"You can't possibly think that Rubicon deserved to be canceled. Have you watched that show more than once? You have to watch every episode at least three times before you understand the brilliance of it."
This is my friend Daniel, or as I call him, Pop Culture Guy.
In some ways, Daniel is everything I want to be in life. Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with pop culture. Whereas most teenagers have dreams of being athletes or participants on an MTV reality show, I had dreams of being a culture commentator on shows like "Best Week Ever" and "I <3 the 1920's."
When I was younger, I used to absorb pop culture like a sponge made out of a People magazine.
I had every album in the Top Ten, I'd see at least two movies a week, I'd watch endless hours of television, and what I missed, I'd tape and watch later.
Weekends would be spent watching DVD's of old movies and entire seasons of television shows that were canceled before I was born.
I was determined to be the pop culture king.
Then, I got older and pesky things like full-time jobs and sleep got in the way of my obsession. Suddenly I was watching award shows not knowing who the presenters were, and hearing about a tv show for the first time while it was entering its fourth season.
My obsession lapsed, and I suppose I could have dealt with that, but then I met Daniel.
Daniel was the king I only ever dreamed of being. He made Young Kevin look like a dabbler when it came to mainstream culture.
He didn't just see movies--he saw them twice. He didn't just listen to Top 40--he knew every word to every album. It wasn't good enough for him to simply watch every episode of Battlestar Galactica--he had to own the Spanish language DVD's just in case he met a fellow fan from Madrid.
"Kev, you really can't understand One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest unless you've read the book, seen the movie, seen a stage version, and listened to the soundtrack backwards. That's the only way to have the full experience."
At first, being friends with Dan was awesome. Who knew somebody other than me wondered why there was never a Saved by the Bell/California Dreams cross-over episode?
Hanging out with Dan reminded me of who it was I had wanted to be when I was younger.
...Then I remembered why that didn't work out.
Conversations with Dan became a mix of frustrating and downright exhausting. Forget that I only had a cursory knowledge of most of what he was talking about, but after awhile I just started, well, hating him.
It wasn't good enough for Dan to bring up a song he liked or a book he enjoyed. He saw me as his protege. It was his job to make sure that one day I could take over his throne as King of Worthless Knowledge.
"You've never seen Throne of Blood? Wow, Kev. I'm not sure I can even look at you right now."
To make matters worse, my love for pop culture had become minimized over the years. I didn't realize it until I met Dan, but once I started hanging out with him, I figured out that I was actually spending too much time in the world of pop. If it had been up to me, I would have cut back, but then Dan probably would have tied me to a chair and forced me to listen to Duran Duran's B-Sides.
Being friends with Dan was a little bit like being at a restaurant with someone who demands that you try everything on the menu when you're on a diet and really only want a salad.
"I mean, if you haven't read A Confederacy of Dunces at least seven times, I'm not even sure you can consider yourself a reader."
After awhile, I began phasing Dan out of my life. Luckily for me, it wasn't that difficult, since he was pretty much always busy with Hitchcock movie marathons or in-depth analysis of the Grammy nominations.
The farther away I got from him, however, the more I realized why I had wanted to be someone like Dan. Growing up, I was never good at sports. I wasn't particularly smart. I couldn't draw or paint or play an instrument. There was nothing about me that was distinct. No special talent or skill that wouldn't take years of instruction to master.
Pop culture seemed like an easy area of expertise. Watch a few movies. Listen to a few songs. Reserve Thursday nights for NBC. Bang--you're a master.
But when the pop culture train started picking up speed, I had been left behind on the platform. Now there were fifteen cable networks with original programming to follow, not just ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.
Now independent films that only open in Los Angeles and New York are required viewing if you claim to be a film buff.
ITunes has made it so that there's no excuse for not being able to listen to eight podcasts a week and get the new Arcade Fire album a week before the general public.
Being a pop culture enthusiast used to be a little more than a hobby. Now, if you even want to have a mild grasp on it, you have to take it in like an addiction.
I got out just in time, but Dan...
He didn't make it.
The last contact I had with him was through e-mail. He wanted to know if I was interested in seeing Eclipse with him. I told him that I'm not a fan of the Twilight series.
"That's not the point, Kev," he said, "You're not supposed to see that stuff because you like it. It's just to keep up with what's happening."
I didn't respond, but I thought to myself--
No, Dan. All that stuff is supposed to be fun. Just fun. You're supposed to like the movies you watch. You're supposed to enjoy the music you listen to. It's supposed to be okay when you decide that the book everyone's reading just isn't for you. That's the point.
But I didn't think he'd get all that, or maybe he just wouldn't have cared.
So instead, I sent along a quote from a guy who really understood pop culture:
"I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning." ~ Andy Warhol
The Broccoli Blog
- Providence, Rhode Island, United States
- July 19
- Thoughts, musings, ramblings, and occasional insight from the outside.
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