Pop Culture Blind Spots

“I’ve never seen Star Wars.”

Up until a few years ago, that was my go to conversation starter. It never failed; I throw that little nugget of information out there and suddenly there was all sorts of chatter. On good nights, there were multiple invitations to make me finally sit down and watch the original trilogy (no one cares that I haven’t seen the most recent movies; some people are envious). It was the best icebreaker that I ever had; I honestly didn’t have much interest in the films either way, but at a certain point not seeing Star Wars became my thing. People just couldn’t get over that a person my age who is as into pop culture as I am had missed this cultural touchstone. It seems like a much bigger affront Men in particular were flabbergasted with this admission so I realized dropping that truth bomb was guaranteed to get me some attention. I’m no fool – why would I want to give that up?

Now just because I had never seen Star Wars didn’t mean that I didn’t get most of the references to the films that are made. It’s hard to navigate pop culture without running into some Star Wars-related content at some point. So while I may not have gotten the exact context of all the references, I understood enough that I wasn’t completely in the dark. It helped that I had seen Spaceballs, as well as the Robot Chicken and Family Guy episodes that were devoted entirely to Star Wars. Clerks helped familiarize me with the Death Star (and the politics involved):

 

I may not have known everything, but I knew the broad strokes: Darth Vader was Luke’s father, there was an epic battle between good and evil, and no one over the age of eight likes Ewoks.

I finally relented and watched the films a few years ago, when I thought I was no longer going to need to use the line to meet new boys (spoiler alert: I was wrong). I can’t say that I honestly enjoyed the movies all that much; by the time I finally watched them they had been built into something so unobtainable that there was no way that I wasn’t going to be disappointed. It was hard for me to overlook the obvious limitations of a film trilogy that was made in the 70s and 80s. I also, obviously, knew the major plot twist that took everyone by surprise back in the day. I was surprised to find out that my ad hoc Star Wars education prior to the movies had led me slightly astray; based on the amount of coverage that Boba Fett received in Robot Chicken and other programs, I thought he was a much bigger character in the Star Wars universe. I was disappointed that he was played a generally minor role in the film. I was also annoyed to find out that I had inadvertently been quoting Hans Solo; I thought that responding to someone saying “I love you” with “I know” was a suave Heather move. Sadly, it turns out I was just ripping off Harrison Ford (which explained the reaction I got when I used it):

 

I was clearly not as pimp as I thought I was.

Though I have lost my standing as a Star Wars virgin, I still have a surprising number of pop culture blind spots. For whatever reason, I have missed out on some pop culture moments that everyone else seemed to find the time for. I have seen plenty of obscure stuff, but I missed out on some pretty big mainstream media. While none of these get quite the reaction that not seeing Star Wars received, the admissions are usually greeted with some level of incredulousness. Here are some of my pop culture blind spots:

  • Indiana Jones movies

index

Perhaps I have some underlying aversion to Harrison Ford, but I have never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies. This is particularly odd since my mom enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark quite a bit; I’ve seen a scene or two when it was on at my parents’ house, but I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing. Much like Star Wars, I know some of the more iconic stuff – the boulder scene from Lost Ark has been copied in a million different things – but I’m generally in the dark about these films. If you quoted the movie to me, I’d probably have no idea what you were talking about.

 

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-28958057-1024-768_zps89975fd2

This TV show is not quite as mainstream as Indiana Jones; I don’t know that Buffy ever was a ratings powerhouse. While the show has something of a cult status, for someone who runs in the pop culture circles that I do, this is a pretty big omission from my pop culture resume. I can’t fake my way through this at all; I barely can name the characters on the series. I have no real excuse – I actually have the first few seasons on DVD on loan from a friend – but I have just never gotten around to sitting down to watch it. I’ve seen an episode or two sporadically and I enjoyed it, so that’s not even what’s holding me back. Someday I’ll get around to it, but until then my eyes glaze over whenever someone makes a reference to Sunnydale High. I have seen the dreadful movie that the show is very loosely based on, but that doesn’t seem to help my street cred at all.

  • Nineteen Eighty –Four by George Orwell

1984

When I went off to college, I discovered that there were a lot of books that everyone else read in college that we somehow never got around to. I’m not sure how this happened – I think I received a pretty good education – but it is surprising the number of classics that somehow were never assigned. I only read The Catcher in the Rye last year, after being tired of years of references to Holden Caulfield and having to fake that I understood the meaning (ironically, I was one of the phonies that Holden had such a problem with).

We read Animal Farm my sophomore year, but we never got around to Nineteen Eighty –Four. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of references to the book in politics, I have a general idea of the basic plot. I don’t know, however, if the book is being misinterpreted for political gain (that tends to happen) or any of the details of the story. This seems like a book that I should have read at some point.

