When I picked up this book, my first thought was, "Is this white woman going to understand what it's like to be a person of color in this country?"
Here’s an admission: I work for a blog that does lots of pop culture coverage, and I spend a lot of time in conversations with my coworkers about pop culture going, “What? What is that? That is over my head.”
This isn’t a brag, just a description of my life: I don’t watch TV, not even my “favorite” shows. I probably go to an average of three movies a year, in theatres, and tend to use Netflix for standup specials while relying on my small DVD collection for movies I really love. I have been in love with — chronologically — David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and the Buzzcocks since I was 12, 13, and 15, and I’ve spent the last half of my life sampling other musicians, but generally falling back on those three acts. I play the same video games over and over. Even internet games — I still go to Neopets if I need to waste a minute online.
Another confession: I don’t pay attention to celebrities. I’m not actually jealous of Benedict Cumberbatch’s wife-to-be/baby mama, it’s just a schtick I do for the clicks. I mean, the man has a panty-dampening voice, no doubt. But I don’t really care. The exception is Harrison Ford, but that’s because Harrison Ford is the same thing to me as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and apparently my taste in culture lives in the ’70s and ’80s.
I wrote several months ago about how to “Find New Music And Look Hip,” my intended emphasis being on the word “look.” Like every twenty-something, I get asked a lot, “Did you see/hear/watch [XYZ pop culture thing]?” Everyone can just assume that my answer is no.
Another answer that would be fair to assume would be me dramatically putting my head in my hands, sighing loudly, and then groaning, “I don’t caaaaaaaaaaare.”
I mean, it’s every damn day — a new John Oliver thing, or a new Jimmy Fallon thing, or President Obama on a talk show, or some guy director doing a nifty thing with this movie, or this band based on Foucault or some shit, or this reality show, or a book by a white dude about a white dude but the white dude who’s recommending it swears that it’s really unique, or this trending news piece about some horrible person, or a woman writing a thinkpiece about feminism, or Bill Cosby, and oh, by the way, I’m also out of the loop for not yet understanding ISIS/ISIL and Boko Haram, on top of everything else.
I mean, good lord, do other human beings just have a greater capacity for information than I do? The only thing I can do is appear informed about most things, pop culture especially. I can manage to look hip by browsing Album of the Year frequently enough to be able to say, if someone asks me about a band, “Yeah, I’ve heard of them.” I don’t have that benefit with movies and TV, so I’ve resigned myself to both being and appearing to be a rube where visual media are concerned. C’est la vie.
It’s not to say that it’s a bad thing to know a lot about pop culture, to watch a lot of movies and TV, to keep on top of the Top 40, and meanwhile to know who everyone is, and that’s a distinction I’d like to make. I don’t think that those things are unimportant — there’s an economic argument in there somewhere having to do with taste influencers, but more than anything, if that information is fun for other people to have and to hunt down, that’s a valid enough reason to consume pop culture in large doses (or larger doses than I do, I guess).
Besides, if the public likes pop culture, then some people have to be spectacularly knowledgeable about pop culture in order to continue the manufacture of a pop culture that the public likes. I just happen to work with and be friends with a lot of those people, and within my social and professional networks, my field of knowledge winds up looking like a potato in a rose garden: practical, sustaining, but adding little-to-nothing to the color of day-to-day life.
Part of the reason I can’t muster the energy to keep up with current culture has a lot to do with my love for the classics and that the cultural artifacts I love are just never going to change — and there’s a lot of comfort in that. I know that I’m the kind of person who will change dramatically by this time next week, who’ll be neurotically chasing down answers to big life and career and philosophical questions that lots of people are perfectly happy not having answered, and who isn’t spectacularly predictable. It’s nice, amongst all that anxiety, to be able to turn to my stand-bys for reassurance and predictability.
So maybe cultural exhaustion, or lack thereof, is a life-philosophy issue. Not to get too “there are two types of people…”, but do you want to create things inside yourself, or do you want to create things outside of yourself? Based on your answer, you either need information about yourself and the way your brain and body operate, and you’ll be overwhelmed by getting lots of input about the world around you; or, conversely, you’ll need lots of information about the world around you and how it operates, and you’ll look at people like me, who are constantly banging our heads against the wall over the meaning of everything, and you’ll tell us to just fucking relax.
Just a theory, I guess, but it’s one I’ll lean on the next time Amelia brings up Scott Disick going to a rehab in some other country for drug treatments (????!???!?!?!??). The great thing about human diversity is that when we’re put into diverse groups, as Megan put it, “We almost make a well-rounded person.” Amen to that.
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