Last weekend marked one of my most personally anticipated pop culture events of the year. If you weren’t one of those anticipating it alongside me, you probably heard about it, because the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special made a bit of a splash. It was all over the pop culture and entertainment news and the Internet, and those of us who were excited about it wallowed in the sheer nerdery for a moment.
There were instants where I felt like I was engaged in a collective international squee over a series that, for all its flaws (and there are many), for all its bumps in the road, has had a very long history, and has made some remarkable accomplishments. “Doctor Who” is a cultural icon, a touchstone, something important even for those who aren’t followers of the series, because of what it represents.
This humble little BBC series started out as an educational television show and turned into an epic spacetime (timey-wimey?) adventure.
But I’m not actually writing today to talk about the 50th Anniversary Special (though, my stars, can we talk about the brief return of Billie Piper and how much I love her?!) or how much I want a sonic screwdriver.
I come today to discuss the squee harshers. You know who you are.
There are, in my mind, three very rough, broad categories of negative responses to pop culture. There are those for whom something simply isn’t to their taste; I, for example, don’t get what all the fuss is about when it comes to “The Walking Dead.” There are also those who view a given piece of media with a critical eye, those who are interested in engaging with thoughtful critiques and discussions, whether they personally like it or not; I, for example, really like talking about “Sherlock” and “Elementary” and am sometimes very negative about both shows, although in actuality I love them.
And then there are those who virulently hate a piece of pop culture, for some reason or another; see me and “Glee.”
There’s nothing wrong with having a negative response to pop culture, and talking about it can actually be an important contribution to the discussion surrounding a given piece of media. If all we ever hear is how great something is, we don’t get a look at other positions and angles, we don’t hear about the problems with it, and we’re in a sort of pop culture echo chamber.
I critique pop culture because I care; as a fan of “Doctor Who” I question why Moffat is a raging misogynist, for example (hey, let’s talk about how the broker of peace over masculine pursuits like war in the recent special was a LADY LIKE ALWAYS STEVEN SERIOUSLY?!). As an avid watcher of “Sleepy Hollow,” I keep a close eye on how the show handles themes of mental illness and psychiatricization. And so on. You get the point.
I’m kind of a professional squee harsher. It’s, like, sort of my job to march in and go “uh huh, your stories are nice and all but WHAT ABOUT THIS?!”
But here’s what I don’t get: the people who harsh on pop culture just to harsh on it, to act all jaded and trendy and hipster. Dude, you guys, you don’t look cool when you do that. You just look pathetic, because here you are investing all this energy in telling us how much you don’t like something that you don’t like.
Look. I don’t follow football. It’s a “Walking Dead” thing for me, in that it’s just not to my taste. Which, like, whatever, okay? It’s fine. I don’t have to like football, you don’t have to like equestrian sports. There’s room for both of us.
Daisy, though, Daisy loves football (she didn't come to my BIRTHDAY PARTY Because Football). And every time there’s a game, her Twitter turns into a football commentary. Her Instagram is flooded with game photos if she’s at a game, or bar photos if she’s out watching at a bar. It’s part of who Daisy is: she loves football. And I love Daisy, so I take that right along with the rest of her.
Where would I get off making a big performative point of sighing over how much I don’t get/dislike football? With all the time I invested in talking about my utter boredom with football, I could be doing something much more fun and exciting, like researching NFL-associated brain injuries, writing up notes for a speech or presentation (seriously, hire me sometime!), tussling with Loki or Leila, cooking something amazing, or, like, something else positive and productive and useful with my time.
I’ve noticed that there’s an overall tendency among kids these days to turn everything they do into a performative thing, like nothing really happens unless someone sees them doing it. And when a huge group of people are coming together to share something they love (“Doctor Who,” football, Presidential debates), it seems like an equally huge group of people needs to not just trash what other people are doing and enjoying, but actively belittle them for it.
Really now? That's the best you've got? Is wasting your time trying to knock on people for the things they enjoy?
I realize that hating on the haters is beyond meta, but at this point, I don’t even care, because, as so many of you would say: I’m over it. I’m over making a big production out of hating things just because I can, without contributing anything meaningful or useful to the conversation. Don’t like the fact that someone’s having fun without you? Go find someone to have fun with.