Sunday, January 15, 2006

To Trend or not to Trend?

An LJ friend had a thought-provoking post about how it made him feel that he didn't enjoy things like Pulp Fiction and Radiohead as much as other folks do, that caused me to wax long and boring in a comment, thought I'd post my thoughts here and expand the discussion out to you guys. I said:

"I don't think there is any "should" about this. You like what you like and don't like what you don't. I see no reason to downgrade yourself here. You are just a person that has a filter against things that are trendoid. I am with you on a lot of this stuff. Having worked in bookstores, I remember the whole David Eggers thing, and I also remember checking it out and deciding that he was trying way too hard.

I used to have a more pronounced filter against such things, I also have never played any kind of a video game (when I was a kid I thought of it as a plot to separate me from my pot money) and I would never in a million years get a tattoo or a piercing anywhere but the two I have in my ears.

I have relaxed that filter over the years to let in things like Pulp Fiction and Radiohead. Much as I enjoy them, I know they are in fact examples of people trying way too hard to be cool. I will look at that work and say, "Ok, noble effort, I'll allow it." I would probably make a kickback sort of teacher.

Over the decades there has arisen an area of marketing that makes guys like Tarentino possible, call it the Hipster Demographic. It is easy to allow yourself to fall under that spell.

But then, there is also a current that I find myself even more resistant to. It seemed to start back when I was a kid and I had friends that seemed to feel it was their job to figure out exactly what was "poser" and what wasn't. A punk rock friend literally screamed at me over the fact that I liked the Psychedelic Furs, and that "their first couple of albums are ok, but their newer stuff is shit!" I knew a lot of extremely disfunctional people.

What was so wrong about liking something that was made like a well-turned and crafted piece of furniture, just because it happened to be commercially successful, or employed imagery or other devices that were popular at the time?

To me, the movie "Pretty in Pink" symbolized a midpoint between two extremes that I saw myself locked into during that time. I would spend the day at school with my friends, smoking pot and listening to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, then go home and watch MV3 with Richard Blade
(we didn't have MTV yet in my town), which was a kind of American Bandstand but with videos that was on after school. I would watch Culture Club and Howard Jones videos while eating salad and riding a stationary bike. The only heavy metal they played was the lame stuff like Quiet Riot, never Iron Maiden. Did I secretly like the Cure more than I liked Black Sabbath? I would say it was more a case of liking them both equally, it would depend on my mood.

Molly Ringwald was kind of a doppelganger for me, in that she was an outsider with the rich kids, and had this job at a used record store (In what universe, btw, was owning and working in a used record store a woman's territory? Not that it shouldn't have been, but all the used record stores I went to were manned by men, who probably would have plotzed if they were there to witness Annie Potts stapling record albums to the ceiling.) She also moved in a universe where she actually had the privilege to choose Andrew McCarthy over the Duckman (an unwise move, IMHO), and was followed around by music by Orchestral Manouvers in the Dark and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Doing heroin and turning tricks on the street will also make you hardcore, but I'm not going there either. I had friends in high school that either actually did these things or romanticized the hell out of them. God help me, I actually once made up a story that I had been a coke dealer at the tender age of thirteen, just to feel like I fit in with these people. When I think about making that story up, it embarrasses the hell out of me.

And since I am an occultist, I also find myself witnessing cultural and intellectual wars that seem really silly to me, which remind me of those "heavier than thou" pissing contests that I saw and sometimes took part in in high school. I know this time I won't be making up silly stories about invoking those Goetic demons or whatever.

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