It is a truth universally acknowledged among pop culture enthusiasts that when discussing the details of a celebrity’s life in a group setting, you run the risk of someone asking: “Who?”

Over the years, I’ve noticed the people who make a habit of this question are a very particular type: They are usually male, for one, and their tone often implies confusion, nay bafflement, by what they believe to be “lowbrow” references. Even if the celebrity in question is at the top of the charts, the star of a blockbuster movie or the main character in a popular TV show, somehow the star will have eluded this guy’s refined attention, so much so that he insists on voicing this confusion.

“Who?” he’ll ask, sometimes creatively framing the question as: “What’s a Kardashian?” While it is usually out of character for this particular breed of man to admit ignorance in any arena, in this case it is important that you know he is far too busy doing worthier things to know who Kim Kardashian is.

There is almost always an element of prejudice behind this kind of pop culture shaming. It is easy to imagine that, in the hive mind of these sorts, “real” music is the province of anaemic-looking dudes with guitars, not young women; that “important” storytelling belongs to Aaron Sorkin, not Shonda Rhimes; that “highbrow” novels are unreadable tomes about college professors who think about cheating on their wives, because any book about the inner lives of women needs a cartoonish high-heel shoe on the cover.

This perspective is shared and accepted by many. Whether it’s a rap song or a reality show, there is this notion of widely enjoyed media as “junk food” — something to feel bad about consuming. But the very idea of a guilty pleasure has always felt gendered to me, at least to some degree. After all, a football fan might have the same encyclopedic knowledge and fervent love of their team as a Mariah Carey stan, but one of these people is more likely to be taken seriously when they talk about their passion at the office.

“Those who flock ’round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures,” wrote critic Paul Johnson, back when Beatlemania was at its zenith. Nowadays, The Beatles are widely considered to be one of the greatest bands of all time. What changed? The fandom. The group’s audience grew to encompass men as well as young women, and the perception of both the band and the music was altered as a result. This selective memory transcends spheres of culture, even applying to the way we think about food and drink. As Jaya Saxena writes: “When men enjoy something, they elevate it. But when women enjoy something, they ruin it.”

In her talk “How the tech sector could move in One Direction,” startup investor and diversity advocate Sacha Judd explains how pop culture snobbery helped to obscure the creativity, resourcefulness and sheer technological nous of the Directioner fandom. “I was spending all this time trying to think about how to engage women with technology, and I was ignoring the fact they already were,” she says. “They were essentially already video editors, graphic designers, community managers…front-end developers, social media managers. They were absolutely immersed in technology, every day, and we weren’t paying attention, because they were doing it in service of something we don’t care about.”

The media that young women and gay men enjoy is often dismissed as campy or trashy or culturally lightweight because as a demographic, girls and gays tend not to be taken seriously without “earning it.” For that, we can thank a patriarchal culture that continually undermines anything that might be considered “feminine”; for example, Sex and the City might have become synonymous with shoes and clothes and cosmopolitans (and there’s nothing wrong with any of those things), but when it first aired, the idea of women talking about their own bodies and desires on TV was practically unheard of, and it ended up popularizing an entire sex-positive taxonomy (I’m a total Samantha, btw). We can’t ignore the fact that there is a lens through which many of us are encouraged to view art: The work created by and targeted toward men is perceived as inherently good, and art historically geared toward women is seen as innately feminine and therefore frivolous and not worthy of analysis.

To me, as a gay man, this prejudice has always been clear. But I believe pop culture is neither a luxury nor an indulgence; it is a vital, increasingly political ingredient in modern life. Wildly popular properties like Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Hunger Games have given an entire generation a vocabulary of resistance. This year, superhero movie Black Panther got white audiences thinking about colonialism. Relevant, revolutionary stories can come from anywhere — even a makeover show. Queer Eye uses the makeover format to talk about race, mental health and toxic masculinity. (RuPaul’s Drag Race made the most of a similar opportunity to educate its audience about queer issues when it moved to VH1 last year.)

Reality TV is often derided, but we shouldn’t underestimate its ability to tell compelling stories of self-acceptance and overcoming prejudice, packaged in audience-friendly Extreme Makeover or Project Runway-style programming. In our current climate, it feels quietly radical to watch a drag queen preach body positivity in a catsuit or see an effeminate gay man teach a self-described “redneck” about self-care. These kinds of TV shows are billed as mindless escapism, but if anything, they’re a mirror.

Of course, not every movie, book or song has to launch a revolution. Enjoying something can be enough; if you like it, that’s all the defense it needs. And it is absolutely fine to not be immersed in pop culture 24/7 if that’s not your cup of tea — sometimes, asking “Who?” is simply is an expression of curiosity. The question itself is not the problem — it’s the sexist and arrogant tone in which it is all too often asked. For those who feign obliviousness to make a point, it’s worth remembering that by pretending to be above something, you don’t just disrespect diverse media and audiences; you exclude yourself from the conversation entirely. As we are seeing more and more, it’s young people (and their passions) that will shape technology, culture and discourse. If you don’t speak their language, you’ll be left behind.

Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the U.K. You can follow him on Twitter @Philip_Ellis

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • Ashley Hamilton

    I’m going to start citing this in every discussion I’m ever a part of for the rest of my life.

    • Katy


  • Laura Bell Greeno

    I’m a recovering not-caring-about-pop-culture person. I’m sorry for each time I asked “who/what.” I did have the excuse of single parenthood, working two jobs and finishing college throughout the entire 90s to have missed so much pop culture. But my husband is catching me up on the good stuff. Thank you for this, I love it and plan to cite it in a “dressing for work” series I’m writing right now. More please.

    • I relate to this perspective as well. I’ve missed a lot of pop culture through the years and have been shamed for not knowing certain references. It started on the monkey bars in fifth grade when my friends were talking about 90210. I hadn’t heard of it or watched it, but to fit in I pretended I had. Then they called my bluff and started quizzing me about the show. Through the years I’ve often heard, “OMG, how do you not know that?” Now information is more accessible so I feel I’m a bit more with it, but sometimes I wish I didn’t know who certain people were.

  • Adrianna

    I listen to NPR every day and read the New Yorker every week. I will not feel bad for keeping up with the Kardashians. I found that the people who put down reality TV barely engage with any sort of longform journalism, novels, or cinema themselves.

    But I’m the person who always says “who?” This article comes off a bit defensive. I’ve always curated my own pop culture because I was an immigrant kid with parents who wouldn’t pay for magazines, movie tickets, and CDs. I’m part of the generation who killed the music industry – I Napster’d and torrented the crap out of Polish punk music and obscure dance remixes.

    I think people forget that engaging with pop culture takes time and money. If you subsist on a minimum wage, you generally don’t have either.

    • Elly

      I mean that’s the thing, if someone legit doesn’t know who the Kardashians are beyond the name and a couple of news stories, that’s perfectly fine, but if it’s just putting stuff down for the sake of it, like “oh I wouldn’t know about that sort of thing”, that’s someone who’s more concerned with what they’re seen not to like than with actually liking things.

      And yeah, you choose your time and money sinks, not everyone has netflix subscriptions and so on. Not everyone is from the same country. In fact it’s kind of a sad state of affairs that there are a dozen musicians the world over that everyone must have heard of, taking the space of hundreds or even thousands. Also, Napster generation represent! I’m also old enough to have pilfered stuff off the radio using cassettes. But, it’s actually easier, in terms of time and money, to get hold of out of print or public domain stuff for free, plus a lot less risky.

