Open Thread: What’s Your Pop-Culture Blind Spot?


Last Friday — as we do every Friday — Flavorwire ran “Trailer Park,” a roundup of all of the week’s new film trailers. Putting that post together involves a weekly ritual of busily combing film sites, assembling first a list of what has burst out of the studios (and the focus groups) that week, and then moving over to YouTube to view and react, and so on. But there was one trailer that did not make that list and did not make the post, even though it appeared on every single site I visit in researching that feature, and that was the trailer for The Twilight Sage: Breaking Dawn- Part 1. The reason I didn’t include it was simple: I have never seen a Twilight movie, and I have never read a Twilight book. Does this make me an irresponsible writer? What’s more, does it make me a bad person?

To be fair, I have commented on this series, and made that confession, before — when the first teaser trailer went out a few weeks back, and then again in our Fall Movie Preview. So part of the reason for not going back to this particular well was the avoidance of repetition: having admitted my utter ignorance of the franchise, I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly add by reiterating it.

But this also prompted a moment of self-doubt. Entertainment Weekly, to pick just one example, gave the cover of its Fall Movie Preview to a barely clothed embrace between the picture’s stars; inside, the film gets a full four pages of text (and another two-page photo spread) in a preview that affords every other film of note a page or two, max (most get far less than that). For many, many moviegoers, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1 (Good god is that a cumbersome title) is a very big deal indeed. Am I falling down on the job, as a film writer, to be entirely ignorant of it?

Of course, this is not a question that’s solely to be contemplated by those of us who write about popular culture — otherwise I wouldn’t be taking up your valuable time and bandwidth space asking about it. Outside of the structure of “the thing I write about on the Internet,” there are still questions of whether or not one should be bothered about the inevitable byproduct of aging: i.e., losing your grasp on what is hot and what is not, and how much that matters to you. Because Twilight isn’t my only pop culture blind spot. Here’s a short list of a few other things I’m basically ignorant about: Nicki Minaj, Jersey Shore, Hunger Games, Pitbull, American Idol, Selena Gomez, any of those dancing shows, and all things Glee.

I will say this: I’m perfectly fine with those deficiencies, and indeed, there is a part of me that wonders if I should do the puffed-up haughty intellectual thing and announce my lack of Twilight knowledge with pride. But that’s a bullshit argument — it’s not as though the time I save by not watching The Apprentice is spent reading Proust and listening to Wagner — and, what’s more, it’s an industrial-strength magnet for cries of “hipster.” And it’s not that hipsterism doesn’t come into play in contemplating these questions; it’s merely that just about anytime anyone on this site writes something that expresses an opinion that runs counter to conventional critical wisdom, it’s greeted by commenter catcalls of “hipster!” This notion always gives me a chuckle; there are few things on this earth less hip than a 35-year-old married guy blogging about movies from his apartment in Queens.

It’s the number buried in that rebuke that holds the key. I’m 35 years old now. When you’re in your teens and trying with all your energy to get in, fit in, and be keyed in, you tend to go to greater lengths to see every new movie (no matter how dopey it looks), listen to every new record (no matter how synthetic is sounds), and watch every hot TV show (no matter how skeezy it makes you feel). You have a greater desire to plugged in; you also, more importantly, often have nothing better to do. Once you reach a certain age, there are jobs and spouses and responsibilities and kids and all sorts of reasons to just stay out of the loop and assume that those sparkly vampire kids will work their troubles out.

So tell me: Is this a common feeling? Or it is just a cop out? Are my aging brethren out there losing their mainstream smarts, too —and are they okay with it? How obligated do you feel to keep a finger on the pop pulse? Which pop-culture phenomena are you ignoring?