Yesterday, I talked about how modern pop culture focuses a lot on Star Trek, to the point where you might want to watch Star Trek, just so you can understand what people are talking about.
I don't think this is something unique to our culture. Other cultures tend to make references to things that outsiders don't understand.
Maybe the best example is The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White, for example. That book is basically the 1938 version of Family Guy, and it is almost impossible to read, because on every page, he makes references to things no one knows about any more. You need to get the edition with footnotes that explain what the author is talking about, so you can understand the jokes.
Actually, I think Family Guy could also benefit from footnotes which explain the jokes. I stopped watching the show because I couldn't understand what anyone was talking about. If there were subtitles like "Peter is referencing a movie from 1954", it would be helpful.
I could give other examples of cultural references. Books from the 1800's rarely translate Latin and/or French quotations, under the assumption that everyone who reads the book already knows those languages. Late night stand-up routines from the 1980's are indecipherable, because they center on then-celebrities no one knows about anymore. And from what I understand, the whole point of the Renaissance was to have everyone focus on ancient times.
Yeah, the Renaissance. Try understanding that time period without knowing anything about the ancient times they decided to revert back to.
Anyhoo, I'm just saying that modern culture is not unique in making references to previous things. Our culture just seems a bit oversatured with it at the moment, with Hollywood making its living off of sequels and remakes. But then again, I've said that since 2001.