      All I’m getting from this article is a sense that I’m going to get even more woke bros putting me down for internalised misogyny if I show interest in, say, early electronic music (as an electronic musician) or underground comics, or John Waters movies. Only straight white males like that guy, right? I’m sure sick of guys learning me a thing about what “women” really like, intimating that I must not be entirely a woman, which suddenly becomes a bad thing in this context.

      And at the end of the day, I’m concerned about those jerks because they’re getting between me and my goals. Whereas some snob at a dinner party, who cares? Probably the only thing he’s into is whether his new candalabras raise the price of his house anyway.

  • Imogen

    so. well. said.

  • Laura

    this is maybe one of my favorite articles on Man Repeller ever. I dealt with this issue with a friend for quite some time. Whenever I would reference, for example, the Kardashians, she would try to say she doesn’t know who they are really. I find that nearly impossible in this day and age, as a 20-something with an active instagram, Facebook, Twitter, life, etc. You “not knowing” and “not caring” who the Kardashians are does not make you better, it just makes you sort of annoying for always saying it. It also makes those who DO care feel guilty for liking what they like. And that is not cool.

    Thanks MR and Philip! Love it.

    • Jasmin Sander

      Agree it’s kind of annoying, but why should it make you feel guilty?

      • Laura

        Well, it doesn’t anymore, because I’ve learned that no one should feel guilty for liking what they like. But at one point it made me feel less-than? Less intellectual, less cool… if that makes sense. I think guilty was the wrong word to use there!

  • “see an effeminate gay man teach a self-described “redneck” about self-care” –> which show is this? I’m intrigued! I’m often the person in a group who does not “get” pop culture references but I usually don’t voice my ignorance, because I feel I “should” know what they are talking about. I had to secretly look up Demi Lovato after my friends discussed her YouTube documentary….

    • Bee

      It’s the new Queer Eye, which is a must-watch! I cried at every episode.

      • Abigail Pote

        I cried during every episode as well. Such much for trying to be cool around my roommates new girlfriend :/

      • Alice

        Seconded! It is an absolute MUST WATCH.

      • Basil

        Queer Eye is one of the greatest shows ever. I’m struggling convince other people to watch it thought and experience the genius

    • Cristina

      Haven’t watched Queer Eye but I have watched Demi’s docu like 5 times it’s so good I love her.

  • Bee

    This 1000%. You put into words exactly how I feel about this topic, particularly as someone who somehow naturally retains a lot of pop culture knowledge. It’s always gotten on my nerves when people act like they don’t know who someone or what something very popular is just for the sake of putting on some sort of pseudo-intellectual airs and also refuse to accept that there is a duality to every person.

    My mind goes to Legally Blonde—you can be super into manicures and soap operas and your sorority, but also be a brilliant attorney. In fact, as seen in Elle Woods’ big court case (see what I mean about retaining pop culture knowledge?), having a well-rounded knowledge of the world beyond academia actually makes you even more of an asset as it gives you a unique perspective.

  • Francis

    Really nice to see a gay male voice on Man Rep – hope to see more of it in the future! (…and I hope I’m not the only gay male reading religiously)

  • Emily

    I love this. I got my start in my career at the age of 12 because I begged my parents to buy me Photoshop for Christmas. I begged because I wanted to be able to participate in online forums for American Idol and having access to Photoshop allowed me to design fanart for my favorites. I taught myself graphic design, HTML and CSS because I loved American Idol so much. I was never encouraged to go into design or web development, despite having the skills.

    I might not have a computer science or design degree, but I still use these skills every day in my job (comms manager). And it’s all because I cared about “frivolous” popular culture when I was a kid. I’m made the most meaningful connections with people because we care about the same things happening in pop culture.

    I want to destroy the idea that caring about pop culture makes you being able to care about ANYTHING ELSE impossible.

    Anyway, here’s the first gif I ever made in 2002 on an American Idol forum. It’s quite literally where I started my career in communications and I can’t wait to dedicate 26 more years of my life to it.

    • Tchotchke

      This is so adorable!!

      I have a similar story, except I wanted to have the prettiest Gaia Online profile, so I made images painstakingly – pixel by pixel – in Paint and then finally got Photoshop in college.

      I’m in school for my Ph.D., and while I haven’t gotten a full-time gig for my Photoshop skillz, I have gotten assistantships and networking opportunities just because I can make things look very nice.

      EDIT: Also I may or may not have had posters of Clay Aiken on my bedroom door and devoured his autobiography.

  • lottalotta

    I have met actually more women who do this. I think it is more about the type of person than the gender. They are often pseudo-intellectuals, glanzung down on their high horse to us mere mortals with thoughts rather elusive to even elaborate. If you don’t know who kim kardasian is I only consider you as outback raised dummy who doesn’t pay attention to the word we live in.

    • Nicole

      OMG LOL YES! Women often blatantly display this kind of behavior too. And mind you, these women have Instagram, Twitter, etc. Don’t tell me you have never come across a Kardashian in your everyday social media scroll? Come on.

    • Tchotchke

      I wonder if this is a facet of really layered internalized misogyny. Like they feel like they can’t like “lady” things and make it ahead in a man’s world.

      That just makes me sad, because they are missing out!!

    • Jenna Meré

      While I’m sure it’s true that some women pretend not to like or avoid popular culture to seem more serious or intelligent, many just have different interests and tastes. This article (and a lot of the comments) seem to forget that people like me exist. I don’t purposefully ignore most of popular culture (and I certainly know who the Kardashians are). I just spend my free time doing things and consuming media that I enjoy. I’m not the only one who turns the radio on and genuinely doesn’t like most of what I hear.

  • Lucy

    There’s a great interview Harry Styles did with Rolling Stone last year in which he straight-up defends the whole fangirl culture. He says “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music — short for popular, right? — have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy,” That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious?”

    • Jasmin Sander

      Keith Richards has done this too!

    • Fat Tony

      This is the FIRST thing I thought of when I read this article! Bless you for bringing it up.

    • Katy

      Ugh I just love Harry Styles so much

    • Smatsy

      Harry Styles is an international treasure none of us deserve.

    • Ashley

      Good for him! Unrelated: I’m dying for his Top Shelf. Have you seen his skin?

      • jessd6

        His former hmu person posted it on instagram a few months ago…I think I saw it reposted on Twitter or Tumblr. I recall a lot of Sunday Riley products and Hourglass Vanish stick when onstage.

  • Clara

    I absolutely agrede, just would like to add that it is not only gendered biased, It has a classist component as well, pop culture is aimed at the “mass” whereas those intellectuals don’t identify themselves with pop’s supposed target audience. The Beatles is a good example, but I’ll add some of the greatest novels from the XIXth century which were sold in cheap fascicles the entertainment of the working classes.

    • Clara

      Sorry, agree

    • Tchotchke

      YES. I made a very similar comment upthread about socialites!

  • so much to say but i think i’ll just say THANK YOUUUUUUUU. finally.

  • Emily M

    Thank you for validating me in an area that I didn’t even know I needed validation in!


  • Nicole

    UGH. THIS! I’m tired of people undermining me for caring about something they regard as trivial. I don’t consume pop culture because I only care about shallow things, I consume it because it makes me feel good. And unbeknownst to snobs, you can actually pick up quite a few gems along the way!

  • Cristina

    I mean, when it came out how scripted The Hills was it really ruined Reality TV for me. I was so sad. I”m still sad. I can’t do the whole Vanderpump enterprise. I feel disconnected to Reality TV and current pop culture these days because thanks to social media ANYONE CAN BECOME FAMOUS. Like Cardi B. And that girl strategically planned every move on her “reality” show to get where she is today.
    I am probably prejudice against fake butts, it’s true. I do not keep up with the Kardashians because I am annoyed that this is still a standard and that they are still relevant enough to keep setting standards and I’m also annoyed that I think Kim is gorgeous DAMN IT.
    I kinda feel like there’s 2 camps of pop culture too. The flashy, trendy, I’m here for the Gram and super wealth a la the Kardashians and then the rising knowledge is power, intellectual, use my platform for something other than my butt like Yara Shahidi.
    I know everyone’s name at least.