  • Dumb and Dumber

dumb

This is the film that comes closest to getting me the same reaction as my Star Wars admission; of all the things that I haven’t seen, people get the most upset about Dumb and Dumber. I really have no idea why I haven’t seen this one – it came out during my freshman year of college when I was watching a lot of movies. I’ve even rented this film for other people to watch, but I’ve never sat down and watched the movie myself. The guys I watch football with every Sunday love this movie and quote it a lot, so I’ve picked up enough that I can fake my way through a conversation if need be or at least recognize where the quote are coming from. I’ve even been known to reference this scene, despite the fact that I’ve never seen the movie:

 

I have no principled reason for not watching it – I’m not above dumb movies – but it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m guessing that after years of hearing the quotes out of context, I’m just not going to be all that impressed with it.

There are other omissions that have become less problematic with age – no one seems to care anymore that I’ve never seen Beverly Hills Cop, for instance. I’ve also remedied some previous issues; I’ve seen Rocky IV in the last few years, which made this Family Guy montage make a whole lot more sense:

 

I’m sure that there are others that I’m missing; of course, pop culture blind spots are different from things that I’ve tried and simply cannot get into, like Doctor Who. I’d like to think that I have fewer blind spots than most people, simply because of the sheer volume of pop culture that I’ve sampled, but there are invariably going to be things that I simply missed.

What are your biggest pop culture blind spots? Confess your sins in the comments below.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Condensed Edition

Y’all will unfortunately have to make do with a shorter version of the pop culture roundup this week. It’s still chock full o’ awesome, but between endless meetings and vacation days my week has shaped up to be all sorts of crazy this week. I’m doing lots of cool stuff that I’ll blog about, but right now I am less than 12 hours from a trip to NYC and I have not even begun to plan out my day in the big apple. So while I scour the internet and plan my mass transit route, enjoy the more manageable collection of pop culture stories that you may have missed in the last two weeks.

  • If you live in any of these cities, PLEASE take a picture for me of one of these Breaking Bad inspired car washes. Nothing cool like this ever happens in Albany.
  • Speaking of Jay Z, he made a performance art film of his appearance at the Pace Gallery last month:

 

  • Christian Bale has hung up the Bat Suit; here are six actors that Warner is reportedly considering for the role. May I humbly suggest one actor that they overlooked – Jon Hamm.
  • Billy Bob Thorton will star in the FX adaption of Fargo. Still think this is a bad idea.
  • Watch a Greendale Community College recruitment video:

 

  • Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical. OUTSTANDING.

 

  • The music video for Mumford & Sons “Hopeless Wanderer” features a lot of familiar faces:

 

  • The O.C. debuted ten years ago this week – Vulture put together a superfan quiz to celebrate. I got a depressing 35 right; I’ll let you decide if I am depressed that I got 35 right or if I’m depressed that I only got 35 correct.
  • Oprah interviewed Lindsay Lohan for a special that will air on August 18th on OWN. Oprah is getting desperate for ratings; that being said, I will probably watch.

 

  • Speaking of Lohan – she guest hosted Chelsea Lately last night:

 

  • Soleil Moon Frye (better known as 80s style icon Punky Brewster) is taking over hosting duties on OWN’s show Home Made Simple.
  • This doesn’t make me happy – Jack White’s ex-wife has filed a restraining order against him and called him an unfit parent.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba is one weird show, but I’ll watch anything with Josh Holloway on it:

 

He can sing too? Swoon.

  • These were the original opening credits for Dexter, which Showtime deemed “too dark” to use:

 

  • Stream the new The Civil Wars album online.
  • If you loved playing Oregon Trail as much as I did back in the day, Mental Floss has a cool story on its history and development.
  • I kind of wish this live action Daria was a real thing (La-la-la):

 

  • Stephen Colbert and Hugh Laurie decided to recite all the vulgar words that you are allowed to say on basic cable:

 

You want trailers? We got trailers.

  • Diana (starring Naomi Watts)

 

  • Enough Said (James Gandolfini’s last role)

 

  • Muppets Most Wanted (wait……was that Diddy?)

 

  • Lone Survivor (Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg)

 

  • Can’t leave out TV – American Horror Story: Coven

 

  • Sherlock, Season 3

 

  • Ha! The Jimmy Kimmel/Matt Damon war wages on:

 

As always, we conclude with the Mash-ups and Supercuts

  • The new Doctor has been selected – Peter Capaldi will take over the title role after this season. To celebrate, here is a very NSFW mashup of Doctor Who footage and some of Capaldi’s previous roles (which involved frequent use of the F word)

 

  • A guy on reddit created a facial composite of all the actors that have played Superman in the modern age and the results ain’t too shabby:
created by reddit user morphinapg

created by reddit user morphinapg

  • Sesame Street does Sons of Anarchy:

 

  • They were busy over on “the Street;” Cookie Monster found time to cover Icona Pop:

 

  • A supercut of all the Breaking Bad scenes filmed from below:

 

  • Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” performed in 13 different styles:

 

  • Wolverine: A Movie by Woody Allen

 

  • Game of Thrones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

 

  • 177 episodes of House in 7 minutes:

 

  • Star Wars characters dancing to “Blurred Lines”

 

Chewbacca has some sweet moves!

