When I need to get a lot of work done, I go somewhere quiet, turn off alerts on my phone, close every program except Emacs and the terminal, and crank up the soundtrack to The Social Network. I know I’m not the only one — a lot of work gets done with this album playing on loop in the background. There’s probably a tight correlation between how much market value a company creates and how many times employees stream “In Motion” after midnight. Some of this is because of the album itself — it’s just phenomenal work music, up there with Ratatat’s Classics Overwerk’s Canon, and Bach. But it’s also because the association is so strong: The Social Network, for all its flaws, was a really well-done movie that forced a step-function increase in the social status of programmers and startups.
It’s hard to tie changes in broad social phenomena to the arts, since popular tastes are a lagging indicator. Especially in movies and TV, where production takes an eternity. It’s easy to overrate a cultural moment when someone got lucky enough to tap into it: Springsteen didn’t invent post-Vietnam cynicism with “Born in the USA,” he just tapped into it. Shane seems to have made “Shane” a popular name. Top Gun got more people to sign up for military service, but our wars in the decade after that movie were constrained by PR, not manpower.