The MP3, digital music, Napster, and the iPod all became touchstones within popular culture to different degrees. This brief survey presents a selection of moments from post-1995 film and television that reference or comment upon the MP3 and its milieu.
The Italian Job
In this remake of the classic 1860s heist film, Shawn Fanning appears in a cameo – a flashback sequence alleging that he actually stole the Napster software from Lyle (Seth Green).
In episode 9 of South Park‘s seventh season (originally broadcast 29 October 2003), Stan, Kyle and Kenny illegally download music from the Internet only to be immediately discovered by the FBI.
The IT Crowd
In this scene from episode 2 of The IT Crowd‘s first series (broadcast 3 February 2006), a large sticker promoting the Electronic Freedom Foundation‘s MP3 Is Not A Crime campaign can be seen gracing the office door behind Moss (Richard Ayoade) as he struggles with an English-manufactured fire extinguisher. EFF stickers were often seen throughout the office set, allegedly owing to Boing Boing‘s Cory Doctorow being asked for set dressing suggestions.
Scary Movie 4
The Scary Movie franchise took on the iPod in their fourth instalment, with aliens invading the Earth by assuming the form of an unbranded iPod.
MP3: Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar
A Bollywood romantic comedy starring Ruslaan Mumtaz and Hazel Crowney which has nothing whatsoever to do with compressed digital audio, MP3: Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar capitalises on the collective conscious absorption of the term ‘mp3’ and uses it as its title, a shorthand abbreviation of sorts of the phrase ‘mera pehla pehla pyaar’ which translates into English as ‘my first first love’.
Burn After Reading
In this Cohen Brothers-directed sendup of crime thrillers, Brad Pitt plays dim-witted personal trainer Chad Feldheimer, whose trademark (beyond his ineptitude) is his ever-present black first generation iPod nano.
The Book of Eli
This post-apocalyptic film directed by The Hughes Brothers sees Eli (Denzel Washington) traveling across a nuclear war-ravaged United States, at one point bartering with a shop owner (Tom Waits) in order to get his iPod battery charged. In this scene, Eli listens to his newly-charged iPod.
The Social Network
In this scene from the big-screen dramatisation of the origins of Facebook, a woman named Amelia (Dakota Johnson) learns that she has just slept with the co-founder of Napster, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).
Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) and Gretta James (Keira Knightley) spend their first date listening to an iPod.
Parks & Recreation
In episode 12 of Parks and Recreation‘s sixth season (broadcast 23 January 2014), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) declares a black iPod Classic to be ‘an excellent rectangle’.
Directed by Edgar Wright, 2017’s heist film Baby Driver centres around the character of Baby (Ansel Egort), a getaway driver for a group of criminals in Atlanta, Georgia. Baby uses music to enhance his driving abilities, and employs various iPods filled with different music selections depending on the situation at hand. This Museum of Portable Sound-produced supercut includes every shot of an iPod in the film.