    • Jules

      I stand with you in your fake butt prejudice! I actively avoid keeping up with the Kardashians, in large part probably because I’m just bitter that one of Kylie’s cars could pay off my student loan debt/life. But whatever, I can own my bitterness. Also I want to be friends with Yara Shahidi and I was so happy to see her in Drake’s new music video.

      • Cristina

        JULES ARE YOU IN MY HEAD?! I just finished watching that video for the 3rd time in a row lol. Ughhhh it’s amazing. I don’t understand why I’m not famous and why I couldn’t be in it lollll

        • Jules

          YES GIRL YES. Can Drake do a remake with us MR commenters? LOL

          • Cristina

            Just had to come back to say I’ve now watched this 6 times, and every single “drake nice for what reaction video” on youtube and I am loving all of it and what day is it and who needs work anyway?!

  • Jasmin Sander

    I agree with your point that pop culture matters, but I think you’re confusing some issues. Novels about women’s inner lives need a heel on the cover? What about Austen or Woolf? You class rap songs and reality shows as junk food, the stuff of guilty pleasures, and then go on to say the concept feels gendered, implying (I think) that guilty pleasures are female or feminine pleasures… but since when are rap or reality TV especially girly? Same thing with Harry Potter, Star Wars etc? And as you’ve said (and Emily’s comment illustrates perfectly), anything, any story or media can be a worthwhile subject of analysis, the motivation to learn new skills, the basis for meaningful connections. The main difference in the reception of let’s say an encyclopedic-level discourse on Mariah Carey might be whether the people in your office share your interest. I do agree people tend to judge things they’re not personally into, but in my experience it has little to do with whether the interest is gendered… I’ve gotten those “what?” responses to both my love for fashion blogs and martial arts and I’ll happily defend either to anyone who’s interested (-:

    • Kattigans

      I have to agree with you. I think the gendered argument is an overstretch here. I’ve met women who don’t watch reality TV and who don’t any interest in engaging in that area of pop culture. When they ask “who?” I don’t feel like its an attack on me as a woman or my interest in Vanderpump rules.

      • Laura

        I totally agree that there are women who don’t enjoy engaging in the reality tv portion of pop culture– and that’s 100 percent cool. However, I think there are certain people who will ask “who?” in a condescending tone, or with an air of “I’m better than you because I don’t like reality TV.” On the other hand, there are plenty of people who don’t know who Bravolebrities are (and are not judging you for knowing) so if it’s a genuine ask, then I also wouldn’t feel offended or attacked or whatever by that!

        • Kattigans

          Sure, but I mean I also don’t think the author’s arguments really come together for me. And even if all thats true does it deserve a think piece dedicated to it? Some people will be judgmental and all it really says is that they have the issue, not the other way around.

      • Laura

        also agree that, in my experience, it’s not gendered! definitely not always straight white men. I actually feel like it happens mostly with women. But everyone could be guilty of it at one point or another.

      • Frenchmochi

        I do agree with you and the majority of people commenting here, that this is not a gendered issue. Both men and women are guilty of pop-culture snobbery. Classifiying it as a “straight-white- male” (a label I’m getting tired to see thrown at anything the author doesn’t like) attitude is kind of intellectually lazy. Come on, other people than straight white males can be assholes too.

        • Kattigans

          I stopped reading after the straight white male paragraph and then scrolled to see how the article was concluded and I just am not impressed. This argument is intellectually lazy. Oh some white, man happens to not like or get why I like Rupaul’s Drag Race and somehow he is now attacking me and my gender by asking who and what this show is? Please give me a break. Can we all just stop being victims of every little slight and get on with our lives and not caring what some other person has to say? My ex-bf didn’t like reality tv or me watching it but I still did it anyway and didn’t care what he thought. I didn’t take it personally.

      • Katie Lucchesi

        Can’t people who aren’t straight white males still promote a culture of sexism, though? I mean sexism
        Is not defined by your own gender or gender identity, inherently. Women can have sexist attitudes towards other women.

        • Kattigans

          Yes they obviously can.

      • THANK YOU. I often ask, “who?” and know that I’m probably going to come off as an “I don’t care about anything but obscure bands and movie references” type or something so I try to ask in a “non-offensive” way which is pretty much the dumbest thing ever, lol. Also, most of the time I’m made to feel like a dumbass for not knowing which one out of the 18 guys on the bachelorette someone is referring to or what Kendall Jenner wore to the Met Gala because I just don’t have interest. also, not having interest in something shouldn’t be offensive unless the person is BEING offensive about it. I have plenty of friends who are super into pop culture and I don’t scoff at them or make rude remarks every time I’m with them and they talk about that stuff. I just nod my head and laugh and pretend like I know what they’re talking about haha.

        • Kattigans

          Its all so stupid to me. This entire article is stupid. I get it that people have this experience and thats shitty, but like this author is making a serious stretch to relate all this “judging” and “who-ing” to white men. Maybe thats the major group but there are male gendered interests like star trek, star wars, video games, ect that get made fun of and judged all the time. Its not like men are not stereotyped. And obviously there are some things in pop culture like the Kardashians that I think, while may be entertaining and fun to watch, aren’t off limits for being judged. If I had a friend who was seriously very into Kim Kardashian for example, I would probably judge her and wonder why. This just an example.

          • Shannon

            “Entire article” – but didn’t you say you didn’t even read the whole thing, but the beginning and the end?

          • Kattigans

            Really gonna get knit-picky with me on the use of entirely? I skimmed the in betweens…what does that matter?

    • Emily

      I do think it is gendered. Grown men can dress up like their favorite athlete, wear their jersey, spend thousands on tickets, and cry when they lose. Men rarely get judged for doing this. Sports are a socially acceptable obsession because men deem it so.

      But teenage girls and women can’t go to a concert and cry or scream without being made fun of.

      Meanwhile, 50-something year-old-men can do the same at a sports game, screaming their heads off and swearing at the players, with no judgment or repercussions.

      • Saskia

        This. So much this.
        I am very invested in the MCU and was recently discussing my thoughts on the upcoming Infinity War with an aquaintance. He had two reactions:
        1 – started to quiz me on my knowledge since it’s apparently a ~man thing~ to like comics and such and I was obviously just pretending to do so
        2 – laughed at me because I was too emotionally invested in a fictional narrative

        Same guy was depressed for a week when his favourite team lost a championship

        But my thoughts and feelings about are carefully crafted narrative spanning several movies over ten years is inherently worth less to some guys kicking, or failing to kick, a ball around because I am a woman?

      • Jasmin Sander

        I dunno, I don’t see the distinction you’re making (though this is my specific perspective and I’m not deeply involved in pop culture or anything). I’m Canadian and I do see the stereotypical (white, male, middle aged) hockey fan getting poked fun at a lot. I also see a lot of this with other stereotypically male fandoms – take Star Trek.

        I guess I’m wondering: who’s doing all this judging and making fun of? Who says pop culture isn’t socially acceptable? The argument starts off with a few snobby guys thinking they’re better than the rest of us and need to signal they’re only into *serious* culture or sth, but aren’t those guys the minority? Why should any of us let someone like that make us feel inferior?

