"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pop Culture Porn

When I met my wife I made fun of her magazine subscriptions. She had set both The New Yorker (swanky) and Entertainment Weekly (trashy) next to each other on the end table. Outwardly, I mocked her contradictory sensibilities, but I knew I would never read The New Yorker and instead would secret away the EW to the back porch or the bathroom to read while she wasn’t looking. It was my pop culture porn: I was ashamed that I couldn't look away.

I gradually gave up trying to hide my gratification of the pop culture dish that is the EW. Now I proudly read nearly every word every week. My descent into a pop culture junkie wouldn't have happened without it.

I eagerly await the arrival of the next issue. If it doesn't show up in the mail on Friday, I'm desolate until Saturday when I hear the mail carrier open that mail slot. And if it's not there and I have to wait until Monday? Oh, the humanity!

I take a new EW and flip through the pages, identifying the major stories, the main reviews of movies, television, DVDs, music, and books. Then I pick through the first pages. These are short articles about certain popular artists of the week, entertainment picks for the week, and a column called “News and Notes” which gives interesting information about various entertainment industry issues without pandering to giving “news” about who slept with whom.

Apparently there's an operatic Boy
George clone named Prince Poppycock.
I'm glad the EW never told me
about him.
What I have found, what I didn't know when I first teased my wife for harboring such poppycock, is that EW is not People, not Us, not In Style. It doesn't sell irritating ads for perfume and it doesn't include page after page of celebrity pot shots or paparazzi photos. It doesn't gossip about where the latest Hollywood hot spot is. It doesn't give you the 411 on the latest Brittany or Lindsey fiasco.

That's not exactly true. If a starlet has a meltdown, you can be sure to see a photo. And when Hillary Swank gets in hot water for being paid to wish a dictator happy birthday, EW will tell you all about it. But the reportage is brief and not the focus of the magazine. Entertainment Weekly is pop culture news for those who care about the product much more than the celebrity.

The interviews are restricted (more or less) to discussions about the artist’s craft, how a movie was made rather than what marriage was broken up on the set. I enjoy the articles on how a movie was filmed even as I understand how much they are commercials for the movie. I like reading about what the new Coldplay album sounds like even though I know they're only giving this interview just to sell more records.

I try to be discriminating. I don’t read the long article about Grey’s Anatomy because I don’t watch it. American Idol generally gives me hives, so I don’t linger on the five page article about who will win and who got their hair cut.

As promotional as the copy might be, the magazine maintains its integrity with the reviews they give the different media each week. Just the week before, they might have run an article gushing about the utter beauty of Norman Mailer’s authorial work, but then the book critic might skewer his latest novel about the childhood of Hitler. These critics don’t pander to popular taste, claiming that something is good just because the crowd likes it. Often they mock reality TV. They deride many comedies that end up number one at the box office. I don’t know when they last gave a good review to anything Ben Stiller has done (maybe Tropic Thunder).

In the past they had some interesting writers for the weekly column; it's now stocked with guest celebrity columnists who are a bit dull, like some producer of Jersey Shore. I liked Diablo Cody's take on the Hollywood experience after writing Juno. And I used to get a kick out of Stephen King writing the back page column (now the column is somewhere in the middle; another fault). I’m not a huge fan of his novels, but as a pop culture columnist, King is spot on. He talks about good TV and good music as if everybody understands—at least I understand. But they let them both go as regular columnists. Now if only they could hire Orson Scott Card to add his two cents.

I still don’t read much of The New Yorker. My wife gets it now on Kindle. Sometimes I'll read a movie review or something about the current music scene. I suppose I believe now that the EW is just as valid for entertainment news as The New Yorker ever was.

Plus, reading Entertainment Weekly gives you a distinct advantage during a trivia bowl. The New Yorker couldn't give you that.

18 comments:

  1. Oh yeah, EW is the bomb. All the things I dislike about People magazine are absent from EW. I hope you're soon able to leverage the trivia edge it is granting you.

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  2. I miss my subscription to EW, but I have to admit I had People too. Mags were one of the expenses that I cut when I became unemployed, but I sure do miss my weekly EW fix. For now I have the EW must list app on my iPhone and I make do. It is probably one of the only magazines I actually read cover to cover on a regular basis.

