There are some things you admit to cautiously, depending on where you are and who’s in the room. I’m not talking about whether you ever smoked dope, or did something really stupid while drunk, or the first time you … um, you know. *
I’m talking about the humiliation of pop culture deficiency, the feckless ignorance of things seemingly known to the rest of the sentient world. That is, all those people who watch a staggering amount of TV — mostly cable — while immersed in social media and relentlessly trolling for the next titillating meme.
At the risk of defaulting to old fogey mode, I remember when I considered myself au courant. I was in the news business. It seemed imperative that I should know what people were interested in, talking about, or running off to experience.
Thanks to a childhood (OK, lifelong) obsession with micro detail I was, “back in the day,” almost unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit. Please tell me you know that is. I’m aware that there are tournaments at some of the local bars, but I won’t go near the game these days. My memory is still pretty good, but it is woefully understocked to meet any current competitive challenge.
Pop culture is no longer a matter of keeping abreast of the daily patter about emerging trends, personalities, movements and curiosities. Now it’s a cyclonic deluge, a roar in your ear buds, an endless video loop, a screeching sales pitch to convince you that these things are important! Like, say, the Kardashians, formerly thought to be an alien species featured in the first “Star Trek” series. I’m open to persuasion that they still are. And it’s not properly sorted, if you ask me. At this moment on the Yahoo news page, the headline “acting defense chief’s confirmation stalled by FBI” coexists with “why the Queen’s planned gift for Meghan Markle’s 38th birthday is so important.”
If you could get information intravenously, a 24/7 drip of nourishment-free jib-jabbery, it still wouldn’t be enough. When Bruce Springsteen sang “57 Channels and Nothing On,” we thought it was amusing. Now we know he was prophesizing the coming days of universal overload. Choice is a wonderful thing until you are gripped by selection paralysis. There are hundreds of things that are current, hot and certain to dominate casual discussion (we used to call it water cooler talk), which admittedly is a lot less stressful than talking about politics. How do you choose? How do you want your life to tick away? Who can keep up?
Lots of you, apparently.
I was reminded of how far I have lapsed when, recently, all other meaningful dialog was muffled during the global dust-up over the final episode of “Game of Thrones.” Raise your hand if, like me, you are one of the six people on the planet who have no idea what the hell everyone else is talking about. We need to huddle for strength and reassurance. I did see, a couple of years ago, about 10 minutes of “Thrones.” It was a quasi-violent sex scene featuring a startling amount of nudity, and I’m no prude. Sci-fi/fantasy and soft-core porn are hardly strangers, but it didn’t encourage me to flesh out the rest of the story, so to speak.
“Final Episode Syndrome” is not a new thing. Debate still rages over what really happened to the Sopranos, how Seinfeld could get it so wrong and whether Bob Newhart could actually have dreamed the whole thing. But the “Thrones” outrage seemed a wee bit out of proportion in relation to other world events, such as pending war with Iran – where picking sides actually means something.
I often read People magazine while on the stationary bike at the gym, for a few minutes of current events recharging (so the rest of you up there, stop looking at me like that). Much of the time I’m wondering, as I page though dozens of glitzy shots, “who are these people?” The celebrities I recognize are the ones in the airbrushed photos, gushing about how 80 is the new 60.
It’s probably too late for me. Once you fall behind, there is no catching up. You are the weak straggler at the back of the herd who is left behind to be picked over by the reality TV predators, and you will die a horribly uninformed death.
But if you want to argue about whether Poco was better than the Eagles, or discuss whether Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty ever … um, you know … I’m your guy.
* I’m not sayin’. Any of it.