“I Don’t Like Anything That’s Popular” [Advice]

by robinhardwick

Original post:


I love tv, film and other media, and I know that you are also obsessed with media [ed.’s note: Does a bear shit in the woods?] My problem is, I don’t usually like anything that anyone watches. I can rarely take part in any conversations about the latest episode of Mad Men or Dancing With the Stars or anything. It makes me feel left out of conversations, and also makes me wonder why everyone seems to like these kinds of shows? Should I lower my standards to watch these shows so I can take part in conversations? Most of my discussions about tv takes place on the internet, but I’d like to talk about stuff I like in person.

Why, it seems we have a special special snowflake here. I am feeling for your plight, and I am sorry you have to live with this affliction. How are you able to go on day after day with such discerning tastes? Is there a foundation to support your cause?

You are making a generalization about what’s “popular” and saying you don’t like any of it? Nothing? Not even Parks and Rec? You know what, because Parks and Rec is a pretty good fucking show. I’ll bet you are the type who automatically shuns something because it’s popular; there’s a term for that, you know: insufferable.

Look. “mainstream” entertainment, at some level, has to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Why do you think ‘Til Death lasted four whole seasons? But anyone who has taken stats (I did and always got As, natch) understands the graph distribution of a bell curve. Most of the stuff ends up somewhere in the middle and is average, like, I could sit through an episode of The Mindy Project only if I am half watching and half vacuuming the cat hair off my couch. But then there are things called outliers, which end up at each end of the curve. There are a few that are so insufferably bad, like Two and a Half Men and Work It and those at the other end, which are so sublimely brilliant that you can’t even believe that you get to experience it (like the tragically canceled Enlightened or the odd-numbered seasons ofLost).

I was at a book signing for Chuck Klosterman, my personal lord and savior, and someone asked him during the Q&A how to decide how to make the best decision of what pop culture to consume when we are so overwhelmed with choices. He replied…”just watch what you like and don’t watch what you don’t like,” while pushing back his floppy hair, adjusting his thick black glasses and pulling on the strings of his wrinkled hoodie (oh Chuck, never change) It’s so simple it’s brilliant. I, for one, have made a conscious effort to watch two shows that are constantly shoved down my throat: Game of Thrones and The Wire. You know what? Not for me. But it doesn’t make me suddenly hate humanity. Well, not for that specific reason. Am I an asshole about it when people are miffed at my opinion? Maybe a little. But enough about me.

What I am trying to say is this: feeling like you have discerning and unique tastes can feel good to you and your niche internet subreddit, but it can be awfully lonely when it comes to the water cooler. I’ve made some pacts with my friends, promising to watch something they love only if they take the time to also consume something that I love. Someone taking the time to watch something because I told them to is one of the highest compliments I can receive [aside from buying and reading my book, now available on kindle- act now!].

Another awesome thing I do is to suggest similar, lesser known and better stuff that is similar to the popular show/film/etc to help them expand their repertoire of pop culture knowledge. After all, aficionados like us have to help the less fortunate. For example, I tell someone who likes Game of Thrones that they should watch Rome– a historical re-telling of Caesar Marc Antony/Octavian with better story but also with gore and nudity. For those that love Downton Abbey (Sooooo derivative, am I right?), they should watch House of Elliott if they really do claim to love British historical melodrama. House of Elliot aired on PBS ion the nineties, about two sisters who open a fashion house in 1920s London. For those that enjoyed The Hunger Games (which I did too) I would suggest The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin. Both with militarized post-apocalyptic societies and all that other stuff (no zombies though, I mean, zombies are so 2011, am I right?).

Of course, many people won’t give a shit about your recs, because they are only able to like what is simply handed to them, (and of course should be reading these instructions– act now!) and there’s really nothing you can do. Or, maybe update your tumblr about obscure French Canadian skateboarding films or whatever you are obsessing about.

And let’s face it- sometimes reading a really clever recap is better than watching the show. What was the question? Oh yea, I’m supposed to be giving advice, and I just got really distracted thinking about all the obscure cult films and television I like that most people have never heard of. Silly me.