TThese days, when someone asks me to recommend something to watch, read, or listen to, my answers are unpredictable. “Can I interest you in this 14-year-old mini-series that follows a group of US Marines during the first 40 days of the Iraq War?” maybe a little bit of Until nowa 2012 compilation album featuring the biggest collaborative songs from the venerable Swedish House Mafia group, At this difficult time?
I don’t do this to be embarrassed, or out of a delusional belief that things are “not as good as they used to be”, something that people of a certain age say exclusively, and decide “Yeah, that’s it I did, these movies and albums are just in rotation forever, waiting to die” . No, I’m a cultural predator. As much as I spend my spare time putting together great podcasts of all my favorite songs from the American Pie soundtrack, there are also podcasts I look forward to episodes of each week. I have opinions about the new Kendrick Lamar album (Masterpiece). I also watched Conversations with friends. I in no way gave up on the new, but I gave up on keeping up with the new.
Right before the pandemic, I canceled all of my streaming services. Not for financial reasons Do a lot later (Although that’s definitely a welcome bonus), but because they were contributing to the feeling of extreme malaise. At this point, most people will be familiar with the psychedelic sensation of opening Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, or whatever poison you choose each evening, scrolling through the glut of content before settling on an episode of the show you’ve been seen. Most likely a relaxing hour from your childhood – Seinfeld, Gilmore Girls, The Simpsons. Either that, or gravitate toward whatever it is that makes the rounds on Twitter that day.
I spent almost three years like this until I found myself preparing for another season Weird things A decent show for which I have no strong feelings – and I realize I can’t remember the last time I made a decision for myself. Culture is my life force, and I totally fell in love with it because I was spending all my time getting involved in things I wasn’t really interested in, just to feel a proper connection. A mountain of mediocre entertainment consumed me like a massive lump of flesh at the end Akira.
It’s a common modern illness, the feeling of being suffocated by the compulsion to be in everything all the time. Every day there’s a new “Song of the Year,” a new little trend, a brand new series on Netflix that somehow generates months of online discourse. Obviously, social media is designed to put things together; Promote certain forms of entertainment in a way that excites you worse than BBC One on a weekend in Glastonbury. Of course you should watch this, you should have an opinion, you should gather around the cool modern “water cooler” that is Emily on the hashtag Paris, which, if you click on it, will show literally millions of people screaming at each other. Sure I knew what was going on most of the time, but at what cost?
Culture has always been my way of understanding the world. That’s what got me to “keep up” in the first place – I thought connecting myself to as much entertainment as possible would help me deal with the increasingly fractured mentality of society these days. Unfortunately, in Joan Didion’s words, “We tell ourselves stories in order to survive.” If you are constantly overwhelmed by stories that you don’t care about, can’t relate to, or learn nothing from, what’s the point of it? Culture is not there to be hacked and played, or to ‘win’.
It is absurd to equate any kind of value with compulsive consumption. Despite what your Goodreads goal says, no one can read 200 books a year — not really. Unless you have a super brain, this information goes in and out, ticking the “reading” box without necessarily giving you any of the benefits of actual reading. The act of discovery, to me, is the most valuable aspect of culture. It’s the hype you get from stumbling upon something that makes you rethink your entire life and the warm glow after finding it on your own. It’s the difference between meeting someone organically, or being set on a blind date by someone whose ultimate goal is to make a lot of money setting people up on blind dates.
So, for now, I try not to bother too much to know everything. Over the past few years, I’ve been forcing myself to remember what it was like to embrace random obsessions. To enter a record store or library and pick something because you like the atmosphere. To read and re-read interviews with artists and pick all their references, and immerse yourself in those too. To hear some random Russian song on TikTok, or a classic song on the radio while driving, and make that unexpected element your first point of contact. And sure enough, I got excited about pop culture again. I’m not immune to the temptation of Love Island, but I can’t wait to watch an episode of Ted Lasso while I’m alive.