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  3. I tend to read EW in doctor's waiting rooms and considering the amount of time that I spend in such places, I don't need my own subscription! I bet the pop culture knowledge comes in handy in the classroom - you should consider it as a tax deductible expense for work related research!

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  4. I read EW online every day during lunch. I don't know why, but it gives me the strength to teach 2 more classes. I admit I am a pop culture addict. It must run in the family...

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  5. I used to read EW but i think movies and tv and music have become so much worse in recent years that I don't want to read about them anymore. Possibly I'm turning into a grump.


    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino

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  6. I like the contrast of swanky and trashy on the same table. Some of the best things in life are both. Like Playboy or Mercutio in that play sort of like Westside Story.

    Not that I subscibe to Playboy anymore. Or ever did, I mean :)

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  7. I love EW. It's the one magazine that both my significant other and I read.

    We both skip the Grey's Anatomy articles too...

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  8. I'm so out of touch with pop culture I wouldn't know who 99% of the people were or what they were talking about. I believe my mind and tastes are still stuck somewhere back in the early 80's.

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  9. @ paul: The only reason I know half the answers is because I read it somewhere. You don't have to listen to Katy Perry to know all about her.

    @ LeAnne: You can always read EW.com. But that means you have to pick and choose what to read and you end up with a lot of dead ends.

    @ laughingmom: I'll have to look into the tax deduction. Maybe EW will give me a discount, too.

    @ jazzy: I think it's just me and you.

    @ moody: I consider myself a grump, too, but it's so much easier to be grumpy about stuff you've heard of.

    @ Doug: It must be one of the reasons I love my wife. (Did I just call my wife trashy?)

    And I love your Mercutio reference. He IS both swanky and trashy.

    @ MJ: I think I read more of it that my wife does. She's much more discriminating.

    @ darev: I probably would be much more stuck in the 80's than I already am if it weren't for such information as I get from this magazine. Try to branch out. Enter the 21st century and see what happens.:)

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  10. The only magazine I ever read is newsweek, and saying I read it is an overstatement. I read the political cartoons.

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  11. My wife mocks my inability to remember anything pop culture. I then spout something about string theory, the formation of the solar system, or about mitochondrial dna and she stares at me like I'm the huge nerd that I am.

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  12. I don't read magazines. Not on a regular basis, anyway. However, I do enjoy flipping through the pages of EW when I'm in a dentit's office or something.

    It's good to know that not all entertainment magazines are filled with all that inane drivel about which celebrity slept with whom, or why Snookie got yellow streaks in her hair instead of gold ones.

    Anyway, happy reading! :)

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  13. @ Chris: I used to get Newsweek at school. I didn't read much of it. Only the entertainment stuff at the back. And the political cartoons.

    @ Charlie: There are different kinds of nerds. Your wife is just as nerdy if she quotes lines from Gilmore Girls.

    @ Candice: Who's Snookie?

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  14. I can't tell you without tearing apart the very fabric of our society as a whole. Consider yourself lucky that you don't know. She's like a virus that's turning the world into zombies. I've already been contaminated, but luckily I have the only antidotes that, when combined, can actually work against her power: self-respect and common sense. If there's still a chance to save you and your family from the knowledge of who she is, cling to it for as long as you can!

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  15. I don't read any magazines on a weekly basis. However, I can tell you that that I enjoy the New York Times magazine (not paper). It's quite entertaining.

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  16. @ Candice: Don't tell anyone, but I do know who Snooki is. One of the benefits of being a pop culture junkie is that you know who the idiots are and how to avoid them.

    @ Michael: I'll have to check that out. Thanks.

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  17. Never mock Boy George! :)

    And I don't let people tell me the celebrity gossip. I'd rather not know what garbage is going on. I just want to go to my movie or listen to my music without any extra baggage regarding the artists.

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  18. Ok, first of all, Candice's description of Snooki pretty much made my year.

    Secondly, I ADORE EW! Well, ew.com-- some of my favorite writers work there. I'm in awe of their pop culture spins-- there's a steady writer hand behind all the Kim Kardashian jokes.

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