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Beyond Black, White and Technicolor

Lights, camera, action! The film starts to roll in black and white, and Audrey Hepburn saunters on screen, wearing her lovely gown, long gloves, paired up with her iconic wayfarers. She walks to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th street in New York, towards Tiffany and Co.

She gazes at the shop windows and stares longingly at the jewels, her hand clutching a paper bag that has her coffee and pastries. This scene may be familiar to you even if you have not watched the whole movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s; you know this film because it has forever been branded as part of pop culture today. It is one of those things we consider classic, but what really constitutes a classic? As Menagerie celebrates 51 years of history, we venture through the ideas that continuously inspire audiences until today.

Through the decades

When one hears the word “classic,” vintage usually comes to mind. Vintages often originate from the era of Golden Hollywood: the fifties. It was the time when movies like “Roman Holiday” starring Audrey Hepburn, and “All about Eve” starring Bette Davis became the benchmark of class and beauty. Music was usually played by a band, which is not the usual five-men ensemble that we are familiar with today. Their bands were like mini-orchestras, and ballads by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were sung.

The fifties was an era of grandeur, if not booming opportunities. The movies were of adventure and romance, so were the songs. It was the age of high-waist skirts, polo shirts and khakis. It was a conservative, proper and light-hearted period, and one could easily get that vibe when the radio plays an old record.

The sixties on the other hand was a period of a heightened sense of freedom – physically, mentally and sexually. Song lyrics became more suggestive; rock and roll came into the scene. Classics like The Beatles and Elvis Presley made their mark in the music industry as their work reflected the burgeoning youth of new, which shaped generations to come. Fashion became more liberal as well. From monochromatic and structured designs, clothes became looser, and clothing articles sported psychedelic colors.

If we dare to go back even further, we have the classics in literature – poems by Frost and Browning, the novels of Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde, and the comedies of Dante to name a few. As for music, we have the symphonies of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake”, Mozart’s concertos and the list goes on and on.

What it means to be a “classic”

Instead of enumerating a whole list, however, the several items listed here can serve as good examples of what our society considers classic. With any luck, you will grasp what a classic feels like, and you should know that the best classical pieces are the ones that accurately depict our life at a certain point in time. They express a certain thought or emotion that is unique to that period. They were the first of their kind to express a relatable truth or message significant to everyone – that is why they are remembered.

For instance, why do we consider Romeo and Juliet a classic that it turns cliché? It is because it is the first play about forbidden love that reached a wide audience. Since it was received well by the public, its popularity grew, and more people came to associate the idea of love and tragedy with the fate of those two lovers penned by Shakespeare. Voila! It is a classic because it grew to be the epitome of a great romance.

Classics are considered timeless because they are relevant no matter what year you discover or re-discover them. They broadcast a universal message, and do so in a style, unique to the artist. Classics entail unparalleled skill – whether it is in the field of storytelling, design, painting, drawing, etc.

In addition, deeming something as classic needs the consensus of the majority. Like everything else that comes and goes in culture, classics were once fads. In their own respective eras, classics were trends, but what made them different is that they stuck for years, and centuries after. As we all know, fads, no matter how huge the number of followers, still disappear in a matter of days, but a classic stays on. The amount of followers may not be big, but they come in waves that are enough to carry that classic throughout the years.

Take a look at the movies like Casablanca, Mickey Mouse, Grease, The Godfather and more, and compare it to the movies we watch today. Though it may not be obvious, these classic films paved their way to modern times, and have influenced the movies that are now showing in malls.

The take-away

Each era can conjure up classics. In this time and age, Michael Jackson is a classic and so is Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. All these have affected our generation in one way or another and these are things we would like to be around in the coming years to stimulate the imagination of our children.

Most people, nowadays, claim that there is a striking difference between the classical eras and the modern world, that there are irreconcilable differences. For example, the chivalrous gentleman of old England gave way to the text-messaging, facebooking guy of the future, but again, we attribute that to our technological advancement.

The distinction between classic and modern worlds is simply convenience. People want everything the easy way.  We live in a world of instants – instant coffee, fast food and instant messaging, to name a few. We are hooked with the fast-paced jungle of the 21st century that anything relatively ancient bores us out. Classical music may have been replaced by Hip Hop and R&B and the long and romantic courtship written by Jane Austen was replaced by vampire novels like Twilight, but music and literature still deliver the same universal message everyone can relate to.

In retrospect, the best thing about a classic is that it is remembered for adding something beautiful to the world. After everything has been said and done, a classic is a classic because of its significance. It has given knowledge to many and contributed to the advancement of our culture. A classic is a legacy of sorts, and whoever created one must be proud to have his or her work stay alive as it is shared with generation after generation.

Noelle Santiago

By Noelle Santiago

Stephanie Tan

By Stephanie Tan

Betina Libre

By Betina Libre

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