

Helen Young

Popular culture is littered with simulacra of the past as contemporary society plays with history to produce and reproduce itself. References to the Middle Ages are particularly prevalent: the iconic Disney castle; Renaissance Faires; Medieval Times–themed restaurants; the Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and A Game of Thrones franchises; social media games like Castleville; Vikings appear in advertisements for cars, banks, and energy drinks and in the names of sports teams (e.g., the Minnesota Vikings and Newcastle Knights) around the world—this list of some of the most visible examples is merely the tip of the iceberg. Many of these reimaginings of the Middle Ages appear in popular genres—romance, fantasy, crime, and historical are just some of them—across the full gamut of entertainment media from books to television, film, games, and music. In early 2014, the introduction to a special, medieval-themed issue of the National Geographic remarked that the Middle Ages are “a world carried in our shared imagination.”1 That imagination often owes more