Are You a Pop Culture Snob?
Posted on July 9, 2012
Want to know an embarrassing secret? I’ve never seen The Lion King. The Circle of Life? The one that moves us all? Nope. Didn’t catch that one. When it was released in 1994, I was too busy listening to Nirvana and poo-pooing anything mainstream (because Nirvana wasn’t, in retrospect, ironically mainstream?). I only wanted to read the most obscure books and watch movies like the bizarre, black and white Johnny Depp film, Dead Man. I had no interest in associating with anyone who was into hokey-pokey, soft cartoons about baby lion kings. What I wanted, desperately, was to be unique.
Ahh, youth. Except, as much as I’d like to claim that I’ve outgrown my foolish ways, I haven’t. Not really.
I avoided reading the Harry Potter series for fourteen years for the sheer fact that it was popular. When I finally devoured those books, one after the other, I realized I had been engaging in a stupid, self-defeating exercise in mainstream deprivation. Millions of people loved Harry. Why should I be any different? Contrary to popular belief, none of us is terribly unique. But us pop-culture snobs like to believe we are. Oh yes. Instead of focusing solely on that which we enjoy and find entertaining, we place a lot of emphasis on the media we don’t consume: the books and movies and cultural events we deem beneath us.
Is it possible, that by avoiding everything that everyone else is doing, we end up, sheerly by default, unique?
I guess it depends on how you define that word. Different? Apart? What about deprived? I’m all about letting your freak flag fly, knowing what you love and paying no mind to the genres you’ve ruled out over years of careful consideration. But avoiding something simply because it’s popular is, well, sort of stupid.
Yes, I’m calling myself stupid.
And I’m not alone. I’ve noticed an epidemic of snobbery in Facebook statuses and conversations with friends. Everyone wants to be the guy who liked the popular thing before it was popular: “Oh, I was totally into mustaches before they made a comeback.” “I read that book before anyone had even heard of it.” It’s a ridiculous rash of one-upmanship based solely on our unquenchable urge to be different, unique, better than.
But here’s the thing, fellow snobs: not reading a stupid book that everyone else is reading doesn’t make you more interesting than someone else. In fact, it takes you out of the conversation completely. How can you weigh in on something you know nothing about? It doesn’t matter how many highbrow, obscure books you’ve got in your back pocket. You will never be smart enough or well-read enough, you won’t always (or ever) hit that perfect, off-the-cuff humor bullseye that so many are vying to land. Someone will always know more than you do about pretty much everything. You wanna know the great thing about that? Someone will always be more full of shit than you are. The only way to win this silly little race to “interesting” is to be yourself: warts, mediocre interests and all.
I recently read one page of a friend’s copy of The Hunger Games and declared, without hestitation, “The writing sucks!” But I’m on a mission to reform my snobbish ways. It’s unfair to judge a book by its cover (or first page). You can’t actually know about something until you know. Which is why, in the future, if I choose not to read or watch something, I’m going to do my best to withhold judgment.
My new mantra is: “Give mainstream a chance.” I may not love that book about children hunting children. But it’s sort of like having bad hair in the 80’s: what’s the point of missing out on all of the tacky fun? I suppose it’s time to bite the bullet and pick up my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh, and does anyone have an old VHS tape of The Lion King I can borrow? I’m about eighteen years behind on that one.
What about you, dear reader? Are you a pop culture snob? Or do you revel in the mainstream, embracing every guilty pleasure that comes your way?