It is difficult, even for the critics to deny the significance of crypto in the present era as it has proven to be a key player and game-changer in the finance sector. But what about its impact on pop culture? Has crypto been able to influence any aspect of popular societal values and attitudes? If yes, in what ways has this nascent financial technology intersected with the ideas, beliefs, trends, and cultural phenomena that are already established and commonly enjoyed by the masses?
Coming to the limelight in 2009 following the release of the Bitcoin whitepaper by the pseudonymous founder(s) Satoshi Nakamoto, cryptocurrency was seen as a speculative asset bubble and obscure field with many critics reckoning that it would fail in its infant days. However, many years down the line, crypto is not just successful and widely adopted but it has quickly grown to become a buzzword in mainstream media and other pop culture sectors including music, movies, TV shows, sports, gaming, and art among others.
And just so you know, the presence of crypto in mainstream media can only continue to increase as more people understand the power that digital assets give to people.
Crypto's Infant Days: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Blockchain technology, which entails a decentralized, secure and transparent digital ledger where data stored cannot be obliterated or modified, has its roots in the late 1980’s by early cryptographer David Chaum, who outlined an early form of anonymous cryptographic e-currency. Which was then followed up in the 1991 by computer scientists Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta invented a system for time-stamping digital records to prevent manipulation.
But, blockchain technology did not garner global attention until 2009, when the pseudonymous individual or group of individuals with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin (BTC) whitepaper on October 31, 2008.
While many other virtual currency projects emerged but failed, Bitcoin became the first successful cryptocurrency to leverage blockchain technology to enable secure, transparent and peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions without the need for a centralized authority such as banks or other traditional financial institutions.
Spurred by the success of BTC, several other cryptocurrencies, including Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Chainlink (LINK) and DIFX Token (DIFX), have emerged over the years, each with their own set of characteristics, blockchain consensus algorithms and use cases.
It bears noting that back in the years, crypto was a relatively unknown digital currency which struggled to be recognized in pop culture as only a handful of individuals owned it. Meanwhile, some popular folks and institutions who knew about crypto in its infancy destructively criticized it, submitting that it would die a natural death or be banned into oblivion by the government. Back then, crypto was only seen in the video gaming industry as few gaming platforms rewarded users with BTC when they win. The music industry found no use for it, the movie industry didn’t even consider projecting or mentioning it in Television Shows and neither did a good number of individuals embrace it as a store of value or payment method. However, the narratives for crypto began to change when the BTC was officially used for a transaction on the now famous BTC PIZZA DAY
Crypto and Pop Culture — Past, Present and Future
The intersection of crypto and pop culture can be traced back to May 22, 2010, when Bitcoin was used for the first time to purchase a physical item. On this day, a programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz paid a whopping 10,000 BTC for two large pizzas. At the time, Bitcoin was relatively low in value and although the transaction was largely seen as a plaything, it marked the entry of crypto into pop culture.
As the price of the largest crypto by market capitalization, Bitcoin soared over the years, the pizza transaction became famous both in the immediate crypto community and mainstream media as an example of the early days of Bitcoin.
Since then, crypto and bitcoin have been on the rise in pop culture, intersecting with many aspects of the economy and society. As a matter of fact, crypto has been caught red-handed in mainstream media in recent years with many institutions and individuals that publicly criticized it, gunning for its mass adoption. Crypto is now a beauty to behold in the eyes of many as it continues to invade many aspects of pop culture, gradually.
Now, let’s consider some of how crypto and pop culture have intersected:
Movies & Television Shows
In recent times, crypto has made a strong presence in the film industry as it is being mentioned in several top movies and TV series.
For example, in the popular HBO series Billions, we see a recurring topic of cryptocurrency, with characters debating Bitcoin and blockchain technology in numerous episodes. Particularly, E07S03 of the TV series featured the Ledger crypto wallet with the line: “One million dollars straight in crypto, in cold storage.”
Likewise, we see the protagonist in the movie Dope utilizing Bitcoin to buy items online while in the TV series Big Bang Theory, E09S11 is titled “The Bitcoin Entanglement“, where we see the protagonists trying to retrieve a lost laptop/hard drive contained with Bitcoin.
The Simpsons notorious for predicting the future of politics, businesses and people is no stranger to mentioning about cryptocurrencies in various episodes that date as early as 1997.
Celebrities & Founders
Over the years, top personalities including Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian, Alexis Ohanian and Don Jazzy have been very active in the crypto space, frequently talking about digital assets as well as investing in them. There have also been many instances where celebrities served as brand ambassadors for several crypto projects.
As the foundational element of the present internet culture, memes are one of the most essential ways in which the crypto community niche grew on the internet. In fact, they are credited as the generator of a specific type of cryptocurrency called Meme Coins, i.e. crypto usually created from internet memes to gain mass attention. Although popular and well-loved, investors need to be cautious of these currencies as they are often associated with pump and dump or other types of scams.
However, even with their light-hearted nature, some meme coins have showcased true value and utility beyond just existing as a meme. Cryptos like Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, Floki etc have shown massive growth as ecosystems with various different WEB3 integrations like DeFi, NFTs, Metaverses and more.
Likewise, crypto has also been referenced in various songs, highlighting the perceived wealth or status associated with owning cryptocurrencies. This includes ‘Bitcoin Ca$h’ by Lil Windex, “Bitcoin Billionaire” by RiceGum, and ‘HODL Gang’ by Lil Bubble among others. Eminem, a popular rapper also mentioned Bitcoin in one of his tracks in the album titled ‘Kamikaze’. with the line: “Remember everybody used to bite nickel, now everybody doing bitcoin.”
Moving ahead though, we can definitely say that the intersection of crypto and pop culture is only going to be more evident. With adoption increasing on a daily basis, we are more likely to see crypto in everyday life and the mainstream internet. So don’t be surprised if you see a Satoshi Nakamoto biopic streaming on Netflix or an Adele song about having FUD in the crypto market!