All the pop cultural references of the show

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Midnight Mass is a series that explores the themes of faith and humanity with deep depth and nuance. Along the way, the series invites its viewers to consider how they themselves interact with the world, including the media they consume and interpret.

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The Bible naturally receives a lot of attention in the series, as many characters live their lives according to its teachings. But there are many other touchstones of popular culture that the series includes, ranging from books to television and movies to music, offering additional insight into what shaped the lives of the people of the doomed island of Crockett.


ten Riley Posters

Mulder and Scully from The X Files looking at the camera

Midnight Mass is a work resolutely conscious of its genre, something that the show makes known through multiple placements of accessories. In Riley Flynn’s childhood bedroom, which he hasn’t occupied for at least a decade, multiple posters adorn the walls. Every poster that viewers see is from movies or TV series related to the show.

On one wall, Riley has a large poster of Dana Scully from X files, who connects to his own role of skeptic. On another wall there is a poster of the horror movie from the 90s Scream. On a third wall there is a poster for the thriller Se7en, which notably includes the famous “What’s in the box?” line which alludes here to the infamous contents of Father Paul’s trunk.

9 Omar Sharif

Omar Sharif passed away

There are not many references to individuals from the world of popular culture in Midnight Mass, but one of those references unfortunately comes at a time deeply steeped in racism. Beverly Keane is one of the most hateful characters ever, and maybe she is Midnight Massis the real villain.

Although she has contempt for many residents of Crockett Island, she has a racist and particularly Islamophobic hatred for Sheriff Hassan el Shabazz. In a rant about his presence on the island, she calls him “that new sheriff, Omar Sharif or whatever,” referring to the legendary actor known for Laurence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and more.

8 Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies boys standing with spears

When the inhabitants of Crockett Island wake up after a horrific storm to find wild cats slaughtered along the shore, theories run deep as to what could have killed the poor creatures. Wade Scarborough, the mayor of the island, initially suspects that something caused the cats to fight fiercely and kill each other.

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As he wanders the shore looking for evidence with Sheriff Hassan, he notes: “The Uppards are like Lord of the Flies for these cats. Referencing the famous book that finds stranded boys struggling to retain their humanity when left on their own, Wade expertly evokes the kind of horror he imagines cats have endured and also foreshadows how the island will turn against itself.

7 Swiss family Robinson

Swiss family Robinson

Part of what makes Midnight Mass so terrifying is the setting of Crockett Island and how disconnected the remote island is from the real world. 30 miles from the mainland, the people of Crockett can only get to the mainland by ferry, and yet hundreds of locals have fled the island in recent years.

Since childhood, the dubious Riley Flynn has always criticized the family’s decision to live on an island. He compares the experience to the famous shipwrecked tale Swiss family Robinson and seems disappointed that they wouldn’t be saved from such a distant and horrible place. Even in his youth, Riley is an outlier in Crockett’s world, as he’s never been satisfied with what the island and its community can offer him.

6 Ed’s Neil Diamond Albums

Neil Diamond in The Jazz Singer

Midnight Mass has yet another incredible TV horror score, thanks to the continued collaboration between Mike Flanagan and the Newton Brothers. But the music of the series is not limited to the simple background; it serves an intriguing purpose and highlights key personalities and character traits.

Ed Flynn, the ardent head of the Flynn family, adores the music of Neil Diamond. Several times throughout the series, Ed takes a break from what he’s doing and puts on one of his Neil Diamond vinyl records. The songs on the theme of religion, including “Soolaimon” and “Holly Holy”, take on real importance in defining the sequences of the series, elevating the music to its own character.

5 The Lasser Glass

Oculus mirror

There are many references to other Mike Flanagan projects in Midnight Mass, ranging from repeated cast members to similar storylines. But a notable element of Flanagan’s work has appeared in almost all of his projects to date.

Lasser glass, the mirror at the heart of the horror film Oculus, is found in many Flanagan movies and TV series. In Midnight Mass, the mirror appears partially hidden in the background of the recreation center during key scenes between Father Paul and Riley Flynn. As the two reflect in their discussions of faith, the Lasser Glass looms behind them.

4 Aladdin

One of the earliest references of pop culture in Midnight Mass is unfortunately another example of pop culture militarized for racist purposes. When Warren and Ooker prepare to go to the Uppards to smoke marijuana, Ooker sarcastically says he can’t believe Warren invited Aladdin to come with them.

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It is of course referring to Ali, the son of Sheriff Hassan, who is desperate to be accepted into his new home. Ooker is a character with very few redeeming qualities, also showing himself to be sexist and capable on other occasions, so this remark quickly establishes his personality.

3 Dorian Gray’s photo

Books play a key role throughout Midnight Mass. Most obvious, of course, is the Holy Bible and the way it is interpreted and misinterpreted by various characters in the series. But a book that is only briefly glimpsed, but reflects a key storyline revealed, is read by none other than Mildred Gunning.

As Mike Flanagan further confirmed the Twitter, Mildred can be seen reading Dorian Gray’s photo in his bedroom when Father Paul, now known as John, visits him in the fourth episode of the series. Oscar Wilde’s classic deals with themes of aging, morality and corruption, which Midnight Mass includes among its many other central themes.

2 Titanic

Titanic old couple Straus

Whether this reference is intentional or not, it is difficult to experience the heartbreaking end of Midnight Mass and not be called back Titanic. As the people of Crockett Island gather and prepare for their certain death at sunrise, Annie Flynn leads the group singing, tearfully chanting “Nearer, My God, To Thee” as they all embrace their loved ones.

While the historical accuracy of its inclusion is still debated, in the film, as the Titanic began to take on water, the violinists aboard the ship began to play that same spiritual song. The parallels between accepting fate and embracing both faith and human goodness in times of real crisis are impossible to ignore.

1 Stephen king

Lot of Salem Tobe Hooper 1979 Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the biggest influences on horror works, not just those created by Mike Flanagan. But looking at Midnight Mass, it becomes clearer and clearer what inspired Flanagan the most, as some of these books even weave their way into the props that decorate the sets.

Riley’s bedroom has a bookshelf containing several Stephen King novels, including the obvious Lot of Salem. Likewise, Riley’s father Ed can be seen later reading King’s The comeback sitting in his chair in the living room.

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