I don’t care whether or not you’re going to vote in the upcoming election, but I care if you think Chelsea Handler is funny. I won’t think less of you if you wear Crocs in public, or never go to the gym, or can’t balance your budget, but I will think less of if you read bad books or watch bad TV. I care about how you spend your idle moments, how you unwind after work, how you relax, who your favorite comedian is, who your favorite director is, what your favorite 80s horror movie is.
And I’m judging you all the time for it. I’m judging you like I caught you walking out of the bathroom without washing your hands. I’m judging you like I accidentally found Anime porn on your laptop. I realize this is comically presumptive and petty of me, but I can’t help it.
Also, I lied about not caring if you wear Crocs in public; show some self respect.
I have this weird paradox where I think it’s extremely close-minded and off-putting to judge people on their actions or beliefs (provided that they aren’t hurting anyone else, of course), yet I immediately and without reservation judge people based on their cultural tastes.
You’ve dropped out of college and live in a shantytown underneath a bridge? I hear that, man — you must be going through some rough stuff. You like to drink too much, take drugs, and stay out all night? As long as you’re not harming anybody but yourself, I’ve got no bone to pick with you. But you like The Big Bang Theory??? Are you serious? Fuck you. Honestly, I don’t even want to look at you right now.
I know, I know — my supposed “open-mindedness” is actually a sham, and my hypocrisy is very unbecoming. But whatever it is that makes someone fond of the Saw movies or Kevin James or Aerosmith, it just doesn’t work for me. And I’m not even an elitist! I love Arnold Schwarzenegger, Philip K. Dick, and juvenile rock bands. I’m just super particular and annoyingly opinionated when it comes to pop culture. I try to stay informed and current and knowledgeable, if not trendy or insightful, and I’m oddly insulted when people support work that I think is trite or insipid.
God forbid people find comfort or joy in something I disapprove of!
Not that I necessarily condemn all things that I can’t relate to or don’t appreciate; for example, while I’m not much of a fan of Frank Ocean or Steve Martin, I respect both of them and can totally appreciate why someone else would enjoy them. The same goes for Bruce Springsteen and 18th century British literature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to the works of Adam Sandler.
I’m not sure why I place such an importance on pop culture, but I have a few theories. Sometimes I think it’s because of a lack of conviction, or an inability or unwillingness to deal with the complexities of reality. I fear that I’m addicted to the effects produced by entertainment — escapism, distraction, and stimulation, rather than growth or fulfillment — and that I seek them out in my life; that my reliance on books and films is emotionally or developmentally stunting. In my darkest moments, I know that my fascinations merely mask an emptiness lurking internally, a vast chasm that can be filled only by that which exists outside of me. I know I don’t feel the way other people feel, or are supposed to feel, and that I attempt to disguise this by exposing myself to as many stimuli as possible and systematically cataloguing my responses. In essence, I try to build a sense of self out of my reactions to the world, clinging to the hope that this might constitute an individuality or completeness. And when you attack or ignore the items that compose this sense of self, you attack or ignore me. My judgment is both a kneejerk reaction and a conscious attempt to protect myself.
I’ve cobbled a cohesive entity out of the shifting tones of a John Carpenter movie or the mechanical precision of The Strokes. Stanley Kubrick’s films are varying shades of greatness projecting onto my eyelids as I sleep. I could probably write 10,000 words on the role of alcohol in The Simpsons.
But again, I’m not completely self-sufficient. I’m also concerned with your opinions, with seeing how they match up with mine; gauging your thoughts and using them to determine self-worth.
Consider it a form of intimacy. I want to know your favorite science-fiction movie. Your favorite 80s wrestler. Your favorite SNL cast member. Your favorite Don DeLillo book. Does it corroborate with my experiences and perceptions? Just what is it that I am creating here?
I judge you because I really care what you think. It gives me shape.