Friday, November 23, 2012

Pop Goes the Culture

It was around 1999 or 2000 that I began to lose complete track of pop culture. It was the popularity and subsequent ubiquity of illiterate— er, I mean, reality—TV that did it; when Survivor was a hit and there was no avoiding the repellent, semi-nude photos of the creep who won the first series, that was perhaps the first brick in the wall that went up between me and media culture. Big Brother was the second. The utterly vile and loathsome Temptation Island was a ton of bricks all by itself (not that I watched any of these; the promos were enough to make me want to pluck out my eyes—“Out, vile jelly!”). A few years later, when a show pitted a team of midgets against an elephant to pull a jet, the entire medium jumped the shark, as it were, and the rest of the wall went up. 
Movies? Well, at least I write and update the Saratoga Film Forum’s newsletters and Web site, so I have a passing familiarity with at least some current movies, namely the good ones. (I saw Safety Not Guaranteed a few weeks ago; I liked it.) As for what plays at the malls and multiplexes...I haven’t a clue. There was something about a foul-mouthed teddy bear (yeah, sign me up for that), and a series of movies about hangovers, if my peripheral vision caught the Web ads correctly. I think about five years ago I was dragged to a Will Ferrell movie (something about ice skating) and again prayed for retinal detachment (I really can’t stand Will Ferrell).
I was talking with someone recently about James Bond (apparently there is a new one out) and even I was shocked to realize that the last Bond movie I saw—at all, let alone in the theater—was Licence to Kill. And, yes, that came out in 1989. Tempus fugit. (In my own defense, I thought they went downhill after Sean Connery quit, and gee our old LaSalle ran great.)*
And while I have been perfectly happy to remain ignorant of it all (or most of it; a few shows—not reality ones—have filtered into my little bubble, like Parks and Recreation and, um, others, I suspect), I am discovering that there is a downside: my ignorance of pop culture is starting to impede my ability to do crossword puzzles, as more puzzles are cluing actors, actresses, shows, and movies I have never even heard of. It is starting to become like doing those old Margaret Farrar- and Will Weng-era NYT puzzles from the 1960s and early 70s that included then-current-but-now-long-forgotten names.
It’s getting serious. I may have to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly strictly—and ironically—for educational purposes. 

*It could also be age-related. It’s my belief that the definition of middle age is the point at which you can look through an issue of People magazine at the dentist’s office and fail to identify more than 50% of the celebrities in it.

UPDATE: I rest my case. They remade Red Dawn?! For the love of all that’s holy, why?

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