        • Elly

          See, that’s where it’s impossible to make these sweeping demographic statements, because probably most of the Star Trek fans I’ve come across are women, particularly LGBT women. I’ve found a lot of interests that get dismissed as “white and male”, tons of women are into. I don’t think it’s the case with this author, but often when people make this point it’s because they want to exclude the un-ladylike from something or other.

          It’s frustrating because there’s a grain of truth to the point he’s making. Stuff does get devalued when 13-year-old girls are into it, as if they’re any less discerning or love any more superficially than anyone else. It’s certainly true for the Beatles – also, the hatred that surrounds Yoko Ono’s part in them, I mean I’ve seen her called a vile sexist and racist even more than John Lennon, and she’s most definitely neither. And part of it is precisely difficulty in handling the fact that the Beatles were both beloved by teenage girls and heavily into Stockhausen, and the experimental stuff and sound collage didn’t make teenage girls any less involved. And when an actual contemporary classical composer became involved it was a Japanese woman.

          There’s also an underlying confusion here between stuff that’s a spontaneous pop culture phenomenon, and something that’s heavily marketed to exploit women as a demographic. Then again, a lot of the latter is also really great, but it’s also pretty tragic that in order to make a genuine cultural impact these days, you need to be pretty well-off to start with and you need a bunch of corporate sponsorships.

          Finally, stuff also gets devalued when it’s made by African Americans. Calling Kanye West a moron seems to be some kind of international sport, and Kim Kardashian being vacuous and vulgar is treated as some kind of cosmic Truth, but Kanye West makes some of the most inventive and surprising music around, and if Kim has kept his interest all these years, she’s clearly no vapid moron. Which is why I have a problem with mentioning hip hop alongside reality TV, because without even getting into the old school or experimental stuff, or slightly more underground like the former Odd Future members, even the most commercial artists, like Kanye, Kendrick, Migos, are making genuinely super inventive and amazing music, that people will listen to for years to come. Kendrick Lamar is legit incredible.

          Behind all this, another distinction is that guys tend to be allowed to say that something is objectively great and a classic and so on. Which can be a bit obnoxious. But women are mostly reduced to “I think that’s good and I enjoy it and it’s my self-care and I don’t care what you think”. We can never say “this is objectively great”, because we don’t think we’re qualified to be able to tell. So when we love something, part of us can’t treat it as important, or as more important than something throwaway.

          • Jasmin

            As for racism/sexism in art… that’s interesting to consider. I’m reminded of jazz which was I think once viewed in a similar way… and hasn’t it been somewhat appropriated by the highbrow set? And hasn’t that kind of changed its nature?

            That last point is so important too. It’s so easy to couch statements in “that’s just my opinion” language even when it’s not appropriate to do so, to come off as less confrontational or not wanting to seem like I’m pretending to know more than I do. That does a disservice to things that are actually good and that deserve that support, and the cycle goes on. Good reminder to get in the ring for the things you love… and maybe that’s the essence of the author’s piece in the end too.

      • Kattigans

        Meanwhile, 50-something year-old-men can do the same at a sports game, screaming their heads off and swearing at the players, with no judgment or repercussions.

        ^where do you come up with these generalizations?? Clearly some people are judging and who are the judgers and not judgers in these scenarios?? Men are made fun of all the time for things that are gendered as male like Star Trek, comics, video games ect.

    • Maria

      But something can be a gendered response and done by women? Like, the dislike for pop culture can be used by women as a way of sounding ‘more intellectual’ and of distancing themselves from what is seen as a ‘feminine thing’. Plus, Austen remains a suuuuper gendered thing – how many men do you know who love Austen, and/or how many who read it in school and thought anything but ‘this is silly, who cares?’

      • Kattigans

        I can see your point but that’s not my issue with this piece. The piece seems disjointed and like the individual arguments are being strung together with nothing very concrete other than personal experience meant to pass as fact. And the argument of people being assholes or having superiority complexes about what they like or don’t like and looking down on other’s tastes is nothing new, nor do I think its engrained in sexist motives. Claiming that reality TV is disliked by people because women and gay men like it is not a clean argument nor is it logical. There are lots of reasons to look down on reality TV or One Direction. Personally idgaf about one direction but I like bravo TV. I’ve also heard one direction and don’t think their music is good or interesting thats my personal opinion. So if I ask “who” to someone who loves one direction, am I know attacking them and pop culture? No, not really. Maybe I’m just not that interested?

        • Maria

          I can agree with the fact that there’s no ‘proof’ here, but it absolutely feels very true to me. And it’s not because I think One Direction are Mozart, but because I fundamentally think notions of high culture are gendered, whether it’s books, music, visual arts…
          I think the argument here isn’t that saying ‘what? Who?’ to One Direction/Reality TV is sexist, but that there’s a certain patronising manner in which those questions are asked, which is sexist. And that sexism is reinforced by the fact pop culture is primarily associated with young women and LGBT people.

          • Jasmin Sander

            I disagree that pop culture is associated primarily with young women and LGBT people. The author himself cites rap, Star Wars, etc as examples of pop culture which I find undermines his point here.

            He appears to be trying to defend the value of stereotypically feminine culture (in keeping with his “it’s gendered” argument), but even then his best substantive example is Queer Eye which is almost literally an all male show

          • Kattigans

            Exactly, have an opinion sure but he doesn’t use good examples. My issue is not with his opinion but with his opinion piece. I don’t think this is well written or makes a fluid, substantial argument by the points presented.

          • Kattigans

            “I think the argument here isn’t that saying ‘what? Who?’ to One Direction/Reality TV is sexist, but that there’s a certain patronising manner in which those questions are asked, which is sexist. And that sexism is reinforced by the fact pop culture is primarily associated with young women and LGBT people.” –> I understand the argument and I think its a bad one.

        • Katie Lucchesi

          I mean, it’s an opinion piece? His opinion is that people look down on some elements of culture that all share only one thing: a predominately female target audience. That sounds sexist to me, too. He didn’t say there is inherently anything sexist about asking who a kardashian is, but rather the tone he has heard it in so often. Maybe that hasn’t been your experience, but it has mine and the authors and many others, it seems.

          • Kattigans

            But his lists things that are not categorized to just a female target audience….anyways, my issue is not with his opinion. I understand his opinion and I don’t think that this doesn’t happen. What I don’t like is how he wrote his opinion piece and interjected it with bad examples and disjointed arguments. I expect better writing on MR.

        • Elly

          I have to agree with you, it reads like the author had a frustrating dinner party experience and is generalising a straw “straight white male” out of it. I get it, it’s super obnoxious when people pretend to not know about something because they’re above it. I think that’s snooty af, but as for making it out to be patriarchal, the article does a very poor job of that, because all it does is be all “down with this terribly annoying sort of person”.
          Also, the distinction here isn’t so much between “lowbrow” and “highbrow” culture, or popular culture and high art. I don’t see this guy defending all the women and queer folks who are passionate about comics, exploitation movies or video games, even though there are millions. This is about “corporate” versus “non-corporate” and, especially, degree of engagement, participation or non-participation.
          I watch a ton of Korean drama, I also love Beyonce, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Kendrick, Kanye, etc. But these are multi-million dollar enterprises done by people who can afford publicists, or straight-up by huge corporations. Increasingly, anything where someone can actually go and participate and make their own is hidden behind a few gatekeepers, generally feminist ally bros, who declare it “straight, white, cis male”, i.e. their silly little guilty pleasure and nothing anyone else would want anything to do with. It’s getting harder and harder for anyone who’s not a straight white male, as a result, to create any kind of community around these interests. The only mode of engagement we’re allowed is “we’re going to problematise this thing”, and not “we’re going to make something!”.

