Texas Living

The 6 Biggest Moments in Recent Texas Pop Culture History

By Peter Simek 5.23.22

Texas has always loomed large in American pop culture, and it has produced more icons, characters, and folklore than perhaps any other state. But what are the big moments in more recent Texas pop culture history? From television to music to celebrity culture, we rounded up some of the ways Texas continues to shape pop culture.

You may not like all our picks — and there are certainly many more Texas pop culture moments that we left out — but it is difficult to disagree that the following films, individuals, and events have made an outsized impact on popular culture.

Texas pop culture

1. ‘Who Shot J.R.?’

Only an older generation may remember when the TV show “Dallas” ruled the airwaves, but — at one time — if you mentioned that you were Texan to anyone overseas, you would get an earful about the famous TV show and its iconic theme. “Dallas” has been airing reruns decades, and for better or worse, this soap about a backstabbing family has shaped the world’s perception of contemporary Texas.

Texas pop culture

2. Enter the ‘Urban Cowboy’

John Travolta was fresh off his star-making turn in “Saturday Night Fever” when he was cast as the star in yet another era-defining classic. “Urban Cowboy” unleashed the popularity of country music, cowboy couture, and Texas style — and the world still hasn’t fully recovered.

Texas pop culture

3. ¡Viva Selena!

Selena Quintanilla Pérez helped redefine and popularize many genres of Latin popular music, laying groundwork for the mainstream success Latin music has achieved today. Her premature death only solidified her status as a cultural icon. She remains beloved and revered across the state and is memorialized in murals, costumed tributes, and countless karaoke nights.

Texas pop culture

4. Under the ‘Friday Night Lights’

It is considered one of the best Texas-set television shows ever, and for good reason. “Friday Night Lights” showed the world the high drama that is Texas high school football culture, paying homage to the values, morals, and flaws of small-town Texas.

Texas pop culture

5. JFK and Conspiracy Culture

The years following the 25th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination saw a resurgence of interest in the tragedy — and the many theories and conspiracies that surrounded it — thanks, in part, to the release of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.” In hindsight, that moment ushered in a new era in American and Texas pop culture that saw conspiratorial thinking infuse many aspects of life and politics. Texas, you could say, is ground zero for the Age of Conspiracy.

Texas pop culture

6. We Were All ‘Dazed and Confused’

No matter where you live in the U.S., the first time you see “Dazed and Confused,” it feels like everyone went to high school with Richard Linklater and his motley band of iconic Texan misfits (including Matthew McConaughey, a real-life Texas native). The Austin-shot film has defined what the high school experience meant for the generations before the internet and social media redefined adolescence.

Learn more about Texas’ cultural influence by tracing its place in film history.

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