Pop Culture References in The Colbert Report: Feb 21-24, 2011

Pop Culture references from the Colbert ReportWelcome to No Fact Zone’s weekly roundup of cultural references on The Colbert Report. From Darcy to Danger Mouse, String Theory to Shakespeare, we’ve got the keys to this week’s obscure, oddball, and occasionally obscene cultural shout-outs (hey!).

Howdy Zoners! What a whirlwind week this was! It was a really fun ride for me – almost as fun as the rides at Great Adventure (which I have been to as well, Stephen)! I have to admit a soft spot for Stephanie Coontz, because as a Women and Gender Studies minor in school, I had the opportunity to read some of her work, and really enjoyed it. So, I was especially giddy when she was on. What was your favorite segment this week?


Rick Santorum Internet Search

In response, friend of the show and even better friend of Dorothy, Dan Savage…

The phrase “friend of Dorothy” is a euphemism for a gay man that could be used to covertly identify or inquire about one’s sexual identity. The term was used because, at the time (around the Second World War) homosexuality was still an illegal act. Although there are several theories as to the origins and its meaning, the most popular is that it refers to Dorothy Gale of The Wizard of Oz. Others believe it refers to Dorothy Parker, drama critic/writer for Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker in the 30s and 40s, who was very popular in gay circles.

Turmoil in the Middle East and Turmoil in the Middle West

Imagine ordinary Libyans breeching the walls of Qaddafi’s palace, their triumphant yells, only to be met by the menacing click-clack of 5 inch razor sharp stiletto heels, choreographed waves of 6 foot tall Libyamazon spin kicking protesters in the jaw. It’ll be like a Janet Jackson video! [Scene of Video]

The video featured in this segment is Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” from her Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album. The song, which advocates racial harmony and promotes social justice, was one of seven top 5 singles off the album. So – why the 1814 in the title you might ask? Well, one explanation is that Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner in 1814, but a friend of mine who happens to be a musical aficionado (and a nerd like myself) pointed out that R is the 18th letter of the alphabet and R is the 14th letter (as in Rhythm Nation). Now, I’m not entirely sure if that was the original intention, but at least I’ve provided you with some trivia to impress at parties. Follow the link here for the video which, by the way, won for Best Choreography at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards.


A Less Perfect Union – Randi Weingarten

Cause I am here to tell ya I am hot for teacher

Ah the glory that was (hey wait a minute – IS) 80’s hard rock. “Hot for Teacher” is the Van Halen video/song that challenged and distorted visions of high school teachers for many teenage boys when it came out in 1984 on their album of the same name. I don’t even want to get into anything else it may have contributed to, as this is a family blog. To see the video click here.

Wisco Inferno – Jon Erpenbach

If you were back in at the state capital house right now would the Republicans have you over a barrel?

It appears that I am on a “what does that phrase mean” kick this week. And that’s…ok! The phrase “over a barrel” is an idiom meaning that someone has you in a position where you have no choice but to accept what they want. It’s been in use since the at least the late 1930s when it was used in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and probably referenced a prisoner being strapped to a barrel and flogged.


USA Today Infographic Sells Out

This just in: President William McKinley had a pet parrot that he named Washington Post.

Indeed, our 25th President William McKinley did own a parrot named Washington Post. In fact, it was a yellow-headed Mexican parrot. Apparently the President had a penchant for the ostentatious, as he had other pets with equally peculiar names: two Angora cats – one named Valeriano Weyler and the other named Enrique DeLome.

Monocle Cat

Long lost photo of Valeriano Weyler

Stephanie Coontz

In fact they had head and master laws in marriage that said that man had the right to decide what was done in the marriage, where they lived. If a man moved away and the woman refused to follow he could charge her with desertion and get a fault based divorce.

The Head and master rule was a doctrine that stated the husband alone was authorized to manage community property. Community property is a system where everything a husband and wife acquire once they are married is owned equally by both of them, regardless of who earned or provide the money to purchase the assets or whose name the assets are in (except in some cases like inheritance). Louisiana became the last state to give both spouses the legal right to manage their property in 1979, after a case in which a woman’s husband mortgaged their house to pay his legal fees after he was incarcerated for molesting his own daughter. Even though the wife had paid for the house, Louisiana law did not require him to get his wife’s permission to do this, or even to inform her of his actions. She later dropped the charges, separated from her husband and challenged the constitutionality of the law. The Supreme Court ruled that the original law was unconstitutional and invalidated the mortgage.


Republicans Flirt With Presidential Candidacy

They’re all profiled in the latest issue of Elephant Beat..

This is a play on the popular teen magazine Tiger Beat – a popular American magazine marketed towards adolescent girls. The magazine (which debuted in 1965) often feature a covers with ‘cut and paste’ photo collages of current teen idols – including political figures.

Era of American Dental Exceptionalism is Over

The song featured in the “In Mouthmoriam” segment is ‘Smile’, which was the theme music Charlie Chaplin wrote for his last silent picture ‘Modern Times in 1936. It became officially ‘Smile’ when John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition in 1954, while Nat King Cole went on to record the song. His daughter Natalie and other artists have also recorded the memorable tune, including Michael Jackson, whose brother Jermaine sang it at his memorial service (it was said to be one of his favorites). Here’s a bonus video of friend of the show Elvis Costello singing the tune.


  1. Karenatasha says:

    Re “friend of Dorothy”: I also wonder if it referred to the huge and devoted gay following that Judy Garland had. (Of course, she’s the actress who played Dorothy Gale in the classic film.) Unless the phrase is older than the film, and referred to the book, but I suspect not.

    • I saw the phrase “friends of Judy” used as well, but a lot of the references to “Dorothy” that I researched mentioned the fact that Judy was a gay icon and cited Dorothy as an accepting character. It seems Dorothy encapsulates all of these – the character and the actress who plays her :)

      Unless you think its the other explanation, then just ignore what I said. :)

      • Karenatasha says:

        “It seems Dorothy encapsulates all of these – the character and the actress who plays her.”

        That makes sense to me!

  2. I liked the info on the “Dorothy”, “Washington Post”, and “head and master” law, learned something new there (and am very thankful to be living in an era where that “head and master” law is no longer in effect. Wow. 1979…that’s not that long ago)!

    My favorite references were the Janet Jackson one, the “Tiger Beat” parody, and of course, the Santorum bit, which I think may well be the highlight of the week :D. Those were great.

    Again, I continue to be impressed at the range of references this show can throw in, and I love the back stories behind the ones I don’t know about. Great roundup, as always.

  3. Indeed, our 25th President William McKinley did own a parrot named Washington Post.

    I love that! I like William McKinley quite a bit more now. It has nothing to do with his presidential policies, and he still doesn’t rise to the level of my favorite president (that title belongs to Teddy Roosevelt), but this definitely makes him cooler for some reason.

    Thanks for the link to the Elvis Costello version of “Smile” – I hadn’t heard it before. Tony Bennett and Robert Downey Jr. both do excellent versions of the song as well (the one by Robert Downey Jr. is actually my favorite version). And because I love learning the meaning behind any and all idioms (that goes for words in general, really), I thank you for the bit about “over a barrel”. :)

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