          I see this trend in the coverage of pop culture in Man Repeller. And I read fashion websites because at least you see interviews with women who have made Something, they’re jewellery designers or clothing designers. At least on fashion websites you’re allowed to be enthusiastic about something, you’re allowed to at least dream about making something, even if it’s just putting together an outfit.

          And yeah I’ve been “who’d” by guys before, or outright told I only liked r’nb music because I’m hormonal or old or don’t know any better, I’ve also been “who’d” over underground music legends by guys who fancied themselves experts. It’s called patriarchy, or pathetic mummy’s boys, or whatever, but at the end of the day, if you’re making something as opposed to just a consumer, these guys don’t have anything on you, they’re flies you swat. It’s precisely by driving women away from participation and into the corporate realm that you give these guys power over us.

          • Jasmin Sander

            love your insights and conclusion!

      • Jasmin Sander

        Maybe, but they should! (-: This is on my reading list:

    • Elly

      I thought the example of a male novel was kind of… vague and specific at once, as well. Did someone bend his ear about Stoner by John Williams (which I read and enjoyed and my ovaries did not drop off)? Or some David Lodge? Cause it’s not that great a description of, like, William Faulkner or Thomas Pynchon. Damn, so sick of reading those tedious white male novels about a guy who attracts V2 rockets every time he gets a boner, which I’m sure is the authentic lived experience of straight white males everywhere.

    • Shannon

      That you imply fashion blogs and martial arts are on opposite ends of a “gender spectrum” kind of proves its own point actually.

      • Jasmin

        Well, there’s different things at issue: (1) the actual proportion of people of different genders/ages/orientations with a particular interest (e.g. what percentage of young gay men are fans of Mariah Carey? What percentage of her fans are young gay men?) (2) common perception/stereotyping of a given interest as feminine or masculine, which doesn’t necessarily match (1); and (3) whether any of this matters (i.e. who cares if you’re male/female/nonbinary! You like what you like and that’s cool).
        Personally as far as (3) goes I don’t think any of this should matter. I was referring to people’s perceptions in my comment. But the point wasn’t that people judged me for having an interest that’s perceived as gendered (one way or the other), it was that people often judge interests that they don’t share, regardless of gender stereotype.

  • Abbey Leroux


  • Serena

    Just sent this to be 10 people because… this!!!!!!!

  • Mck

    There was a tweet: “the Tomi Lahren/Chelsea Handler debate is McGregor vs. Mayweather for people who say “it’s wine o’clock””.

    I laughed really hard, then I was thinking about it again a few days ago and was like, back up. Why is futile entertainment more suited for greatness when it involves a predominantly male activity?

    • “Why is futile entertainment more suited for greatness when it involves a predominantly male activity?” Well shit.

    • Tchotchke

      Thanks so much for sharing that tweet! I snarfed!

      If I may, though, I think part of what makes the tweet so funny is that it’s actually drawing an equivalence: “This lady-coded lowbrow thing is just like this man-coded lowbrow thing.”

      But you are absolutely right that the media and its consumers treats the McGregor vs. Mayweather fight as a more serious thing, so this is why that is what has to be used to explain what the Tomi Lahren vs. Chelsea Handler feud means to people.

      • Mck


  • Kattigans

    There are a lot of points being made in this piece that just don’t come together for me as a cohesive argument. There are a lot of generalizations, specifically the notion that straight, white men are doing most of the “who-ing”. I agree that this may be the main demographic (but how do you calculate that??) and its fine to discuss that as so at brunch but when you write an article like this you kinda have to back up your statements with some concrete facts aside from a blame on the patriarchy. Also not defending straight, white men over here but its not as if their programming is immune to being made fun of as well. I have had experiences with men being overly aggressive in judging my affinity for a good VPR binge day but I also don’t feel like my gender is being attacked or my choice is being attacked. Most of the guys I’ve met who don’t get reality TV is bc its is seen as frivolous and stupid and full of dumb nobodies displaying the worst parts of themselves – which are all sentiments I agree with. I don’t take RHOBH or the Kardashians seriously..I watch bc its an escape for me and one thats fun. I also have friends who watch too but don’t for a moment think any of us think we’re engaging in some bold choice to watch Bravo trash TV.

    • Pumpkin spice flavoring is for the vapid, the white girls in their Uggs. (“woman” thing)
      Bacon is awesome, lets make everything bacon flavored! (“man” thing)

      Wearing my favorite labels and watching fashion shows is a vapid, consumerist hobby (“woman” thing)
      Wearing my favorite team jerseys and catching every game is a hobby to discuss with other people (“man” thing)

      Movies starring women are “chick flicks” and are for silly, lovesick women (“woman” thing”)
      Any movie starring a man is the norm (“man” thing)

      There’s a difference in what’s elevated above “pop culture”. It’s usually things that men like and enjoy. That’s what this article is pointing out.

      • Jasmin Sander

        This has been explored in depth elsewhere (just one example: This isn’t about what gets elevated *above* pop culture, he’s saying that there are reasons pop culture itself matters and that not caring about it is problematic. Thing is, i’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a problem because he thinks it’s sexist not to care (or to say you don’t care?), or because young people are the future, or what. I can’t tell if his conclusion is that these people are behaving inappropriately/offensively, or if he’s telling them “your loss.” Either way those people appear to be a minority, pop culture being what it is, so who cares?

        • “And it is absolutely fine to not be immersed in pop culture 24/7 if that’s not your cup of tea — sometimes, asking “Who?” is simply is an expression of curiosity. The question itself is not the problem — it’s the sexist and arrogant tone in which it is all too often asked”

          I guess we walked away from the article with different opinions on what the author was trying to convey. For me it’s summed up with that sentence. It rings true to me and others. It doesn’t for you, that’s cool.

          • Kattigans

            “it’s the sexist and arrogant tone in which it is all too often asked” –> but this is a perception and while it may a real experience, its not substantial enough for me to build an entire argument off of and publish it on MR. So now people’s tones are sexist when asking a question about “pop” culture?? Seriously a stretch. I know plenty of people who don’t know, don’t care and when they ask they are not being sexist and if they even are I really don’t care. Even if they ask in a condescending tone which honestly hasn’t happened to me since I live with 2 hipster, dbag guys who probably were sexist but it didn’t stop me from living my best life listening to Katy Perry in the shower.

            How is their judgement of me, even if sexist, disempowering me as a woman? The answer is: It doesn’t. There are better think pieces out there that explore the sexist language around calling girls basic, or chick flicks or whatever. This article doesn’t do that. It takes a perception or slight he experienced and stretches it to fit in line with “this tone is sexist and it made me feel judged”…I’m not buying it.

          • Kattigans

            And the things elevated in pop culture are things that men like? Like what is that exactly? Isn’t Star Trek one of those perceived male things…? How many times has the geeky male stereotype been shown in movies/shows/books. Not everything men supposedly like is elevated and celebrated. Thats not a concrete argument either. I think one thing that for sure needs to stop is the demonizing of the “white straight male”…I’m not making passes for this group of people but the over-stereotyping that is so prevalent in online media like this has reached almost hysterical levels. This group of men has a lot to work on and maybe understand about themselves but can please all being victims of the ghostly “white, straight male”. The argument is getting boring and it doesn’t come across as credible.

