“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
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
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
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
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.