Inane bullshit

22 Aug

you seem like a good writer, why waste your time writing such inane bullshit?

This is maybe the best backhanded compliment I have ever received. It was a comment on my last post, my (apparently controversial) defense of Kim Kardashian. And while normally I’d let a bitchy remark like that slide, I’d actually like to answer the question. So, “Ben,” you’re in luck! Why do I “waste my time” writing about the Kardashians and vampires and other seemingly useless facets of pop culture?

I’ve encountered various versions of this question over the years. Sometimes it’s not a question so much as a suggestion that I might want to write about something that matters. It usually comes from people who “don’t even own a TV” and only see foreign films and keep the radio perma-tuned to NPR. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to live your life free from pop culture clutter, but just as that’s your prerogative, this is mine. The way some people feel about sports, the way others feel about history—that’s how I feel about mainstream entertainment.

It’s not that I don’t also have an appreciation for the highbrow. (Ask me about Faulkner!) It’s just that I understand the importance of pop culture in our society. I also think that almost anything, however silly or irrelevant you might find it, is worthy of analysis. The Kardashians, for example, strike you as frivolous. A fair assessment, to be sure, but they obviously have a huge effect on the media, television, and angry commenters all over the internet. Doesn’t that make you wonder why? We can probe and expose trends without validating them. We can put our own spin on “inane bullshit.”

Kim K. aside, though, there is plenty of pop culture that I legitimately care about. It’s not all ironic appreciation and musings on popularity. I sincerely care about Buffy comic books and A&E’s Hoarders and the Final Destination series. I don’t necessarily think they’re great, but I do consider them to be worthwhile diversions. To that end, I never worry about wasting my time by indulging in pleasures, guilty or otherwise. As a wise pop musician once said, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”

But am I wasting my time writing about this stuff? Am I wasting your time by suggesting you read it? Of course not. (And if you do think it’s a waste of your time, by all means, don’t read it.) The way I see it, someone has to write seriously about pop culture. It can’t all be E! News briefs and gushy TV Guide reviews. (Which is not to say those outlets are useless either—they just serve a different purpose.) I’ll readily admit that much of my writing has been inspired by the great Chuck Klosterman, who has a broader depth of pop culture knowledge than I could ever hope to attain. I highly recommend you check out his work, even though it’s going to make my blogging look worse in comparison. See, I’m a giver.

Why police what other people are writing, anyway? “Inane bullshit” is a relative concept: one man’s trash is another man’s camp classic. When you tell people to only write about what’s important, you’re ignoring the fact that a writer’s relationship with his subject is likely different than yours. Nothing is inherently a throwaway topic, especially for those of us who relish the opportunity to dig deeper. And luckily for you, Ben, my decision to write about Kim Kardashian doesn’t take away from other writers’ decisions to cover Bachmann’s presidential aspirations or Libya. There’s plenty of room on the internet for all of us.

So, why do I waste my time writing such inane bullshit? Because I’m not wasting my time. Because it’s not inane bullshit to me. But mostly, because I can.

2 Responses to “Inane bullshit”

  1. Neil August 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I am patiently waiting for a blog post concerning any of my comments.

  2. aly jones (@mrsjwns) August 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    “As a wise pop musician once said, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”” is this a shout out to herman cain or am i reading too far between the lines? either way, it made me smile.

    in general, i really appreciate the way you express your point. my boss- i’m a teacher- frequently gives me shit about the amount of pop culture knowledge i have and the fact that i am interested in it at all, sometimes making snide references to books as if i don’t know what they are. he is one of the no tv, NPR people you describe, and it strikes me as odd that he thinks he is more well-rounded than i am. i’m not going to say i’m a walking encyclopedia, but i feel comfortable saying that because i don’t close myself off to any one source of information, i am likely more well-rounded than he is. just because people are interested in pop culture doesn’t mean that’s ALL they know or think about- it just means it is one of the many things in the world that we follow. my explanation to him has always been along the lines of what you say, which is that these things do matter in a sense because they shape the way many people interact with each other, the economic decisions they make and their perception of themselves and the world around them.

    but even without all of that, sometimes you just want to laugh and not give a shit, and pop culture lets that happen.

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