Plants and Pop-Culture

Plants sprout up in the most interesting of locales, like your favorite TV show, book, or even album cover.  Here, we will begin to look at the significance, symbolism, and potential for creative license when working with plants.  This post is meant to be an introduction to the subject, not a comprehensive work.  That being said, I fully intend to dive deeper into certain storylines.  If there are any particular fandoms you would like to see represented, please leave a comment below.  

While there are many, especially works of historical fiction depicting medical herbalism, the presence of plants tends to be glossed over unless pivotal to the plot.  An example of this would be the gillyweed in the Harry Potter series, acting as a dramatic catalyst for the rest of the book.  Based on the fictional plant's appearance and abilities in the story, it seems to be some magically-inclined variety of salt-water adaptive marsh-grass or kelp.  In the story, this allows the one who consumes the plant to take on fish-like properties, like gills and finger webbing, allowing them to stay underwater for extended periods.

Just like pop culture can create entirely new species, hybridizing favorable properties from two or more pre-existing ones, it also tends to create alternative histories for certain species, often involving mutation due to radiation, pollution, or some mad scientist trying to Frankenstein a new being into existence.  The two most coming to mind are the average garden tomato (Solaum lycopersicum) from the 1978 "horror" Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and the venus fly-trap (Dionaea muscipula), butterwort (Pinguicula), hybrid from Little Shop of Horrors.  (*I realize that in the musical version, Audrey II/Junior is from outer space and not a mutated version of an Earth-dwelling plant, but in the film version this was the composition.)  These are notable for their negative or "wild" depictions of nature.  I have to wonder if this was perhaps an homage to the plants themselves.  The strength and power of the natural world is something both awe-inspiring and sometimes terrifying to behold.  More often than not there is some distinctive turning point in the plot in which genetics have been manipulated and the experiment(s) are far beyond any kind of controlled environment.  You don't want a Jurassic Park situation, especially when previously stationary beings suddenly become mobile.

Don't try this at home kids.  It never works out well, either for the scientist conducting the experiment or those encountering the mutated, often flesh-eating plants.

I'll be diving further into plant-y pop-culture in the future, so as I said before, feel free to leave requests or you'll likely just keep reading about Harry Potter, Naruto, and SuperWhoLock.  If that's your jam, alrighty then, but I'd be interested to investigate others too.

Till next time,