I will never watch all the movies I want to watch. I’ll never read all the books that capture my interest. There are TV marathons I started and abandoned two or three episodes in, fully aware that my promises to get back to them were half-hearted. I could live to 200 and have implants drilled into my brain that allow me to absorb information at the speed of light, and I would still never get around to half the stuff I, once upon a time, said I’d give a go.
There’s something almost comforting about this fact. Realistically speaking, I will never have the time to do, say or experience everything life throws at me. It allows me to focus in on the stuff that truly interests me. It’s not a perfect system, obviously. I still feel guilty, especially as a professional pop culture hot takes merchant, when I have nothing to contribute to a particular conversation. You can’t know everything, yet you can’t help but feel left out when everyone around you is chatting about something you either don’t get or didn’t get around to.
We all have pop cultural blind spots. There are those books or movies or entire genres you overlooked or never had the energy to try out for yourself. We’re constantly torn between exploring the past, those classics that define their respective mediums, and the present with its seemingly endless array of content. Sometimes, the conversations are so deafening that, even if you think you’d enjoy the book or movie or whatever in hand, you find yourself put off by the hype. Once someone tells me that this thing I missed is the greatest of all time, there’s still a quiet voice in my head that disdainfully refuses to even give it a chance. It’s as if spite cannot help but present itself.
So, in the interests of being entertaining and informative, I have decided to share some, but not all, of my pop culture blind spots. In order to meet this definition, it must be something I haven’t actually seen, read, listened to or consumed. That rules out Game of Thrones, a major pop culture institution whose appeal I simply do not get, even though I’ve seen various episodes. Make sure you share your pop culture blind spots in the comments. Let us know what you just never got into or have overlooked for far too long.
This one is pretty embarrassing because, on top of writing about film and pop culture for a living, I’m also a student of film studies. Really, there’s no excuse for missing this one beyond the mere logistics of actually sitting down to watch it. In fairness, I didn’t see Taxi Driver until last year, when my local arthouse cinema did a BFI screening of it, and that was a wonderful experience. There is something to be said for getting to a classic quite late in the game, particularly when it’s one whose dialogue and iconography are so recognizable, even to the ignorant. It’s a similar thing with me and Citizen Kane: I already know about the revolutionary film-making, I know what Rosebud is, I know the history behind how it got made and how it was suppressed. I’ve seen all the gags on The Simpsons that reference it (‘Bring back Sheriff Lobo!’), so clearly, I’ve seen enough, right? I still want to watch this at some point, if only to get it off my conscience. It’s the kind of film that requires a bigger screen than my lowly laptop, however.
Yup, another embarrassing movie admission. If they don’t give me my Masters degree in a few months time, this may be why. Again, I’ve partly been delaying watching this supposed masterpiece because I feel like it requires a real cinematic experience. I’m sure Ridley Scott would prefer that I give his sci-fi classic the benefit of a screen larger than my face. Sometimes, with a film, the dialogue around it is so exhausting that I feel too overwhelmed to eschew these decades of narratives and enter with a clear mind. This one also comes with the problem of multiple cuts - do you watch the original, the director’s cut, or whatever special edition is currently floating around? I really did want to see Blade Runner 2049, because I love Denis Villeneuve and Harrison Ford at any age, but decided I’d wait until I could see the first one. Alas, you can see where that got me.
Moby Dick, A Confederacy of Dunces, or anything by William Faulkner
I’m an English literature graduate who went out of her way to tailor her studies towards weird freaky theatre, Shakespearean politics, queer fiction, and dirty poetry. That left little room for the American literary canon. As I get older, I find my reading tastes become more rooted in comfort than experimentation. Now and then, I’ll surprise myself by actually finishing that Thomas Pynchon book that’s been on my shelf for ages, but with time, such instances become rarer. That means that ‘the classics’ tend to suffer. I have less time to read for pleasure these days, and I feel pressure to read new stuff I can review for work. I want books that provide sanctuary from homework, not more homework. As much as these books have inspired, influenced and delighted millions of readers, there’s still a part of me that can’t shake the feeling that I need to prepare presentation notes every time I see them. It’s also unfair because there are classics I repeatedly devour - ask me about my obsessions with Dracula and Phantom of the Opera. Maybe I’ll get around to them eventually, but all the romance paperbacks on my shelves look so much more tempting!
World of Warcraft
I have a vaguely addictive personality. I know exactly how things would end if I installed that on my computer and let me tell you, it wouldn’t be good! I assure you, this decision is for the best.