Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Super Bowl, Glee, And Pop-Culture Obligations

Few things on this earth interest me less than watching sports. It just does not engage me in the slightest. On the one hand, you have a bunch of (often overpaid) (almost invariably dude-type) humans chasing after a ball for 90 minutes or so; on the other hand, you have LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE IN EXISTENCE, and the former cannot possibly compete for my attention.

American football perhaps tops the list of Sports I Do Not Care About. Friends have gamely attempted to explain the rules to me, but such endeavors always put my brain in a jellified stupor quicker than Of Grammatology and a letter from the bank combined. Sports terminology is my personal soporific.

So you can understand why I anticipated my first Super Bowl with some trepidation. In fact, I looked on wistfully as a friend of mine offered a marvelous piece of counter-programming in the form of “Buffy Bowl”; but I just couldn't not participate in arguably the biggest cultural event in the US calendar.

As it turned out, I had a pretty excellent time. Beer, food, beer, friends, beer, yelling at commercials for being offensive kyriarchal clusterfucks, and beer are some of my favorite things, so I barely even noticed that there was a sport going on. It turns out there's enough of a surrounding circus that you can be reasonably entertained without paying the slightest attention to the game. (Also, it's apparently socially acceptable to be mortal as a newt by like 4pm on Super Bowl Sunday.)

I doubt I could summarize the goings-on better than Liss (except to reiterate: OMG NICKI MINAJ, be still my beating heart), nor get my feminist outrage on better than Fannie, so I won't try. What's interesting to me is my own feeling that, as a pop-culture connoisseur, I absolutely had to experience this event.

You see, this same weekend, I made official my breakup with Glee. I unliked it on Facebook and deleted the unwatched episodes that have been accumulating since October. For a couple of years, much as I would criticize it, Glee was essential viewing for me. The pop-culture buzz, the detailed analysis, the sense of witnessing a significant event in early-twenty-first-century television – it was irresistible. And yet, by the time season three started, the feeling of icy dread that accompanied each episode far outweighed the anticipation of conversation around it. The sheer awfulness of the show had, in my judgment, at last surpassed its cultural relevance.

The criteria we use for judging which pop-culture phenomena are worthy of our time and attention are subtle and strange. I absolutely believe that popular culture is worthy of close study and analysis: that this study can reveal all manner of truths about a given society – how it functions, what it values, what narratives it tells about itself and how these narratives perpetuate or challenge existing systems of domination and oppression. However, no one has the time or energy to be a consumer of all the popular culture from which we can learn these things. I know that everyone makes choices and compromises, but I still find myself second-guessing my own judgments about pop culture. Since I jumped ship on Glee, I understand that it's aired an episode dealing with gay teen sex, and has another forthcoming in which Brittana will actually, you know, do something. These are arguably watershed moments in pop-culture representations of homosexuality in the US, and maybe by bailing when I did I am missing out on something culturally important. I guess my question is:

To what extent are you obligated to engage with something you hate in order to study its sociocultural impact?

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand or have an interest in football, either, but I like watching the Super Bowl for the fancy commericals. Some of them are quite creative and quite funny. Yeah, as a woman, I cringe at the really sexist ones, but I get enough of a laugh out of most of them that I find them worth watching.

    Of course, I only caught half the game due to going to work at the Pooper Bowl (my barn). A testiment to "literally everything" drawing my attention away from the game.