          • Kaitlyn

            I am a woman who makes a conscious effort to not follow pop culture, tv, and music because I believe that it passifies its audience and promotes vapid emotions and consumerism. You’re essentially telling women and gay men not to leave the kiddie pool. Turn on the news. Read a book. Women and Gay men can and do create much more than crappy pop media. I do listen to “anemic” male bands, but also a lot of great female artists. Look at say Angel Olsen vs. Selina Gomez? One of them is a performer whose songs are written by men based on a formula. The other is a brilliant artist and creator. Vapid culture is just that and shouldn’t be thought of as more. Don’t check out of the world, it’s this type of unawareness that has led us to where we are politically and culturally today. Man Repeller is better than this article.

          • Kattigans

            What?? How am I telling gay men and women to not leave the kiddie pool? I don’t believe thats what I’m saying at all. Idc what gay men and women choose to like or not like. I have an issue with this article just like you seem to.

          • Kaitlyn

            Hi hi! I didn’t mean to reply to your post I meant to start a new one haha. The “you” I used was directed at the author of the article not you-you, I agree with you 🙂

          • Kattigans

            Ahh!! Got it 🙂 yes start a new thread. I’m glad I’m not alone in how I interpreted this article and agree MR is better than this. Also so agree with this line you wrote: I believe that it pacifies its audience and promotes vapid emotions and consumerism.

            I’m all for a good reality show binge, I like listening to Katy Perry/ Ariana Grande/Selena Gomez, and go on my favorite celebrity gossip sites to have a good laugh but I don’t take any of that too seriously and I know its more of the “basic” side of me which I’m not totally ashamed of but not something I’m super proud to advertise. If people judge me for it then thats okay bc I understand why haha..maybe I’m just not someone who feels like its all really that serious? I know thats not all who I am as a person and so maybe thats why I don’t care if some person, man or woman, has some condescending attitude towards it. ~*Peace, luv and whatever*~

          • Claire

            I think you can read books and watch reality shows, in fact you must, I am a teacher and all pop things that teenagers adore its the best material to make them think critically, To observe the world of mass media, propaganda, and so on.

          • Soheil

            Ah yes, all women and gays who consume pop culture are vapid and shallow. I listen to Selena Gomez, therefore I can’t care about the news. I know the names of the Kardashians, so there’s no room in my head to know the names of any world leaders. I love Harry Styles, so I can’t read. Intelligence and enjoyment of pop culture are mutually exclusive, apparently.

            Get off your high horse. You aren’t superior to anyone because you don’t consume ‘crappy pop media.’ Young women and LGBTQ+ youth are incredibly politically active, especially in the current context. Most of us consume pop culture. Doesn’t make us ‘unaware’ or in ‘the kiddie pool’ or whatever other condescending idea you have of us.

          • Shannon

            I think I see what you mean, but you’re making the same kind of argument you’re criticizing the author for – basing it off your own anecdotal experiences.

            Not to say there’s anything wrong with this kind of exchange, but I don’t understand why people take blogs like this like they should be presented as hard news. I blame the blogosphere diminishing journalistic standards – remember when printing something in the “Op-Ed” section of a newspaper meant the piece couldn’t be criticized in the same way as whatever was on A1? Ah, the good ol’ days of rules.

          • Kattigans

            LOL. I am not taking anecdotal evidence and publishing it as an article on the internet. This author equates his slights with an entire demographic of people: white, straight men. And his arguments are not compelling for me to have been turned into an entire op-ed piece. That’s my opinion so please lay off. I am absolutely not making the same argument that the author is making and if I am explain how. I’m not judging him for what he’s saying or his experience but I am critical that he can equate said experiences with an entire demographic. That is a problem for me and a fair one to point out as others have done. He is turning this judging into a gender specific occurrence and I do not agree with him. I agree this has probably happened, as I’ve experienced it for myself, but how that relates to his other points that he’s strung together is what loses credibility. And what exactly is the author’s resolution to said “problem”..? Doesn’t seem to be one. Anyways…

            Who is taking this as hard news? Not me. I get my hard news elsewhere. Thanks for asking. This is a comment section and we’re engaging in online discussion. News media has moved to an online forum and even the op-eds in the NYT are criticized. So what point are you making in that last paragraph? That we should take our “nay-say” convos offline? **rolls eyes**

          • Kattigans

            P.S I’m not a sheep. And I’m not going to fall for this 3rd wave feminist agenda that white, straight men are to blame for every little uncomfortable thing in my life. As someone who has experienced hard lined, sexist behavior that has cost me my job and cost me real advancements and I’ve seen this happen to other women as well, I really do not think that taking “white straight men” to task over asking “who?” about RuPaul is really the good fight I wanna be fighting or endorsing as a thing. Stand tall, like what you like and realize that women are paving the way in a fundamental way right now. If a straight white man thinks you’re an idiot for liking the Kardashians then realize that 1) he’s probably an asshole anyways and will think poorly of you no matter what and 2) unless your like-ness for said pop culture item somehow prevents you from advancing in some way then yes of course take action but until then lets stop interpreting “tones” and spinning them as some witch hunt against women and gay men. Its not very fair and there isn’t a whole lot of evidence to back this up as the tone spoken about in this context ACTUALLY having anything to do w/ a judgement on gender. THAT IS MY PROBLEM W/ THIS PIECE. the end.

          • Kattigans

            If you know “straight white men” really committing these crimes then maybe have an open conversation with them or maybe just shrug your shoulders and keep it moving. Trust me, its not serious.

          • Shannon

            Oh, you had mentioned something about how this piece somehow didn’t hold up to some standards you expected from this site (I’m paraphrasing). Which led me to believe you somehow expected more than opinion pieces… which is all this blog, or any blog of this nature, is… people’s opinions. I just think the standard for credibility or sourcing just can’t be very high on these blogs – as I mentioned, and as you mentioned, this is just someone’s observation, offered up as food for thought. It’s not in a domain where it’s really susceptible to demands for anything more concrete than “anecdata” as someone above mentioned.

            I simply thought maybe you should chill out on your tearing apart of the piece.

          • Kattigans

            Thats not really true. I expect better writing and if a piece is opinion then better forming of opinions and the facts presented. I need to chill out on my tearing it apart? Hello? I wrote one comment and chimed in on a few others.

            You seem to have made a whole lot of assumptions and didn’t actually do a whole lot of reading on what I actually thought, which in short was: I don’t think this well written and I didn’t find the author’s reasonings for his feelings to be very substantial w/ the examples he provided.

            Glad it resonated with some readers. P.S thanks for over-explaining what opinion pieces are and aren’t. Oh and blogs too, like this site! Yay for you, Shannon. You’re so crafty!

          • Shannon

            You’re welcome, glad I could help.

          • Kattigans

            I hope you’re being sarcastic.

          • Jasmin

            I don’t see the point Kattigans is making as somehow saying the author’s not entitled to his opinion, I see it as a critique of the logic and flow of the piece. Clearly there’s substance in there and it resonated with lots of commenters, but I also found the writing was kind of all over the place. In other contexts maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, but #metoo etc is still fresh in my mind, and I think it’s important to keep arguments clean and coherent and avoid blanket accusations so these discussions don’t devolve into holy gender wars

          • Kattigans

            Thank you! Jeezus…i don’t understand how critiquing an argument devolves into me endorsing this behavior or claiming it doesn’t happen. Do ppl not read? I’ve said 5 times over that I’ve experienced it myself. Thats more something I’d share on twitter, not string together a bunch of IMO bad examples and generalizations and say its all one group’s fault.

          • lateshift

            so here’s the thing: I’m not saying that CAN’T be the case…obviously, just about every woman has experienced this at one time or another. BUT I think someone targeting a specific population – whoever that population might be – and actively expecting that they will speak in this “tone” is gonna find it plenty of places it ain’t.

