I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.
I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.
However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture. Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.
A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.
I wanted to like the movie; I desperately did. But, I hated it. Well, hate is a strong word. The actors were fucking amazing. Seriously, watching Jamie Lee Curtis chew up the scenario was the highlight of the movie and most of the rest of the actors were top-notch as well. It’s too bad that the script was pure shit, though. Since I wrote two posts on my reaction to the movie, I’ll just say, I wish I had given into my instincts and stopped watching halfway through.
So. Here are a panoply of popular culture icons that I just don’t get. There is no rhyme nor reason to it other than just how it pops into my brain.
First up, The Beatles. I don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s not that I don’t like pop because believe me, I do. I like lots of British pop culture–in fact I’m a bit of an Anglophile. But The Beatles just don’t do it for me at all. Most of their music is too vapid for me and much too cheery. My favorite song of theirs is Eleanor Rigby if that is any indication of my feelings about the moppets.
Other musical biggies I can’t stand or think are overrated: The Who, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, and Cold Play. And, I will say with much hesitancy, that there are a few musicians that while I can understand why they are so great and acknowledge that they are superbly talented, they are not for me. Beyonce and Prince are two of such musicians.
Let’s tackle movies next. Movie franchises I hate or think are overrated. Star Wars and Star Trek are at the top of this list. I saw the former when I was seven or so and hated it. Absolutely hated it. i will state outright that I am not a sci-fi gal. At all. Put something in space and my eyes will glaze over. Put it on earth but with elves and fairies? I’m there! Yes, I am a fantasy gal through and through. My brother and I have had a few conversations about this because he’s a sci-fi guy. When we were kids, fantasy and sci-fi was lumped together. We agree that this was not helpful, but back in the Dark Ages, there was literature and then there was everything else. Anything genre was suspect. My theory is that sci-fi and fantasy were thrown together because they were both otherwordly. That’s it. Not much more thought probably went into that.
Other movies I didn’t like or thought were overrated. All superhero movies I’ve seen, but that’s because I don’t like superheroes in general. Therefore, I cannot get into the whole Marvel Universe craze that has swept the universe.
The Big Lewbowski. Taxi Driver (I cannot tell you how much I hated this movie), Casablanca, Titanic (so. much. hate), Amelie (quite possibly even more hate), Se7en, and Leaving Las Vegas (LOATHED this movie). Ok, the last one probably isn’t in the same category as the other movies, but, god, I hated it so much.
What’s next? Books? Why not? This is a difficult category because I rarely even attempt to read popular books. I know me and books. But there are a few that come to mind. First and foremost is Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Who can forget how huge this book got? So big. It exploded and it’s turgid prose came all over America. Because it was so huge, I picked it up and jumped in. I didn’t know anything about it except it was a mystery.
It was utter tripe. I was stumbling over every sentence and I couldn’t believe how terrible it was. I pushed my way through the first chapter, but then gave up. I did this twice and I never made it past the first chapter. Hell, I don’t think I even read the whole chapter.
If we want to go back, Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn by Henry James. Stream of conscious twaddle is what I remember from that book. Can’t remember which one I read, but it was terrible. The book that made me realize that life was too short to finish books you hated (except I had to with this one because it was for my MA) was The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I forced myself to finish it before I threw it across the room and hit the wall with it. What a whining, pretentious, maundering piece of shit. It was like every white dude I had ever known collectively whining about how oppressed they were for a solid two hours. Yes, I know there is a different context to the book, but that was my strong gut reaction to it.
In the same vein, I could not stand any of the Bronte sisters’ works I had read, especially Wuthering Heights. Hated most old-timey British authors including Austen and Dickens. I also hated War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but to be fair, I tried to read it when I was ten and chose it because it was the longest book I knew of. I quit halfway through when I realized that everyone had a half dozen nicknames and I had no idea what was happening. I also hated The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which I read around the same time, but I stand by that assessment.
More contemporarily, I couldn’t even get through one page of GRRM’s prose because it was so purple. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? I was gone, girl, after two or three pages. That was another book that was so lauded, I had to try it. I hated the main character so much after a few pages, I gave up. White Teeth by Zadie Smith is one I hate admitting. I plowed through at least a third of the book, hating it the whole time, but wanting to get it. I finally gave up and quietly admitted to myself that it just wasn’t for me.
Finally, television shows. The number one show that is beloved which I cannot understand at all is Seinfeld. It’s about a group of narcissistic and highly-annoying white people who wreak havoc on everyone around them and this is supposed to be funny somehow? I watched the masturbation episode at the insistence of the coworkers at my first job out of college (long story, very dysfunctional, that should have been a huge sign) and I did not laugh once. Since then, I’ve seen clips and snippets and I have not found anything about the show even mildly entertaining. It goes beyond not getting it or it not being my cup of tea; I actively recoil when I see a clip from the show. It’s repugnant to me and I will do whatever I can not to have to watch it.
Other popular shows I don’t like, but not to that degree: Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, West Wing, House of Cards, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Friday Night Lights, Monty Python, and Arrested Development.
This is but a snippet of my anti-pop culture mindset, which, again, is not me being contrary. I just have very different tastes than the mainstream and I’m fine with that. For the most part.