  • And finally…a Weird Al/Breaking Bad mash-up? Makes total sense to me.

Turning Over (the Remote) Control

Spring appears to have finally taken up residence in this part of the world; the nights can still get a little chilly, but for the most part all the signs of warmer weather have appeared: no jackets, restaurants have opened their patios and outdoor musical festivals are beginning. This is our reward for putting up with the long and cold winters and the warmer weather seems to put people in a better mood, at least while it is still a novelty. Three months from now we’ll be complaining about the heat and the humidity, but this is the sweet spot when we appreciate what we have.

Spring also marks the end of the traditional television season. Though new series will promote over the summer, the bulk of new series are coming to an end. In the next two weeks or so, most of the shows that I regularly watch will be wrapping things up, some for the last time (Adios, The Office. You were terrible your last two seasons).  Some shows will simply be ending their relationship with me, as I imagine I will not be returning when they come back in the fall (prime candidates: The Following, Once Upon a Time, Modern Family).

While there are summer shows that I am excited for – Breaking Bad foremost among them – I have a lot more free time as the days get warmer. I fill that with travel, baseball games, BBQs and concerts, as well as the summer movie season, but I always pick a few TV viewing projects to help fill the void. Without so many regular programs to keep up with, I like to use my down time to catch up on a show that I have fallen woefully behind on or finally get around to a show that I haven’t watched yet but have consistently heard is worth my time. For the latter, that may be a show that is still in production or it may be a show that has ended its run. With Netflix and so many streaming options, it is fairly easy these days to catch up on shows that you’ve missed.

This year, I’ve decided to turn control over to my readers and allow you to vote on what should be my summer viewing project. I’ve put together some options of shows that I haven’t seen but that I often hear come up in conversation. I’m sure I missed some great options, so feel free to suggest other shows for consideration. I tried to mix in some shows that are still running with series that are complete. I have no other restrictions, though I would generally prefer not to watch most reality show competitions. I don’t know how readily available most seasons are and if I already know the outcome, I’m not sure that’s a fair test for any show.

 

 

I currently watch/have watched: 24, 30 Rock, American Horror Story, The Americans, Archer, Arrested Development, Bates Motel, Being Human, Bent, Better Off Ted, The Big Bang Theory, Big Love, Boardwalk Empire, Bob’s Burgers, Breaking Bad, Childrens Hospital, Community, Copper, Cougar Town, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Damages, Deadwood, Dexter, Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23, Downton Abbey, Eastbound & Down, Family Guy, Firefly, The Following, Freaks and Geeks, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, Girls, Go On, Gossip Girls, Hannibal, Happy Endings, Homeland, Homicide, The Hour, House of Cards, How I Met Your Mother, The Inbetweeners, In Treatment, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Jersey Shore (no I am not proud of this), Justified. The League, Legit, Lost, Louie, Luther, Mad Men, Men of a Certain Age, Modern Family, Nashville, Newsradio, The Office (US and UK), Once Upon a Time, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, Party Down, Political Animals, Portlandia, Rescue Me, Revenge, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Scrubs, Seinfeld, Sherlock, The Shield, The Simpsons, Six Feet Under, Sons of Anarchy, The Sopranos, Southland, South Park, Terriers, The Newsroom, Top of the Lake, Treme, True Blood, Undeclared, United State of Tara, The Vampire Diaries, Veep, Vikings, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Weeds, The West Wing, Wilfred, The Wire

I have tried and ultimately decided it isn’t for me: The Amazing Race, American Idol, Castle, Celebrity Apprentice, Dallas, Dawson’s Creek, Doctor Who, Entourage, Glee, Grimm, House, Hung, The Killing, The Middle, Project Runway, Pushing Daisies, Revolution, Suburgatory, Survivor, The Mindy Project, Top Chef, Ugly Betty.

So I leave this decision in your capable hands. You can pick a show that you think I’ll really like or you can pick a show you think I’ll hate. Whatever the winner is, I’ll watch the show (or at least a couple seasons) and then write about what I thought about. The adventurous part of me is very excited for this experiment, but the control freak/type A part of my personality finds this process terrifying.
I’ll leave the poll up for a couple weeks to allow people the chance to vote. I am your dancing monkey – just tell me what song to dance to.

 

monkey