James Swallow wrote:
It does seem odd when you stop to think about it, that most people in the Star Trek universe tend to enjoy what we (as 21st century folks) might consider "classical" entertainment - Mozart, Beethoven, Dickens, Conan Doyle etc - rather than what might be "classical" to them as 23rd/24th century people.
Apart from Riker's love of jazz, Tom Paris liking cartoons from the 40's and Kirk's references to 70's writers Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins, off the top of my head I can't think of I can't think of other examples of more modern (or non-American) "theater or music" in Star Trek.
But why is that? It's a real world reason: Mozart et al are all old enough that people making a TV series won't have to worry about rights issues if they want to put some of it on their show. The same wouldn't apply to The Beatles or U2, for example. That's why Harry Kim's holoprogram in Voyager's "Heroes and Demons" could be Beowulf but not, say, The Lord of the Rings.
I think this, plus the fact that the people writing Star Trek shows were informed by the scope of their own cultural experience (the "distinct middle to upper-middle class white American sensibility" you mention) is one of the reasons why characters in Star Trek (on TV) come off as culturally slanted toward pre-20th century "eurocentric" culture, when realistically they wouldn't be so narrow.
Unless of course, all the records of cool entertainment from our era were destroyed in the Eugenics Wars...
This is a good point, about rights and permissions. I do think though that there's a bit of a cultural bias from the show's writing staff. Granted, most of the episodes were produced pre-wikipedia and pre-google, so simply looking up say "Korean romantic epics" for Harry Kim (I'm assuming he's Korean-American, despite Garrett Wang being Chinese in ancestry) wouldn't have been easy as it is now, nor I suppose would the audience be as familiar, but surely they could've made some effort instead of just tossing him into Beowulf.
Granted, then there's the whole "They seem to think all asians are interchangeable" problem by the writing staff in the TV shows, but that's a different topic.