            If we’re going strictly off anecdata – and this article certainly does – then here’s my sample of one: I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve experienced this. To be fair, I myself am not read in on a lot of pop culture…it’s just not my thing, the same way surfing isn’t my thing and gardening isn’t my thing and collecting Hummel figurines isn’t my thing. (Some people love them; I’m ambivalent; and both of those things are ok. Everyone needs a hobby.) I do talk about it sometimes, but if someone doesn’t appear interested in it, I don’t. …So sure – maybe I’d encounter it more if I was often actively trying to engage people on a subject that didn’t interest them. I’m sure the Hummel people are used to it.

            tl; dr: Actions are one thing, words are another, but: a “tone”? That can be a pretty damn subjective thing. (and no, I’m not a white man.)

          • Kattigans

            Three claps for you bc yes!

        • Kattigans

          Thank you for articulating what I could not. I don’t understand what his conclusion is and even the title of the article doesn’t make much sense to me. Are we supposed to now change the minds of people who don’t care? Are we to judge them as we perceive them judging us that do care?

    • Elly

      I have to agree with you, it reads like the author had a frustrating dinner party experience and is generalising a straw “straight white male” out of it. I get it, it’s super obnoxious when people pretend to not know about something that’s absolutely omnipresent because they’re above it. I think that’s snooty af, but as for making it out to be patriarchal, the article does a very poor job of that, because all it does is be all “down with this terribly annoying sort of person”.

      Also, the distinction here isn’t so much between “lowbrow” and “highbrow” culture, or popular culture and high art. I don’t see this guy defending all the women and queer folks who are passionate about comics, exploitation movies or video games, even though there are millions. This is about “corporate” versus “non-corporate” and, especially, degree of engagement, participation or non-participation.

      I read my horoscope, watch a ton of Korean drama, I love Beyonce, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Kendrick, Kanye, etc. The only one of those I’d consider “guilty” is reading my horoscope, and I’d totally understand someone who, knowing me, would encourage me not to. But these are multi-million dollar enterprises done by people who can afford publicists, or straight-up by huge corporations. Increasingly, anything where someone can actually go and participate and make their own is hidden behind a few gatekeepers who declare it “straight, white, cis male”, i.e. their silly little guilty pleasure and nothing anyone else would want anything to do with. It’s getting harder and harder, as a woman, both to connect with the women creators who are hidden behind those gatekeepers, and to create any kind of community around these interests, because you’re constantly made to feel like the only woman into that stuff, even though that’s not true. I’ve been around feminist activists a lot, if you’re into what boils down to non-corporate interests they’ll treat it as silly, or else the only mode of engagement is “we’re going to problematise this thing”. Whereas they will bend your ear about why the latest Disney movie is a fantastic thing for women.

      I see this trend in the coverage of pop culture in Man Repeller (and elsewhere, obviously, but like, I go to Refinery29 mostly for the pretty pictures because their journalism is about Buzzfeed level a lot of the time). That couple who were interviewed about their love story recently, who do web design for Condé Nast and Beyoncé, that guy gets to be into contemporary classical opera and performance art (and it sounded pretty up its own bum and definitely not my cup of tea but whatever, it’s someone who makes something and I’ll give him that). In fact he gets to be an independent musician in his own right. But as for stuff presented to women to enthuse about, it’s all Disney, Marvel, or the same dozen or so millionnaire recording artists. And this is nothing against any of the various items of culture or the people who made them. I’m here, it’s because I like to see pics of outfits that are put together with a sense of fun, because it’s something I like to do day to day also. But it speaks volumes about who gets to make stuff (super rich Canadian white dude tech entrepreneur), who gets to bask in that (super rich Canadian dude’s wife), and who gets to squee over it at a safe distance and talk about it (us, women).

      And like, putting together a nice outfit is fun, it takes a bit of flair, but at the end of the day, you wear it and that’s that. It’s kind of a dead end. And fashion websites are a great deal better for this stuff than pop culture coverage, because at least you get to see coverage of women who make something, but it’s clothes and jewellery, which, you wear them, they’re on your body, you look cool, you take them off at night. You don’t really engage with them. Probably a few million other women work in quasi-slavery just so you can have them as well (the aspect of corporate culture I didn’t go into here).

      And yeah I’ve been “who’d” by guys before, or outright told I only liked r’nb music because I’m hormonal or old or don’t know any better, I’ve also been “who’d” over underground music legends by guys who fancied themselves experts, just like I’ve been told by guys at the gym not to squat as I’ll get bulky or to keep running as I won’t lose weight otherwise by guys when I’m out running. That is completely independent of the topic of conversation. A lot of wieners out there just feel like if there’s girl cooties on something it loses its credibility, or feel entitled to offer extremely ill-informed and unsollicited advice to women on just about any topic. But that’s not because women are from Warner Bros and men are from underground culture. It drives me nuts. Because increasingly right now, the contribution of women, queer people and minorities is getting erased from stuff that, in some cases, they mostly created or were the driving force behind, because it’s being deemed “straight white and male”.

    • Kattigans

      For all the readers out there wanting to school me on how this behavior is real and happens- let me back up and say: yes, I know it does bc I’ve experienced it and I think its a good thing to discuss as well as why the work and art that certain groups put out has been/and is unfavored in history. We see this particularly in fashion all the time when high fashion adopts and exploits what are traditionally street styles, that otherwise are looked down upon in their original form, but when elevated by a designer they are seen as avant garde, chic, whatever. The only time I don’t think this worked out so well is Marc Jacobs grunge show for Perry Ellis (but thats for another topic of discussion!).

      My main issue with this article are the sweeping generalizations this author makes. Here’s an example: “This perspective is shared and accepted by many. Whether it’s a rap song or a reality show, there is this notion of widely enjoyed media as “junk food” — something to feel bad about consuming. But the very idea of a guilty pleasure has always felt gendered to me, at least to some degree. After all, a football fan might have the same encyclopedic knowledge and fervent love of their team as a Mariah Carey stan, but one of these people is more likely to be taken seriously when they talk about their passion at the office.” –> This 1) depends on where you work and 2) would depend on the subsequent interests of the people around you. I have met many a man, even straight white men who enjoy watching “Scandal”, who love a good Mariah song, and who also like watch the Pats on Sunday. So what does this author want done about the topic at hand? And also how is he defining pop culture? And is he really just arguing that men’s interest are elevated as “okay to be interested in” but “women’s” interests aren’t? Bc if thats the case I do not agree. Who’s the one doing the okay-ing on whats okay and whats not? Culture? Straight white men? Bc again don’t agree.

      I’m happy to read “food for thought” pieces when they are well written and cohesive. Not inflammatory and rife with exaggerations, generalizations, and present people as flat ideas.

  • MySharona

    In my early 20’s, i was a total pop-culture naysayer, and would say things like “i only listen to music on JJJ” (Aus alt radio) and “Sorry, i don’t know any of those real housewife shows”. Then i realized that life is too short to pretend to be someone else, and to deny who i am sheerly for the sake of peer-based approval. So i dumped the pretentious boyfriend, stopped wearing only band tee shirts and leather jackets, and became who i am today – someone who tries to revel in things that make me genuinely happy, regardless of what is considered “cool” or “edgy”. Side note: anyone with a smart phone or a TV who claims they don’t know who the Kardashians are is a liar, and also sort of a gross elitist. For Christ’s sake, Stephen Hawking knew who they were, and wanted to be on their show. Are you more intellectual than Stephen Hawking?

  • g

    When the doctor asks why my autism has worsened I will link him to this article

  • Tchotchke

    Because I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in French, I’m the snobbiest snob that ever snobbed and dammit if I don’t love me some Kim Kardashian, Jane the Virgin, dlisted, Who? Weekly, etc.

