When I was young, I swore, as most people probably did, that I would be hip and cool forever and I would always be fashionable, watch the trendy shows and listen to the trendy music. This dream has been dashed. This is a sign that I'm getting old. I'm turning into my parents. It shouldn't come as any great surprise, depending on which side of the nature-nurture debate you take, since I'm basically the product of their collective gene pool (pooled gene pool?). In that sense, I supposed I turned into my parents (or 50% of each parent) at conception. I'm talking about a more abstract level though. Stop splitting hairs. You are distracting me from the point I want to make here.
Anyway, the other day, I had to ask my girlfriend what on earth Jersey Shore was. I'd heard people talking about it and I'm apparently so out of touch with popular culture that entire memes just pass me by without my ever noticing, like traffic outside my window when the blinds are closed. I didn't even know it was a TV show. It was just a vague concept which I knew existed but couldn't even begin to describe, like string theory.
Jersey Shore compared to string theory. Yes, I did it. Let nobody say I am neither avant-garde nor intellectually courageous.
Popular culture is increasingly unfathomable and distasteful to me. That may seem like a moral judgement, but it isn't. I feel much the same about popular culture as I do about Marmite, or black pudding: I don't like it. Some people do, and that fact does not affect my opinion about them in any way. I don't think somebody is a worse person because they enjoy aspects of culture that I don't understand or like, any more than I would think they were a worse person because they liked certain foods I found unpleasant. The notion that I would, or should, seems rather ridiculous.
However, something quite common to popular-culture-stinks blog posts, op-ed columns, etc. is the rampant elitism. My appeal is that there is no such thing as “better”, there is only “better to you”. So when you say that Berlioz is better than 50-Cent, you really mean it's better to you, and your personal opinion about that doesn't give you any ability to pass judgement on 50-Cent's fans any more than their preferring his music gives them the ability to pass judgement on you.
Of course, I'm not going to paint a false, holier-than-thou image of myself here. There are times when I see some young man with his baseball cap facing the wrong way, and I think, “What an idiot.”
However, I know I shouldn't think that, and when I do, I'm being judgemental, closed-minded, provincial; all the things I fear to be, and I'm ashamed of myself for having thought it. Perhaps one day I'll be free of at least this aspect of my snobbishness, but for now I'll have to commit such thought-crimes and atone for them later.
But do I risk the same thing in passing judgement on those who pass judgement? There's a question. Really, I should try and avoid being elitist because I find elitism personally distasteful, but I should also respect those others who are elitist, and realize that claiming to be better than someone because they are an elitist and I am not is, in itself, elitist. So, I don't like much of popular culture, although I won't pass judgement on anyone who does; but if you do pass such judgement on them, I won't pass judgement on you for that either.
I wonder if what I wore and watched and listened to when I was young seemed just as ridiculous to my parents and their generation? I suspect that it did. In fact, if my mother's exhortations to “turn that awful music down” were any indication, it's quite certain. Therefore, I'm not really getting old at all: my tastes were always bizarre and unpleasant to some, and theirs were always bizarre and unpleasant to me; all that has changed over time is the people to whom that statement applies. Which is some measure of comfort.