Recently, I’ve been listening to the radio.
God, it is soooo good.
I mean, Rihanna’s Only Girl has a beat you (read: I) can’t help bopping my head to. I’ll admit it: I love pop music. And not in an ironic-I-like-this-but-only-to-show-how-much-better-I-am-than-it (or, hipster) kind of way. No, I really like it. But I’m embarrassed that I like it. As in: when I’m walking down the street listening to Lady Gaga on my iPod and I pass a cool looking person, I have this intense urge to turn it down so he/she doesn’t hear it (and thereby judge me), or, I want to take out my earbuds and convince them how I mostly listen to indie music and this is just my running mix or some stupid excuse like that. But why? Why should anyone be embarrassed about liking what other people (read: a lot of Americans) like?
While I’m at it, here’s another admission: I love bad movies. I’m so embarrassed of the movies I like, I go by myself. (Which, actually, I rather enjoy.) I don’t invite friends or my partner. I go to the movie by myself and eat candy and drink Coke. I indulge in the deliciousness of pop culture consumerism. I know exactly what will happen in the movie. They’re all the same: pretty single people become a pretty couple, with some slight variation of plot turns, mostly predictable.
And yet, the other day, I was at a friend’s house and we were talking about our mutual love for Jane Austen and she ran to another room and grabbed me three of the Jane Austen-zombie re-writes. She said: You have to read these. They are sooo good. And I said something like, Well, I have a whole stack of books to review and I’m way behind on them, and she said something like, If you love Jane Austen, you really have to read these, and I said something like hem and haw, and I ended up taking home the books. Despite my better intentions. See, I judged her. I judged her harshly for reading those books and liking them (and pushing them onto me). But ultimately, it’s no different than my own indulgences.
I use the word “indulgences,” but how is it indulgent? Why is liking what other people like “indulgent”? Why am I such a fucking snob?
A couple days ago, Roxane posted something about how she likes James Frey and a riot broke out. I wonder: are we supposed to dislike things just because the majority of the American people like it? Does popularity mean low art? And if popularity makes low art, what makes high art? (DFW was a best-seller. I challenge one person on the comments section to call his books low art and I’ll watch the massacre ensue from behind the safety of my computer screen.)
People got really riled up in the comment section of Roxane’s post (in an unjustifiable and unjustified way, I might add). What makes people so mad about pop culture? Are we supposed to be better than it? Why the fucking hierarchy, man?
I’m the first to admit that I’m a hypocrite here. I judge people all the time based on the music they listen to, the movies they watch, and most of all, the books they read. I roll my eyes when I hear a middle-aged woman tell her friends about the newest Nick Sparks book she read and loved. I want to start a conversation with someone who reads Bolano (and definitely any indier writer! The indier the better, right?) in a coffeeshop. So, I’m asking you but mostly I’m trying to work it out in my own head: What’s wrong with liking pop culture?