    Moreover, as a literal student of culture, these people who think this stuff is too lowbrow for them have to remember that Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” (Which only really came out of her mouth in fictional accounts) is basically Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial for the 18th century set– an infamous food faux pas. And socialites like Lisa Vanderpump are the new Madame de Maintenon or Zelda Fitzgerald!

  • Katy

    When I die, please print this article on my tombstone.
    I have dealt with this for years. The “who” question can be so patronizing, even though the person asking it is the one who is missing out and not allowing themselves to enjoy some of the most fun things in life. You and the lovely folks who have already commented articulated this phenomenon SO WELL. I’m so glad so many people share this view and experience. Let’s all take over the world with our intelligence and love of Jonathan Van Ness, which are so far from mutually exclusive.

  • Jen

    Well said! Women and gay men often have to justify our choices and the choices we make are most often the ones that lead to social change. Men are so much more groomed in general now since the original Queer Eye aired (all those years ago) and SATC changed the entire conversation around what women want and the vocabulary around female sexuality (I’m a Samantha too btw.) Society has changed just because of these two tv programs alone! Never underestimate the power of the ‘low brow’. 😀

  • Good write-up!
    Interestingly enough, I’m probably one of the very same people that Philip is talking about. I had never heard of the Kardashian until I saw a spoof of them a few years ago on SNL. I hardly watch TV (preferring Netflix) unless it’s BBC news and one or two German documentaries. In fact, I only saw SNL ‘cos my German husband likes it, and watches it online!

    Having said that, I quite like the Kardashian sisters as they’re attractive, funny & quite smart!

    Does it make me sound arrogant? Probably!

  • Mariel

    this is amazing, I want to tattoo this article in my face

  • Erica

    So good! Bravo!

  • Basil

    YES. To further your example above on the sport fan – isn’t it weird that every news broadcast in the world (as far as I’m aware) has a sports section? Is it REALLY that important? Nope

  • This is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read on this site. Well done.

  • Cate


    This article in the New Yorker is about Henry James so I guess I’m one of “those people” 😂

    I think we can acknowledge that everyone has “junk food interests” (I know I certainly do) without being condescending about them. But at the same time, I am a firm believer that adults should not go around reading /only/ Harry Potter or the hunger games and take pride in doing so, to borrow the argument from the article above. Of course I think there’s something to be said for the gender and class dynamics of what gets labeled “good” (I think mad men is often vapid and self absorbed, but it has a prestige aesthetic). But we shouldn’t lose a distinction between what’s better or worse art/tv/whatever just so that we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

    • Kattigans

      Thank you. Just because someone loves one direction doesn’t mean they are good or musically amazing. One Direction and the Beatles are not the same thing just bc they both have fan girls. Its one thing for a 12 year old girl to obsess over Harry Styles but if you’re 30 and thats your sole interest/obsession then yes I may judge you. Sorry. Be happy and live your best life how you want but I do agree that adult fandom and obsession with anything is a bit concerning. I would judge someone who was super into the Pats the same way (so no this is not a gender
      argument for me). Be into what you’re into, but don’t expect all others to agree or care.

  • Joanne

    Couldn’t have been said any better! Love the angle of this!!

  • lateshift

    And sometimes – I would wager to say, most of the time – people say “who?” because…they genuinely have no idea who you’re talking about. Which means that interpreting anywhere close to a majority of “whos?” as some sort of value judgment on your lifestyle and entertainment choices says more about your own subconscious feelings about said choices than it does about those people.

  • Nellery

    Lili Loofbourow’s article on “The Male Glance” explores similar issues, but she goes deeper into why dismissing feminine culture is problematic; it denies the intentionality and agency of creators of non-masculine culture.

  • Donna

    So people now feel slighted because other pompous people look down on reality TV and OneDirection? Cry me a river. Do you know how long I’ve dealt with the “cool” types who are all hip to the Kardashians and dance pop telling me I’m weird because of my musical and artistic tastes? How many times I’ve had such types tell me to turn my “weird” music off in my own house? Maybe I need to associate with more likeminded people, but the people who like this stuff are hardly a persecuted bunch. Seriously, the guy who wrote this sounds like he has an axe to grind with a bunch of snobby dudes he’s crossed paths with at Upper East Side dinner parties.

    You can’t blame the white patriarchy because people think your taste in certain music and TV is shit. The white-male-hetero-patriarchy is certainly responsible for a lot of reprehensible things, but it’s a total reach to blame it for people not liking the Kardashians or OneDirection or whatever billion-selling, billion-viewed dance pop sensation or TV show that’s here today, gone tomorrow.

  • KY

    Great article!

  • Katja

    This is extremely well written. Bravo.

  • Jay

    Thank you so much for this, Philip.

    I am a kind of pop culture, reality TV, (ok, rap) music and gossip addict. And I am honest about that. Open. And…. well I try that Dua Lipa IDGAF (currently my fav abbreviation in the world… – especially cause no one gets it… at least not in my surroundings…)

    And well…

    That is the problem. The surroundings. Like people pretending to be grown up (while I guess they‘re not at all..
    .) or intellectual (so what?! What does that even mean?) or classy (oh, so your Tods make you classy?) or to cool to ever smile (yeah, Berlin vibes… that might get you into Berghain, but is that a way of living????) …or whatever they are…

    And yes I get it. We got stuff to do. We got work. We got family. We got friends. We got finance issues and someone needs to fix the lighting at the entrance. We got our sports and health obligations. We got our meditations and our selfcare… Then you need to read the news, and a really well-established magazine like the New Yorker. Well, and yes,
    there is a point to traveling and preparing for it for ages. And there certainly is something to House of Cards. Designated Survivor is great. I love the true crime shows. And I loved Edha (something Argentinian no one knows but it is fun, combined crime and fashion…)

    And you only have that much time.


    But nonetheless.

    Maybe I skip that vegan dinner with my yoga group. And maybe I just dont read the news today. And instead of something that kinda educates me, or is at least appreciated by my colleagues… like Suits (great show, no offense) or wild wild country…

    I‘ll go for the real housewives of anywhere. And listen to Jackie Schimmel on my next run. Then read MR over lunch and check out TheSkinnyConfidential while I am sewing my pants (Yes, you can combine productive and allegedly non-productive things – and actually it is my fav thing to do.) It’s not necessary. It‘s dumb. But, darn, I do not care.

    Does everything need to make sense?

    Can we not just have some serious escapism?

    Some time to BS? Or discover real cool shit?

    (Like I got my new mantra from a #girlboss podcast, and learned so much watching queer eye?!)

    So YESSSSSSSS please.

    And anyone, please let me know what is the greatest popculture stuff you found. Needing a new challenge for my blog. .



  • Nonnah

    I say, “Within the boundaries of the law, there are no guilty pleasures. You like what you like. You don’t have to apologize for it.”

  • Ronja Brown

    This was great! Thank you

  • Madder Music

    But, um…what if you really just don’t care? Which I don’t. Most pop culture doesn’t interest me, and I don’t even feel like finding out about it. I’ve got better things to do. So…is that okay?

  • Jason Kennedy

    I am the “Who is a Kardashian?” male that this article targets for attack. I am 45, so please excuse me for listening to Joy Division and reading Evelyn Waugh novels rather than following the latest teen pop sensations and queueing outside my local newsagents to grab a copy of Look-In every Tuesday.

    I loved pop music when I was young, bought Smash Hits religiously, never missed a ToTP broadcast for a decade. But i grew up. Not wanting to grow up is the writer’s prerogative, but there’s no need to lash out at those that have.