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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Development of the Pop Culture Id

So. Wow. 365 posts. That, like, would have been a full year of posts if I had stuck to my original schedule of updating daily. Thank God I didn't, but I still feel like I should acknowledge the occasion. Huzzah.

Moving on.

I developed a theory in the shower Monday morning. It occurred to me as I watched the Oscars on Sunday, although I can't fathom why. Oh, I remember. Old people and inexplicably young people. So here's what I've been thinking about how people function in the pop culture universe, or poptureverse.


"Ah, what a beautiful day in the womb."

In the first stage, which seems to me to be getting shorter and shorter, kids are blissfully unaware of pop culture. A brand new, expensive video game is just about as interesting as the box it came in, or, if during the holiday season, the wrapping paper. Kids are simply kids and are amused by whatever they're amused by, unconcerned by the whims of their peers or corporate marketing hacks. As I said, with the advent of The Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, and the like, this phase seems to be getting shorter and shorter, although, I suppose to be fair, even back in my day they had things like Transformers and DuckTales to suck you in. This phase is followed by a transitional phase, which I hesitate to set on it's own, where kids will be aware of outside pop culture, but will only follow the bits that they are interested. Until they are sucked in to:


"I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

Not sure how long this phase lasts, again, this is all purely non-scientific. But there's probably a good ten or fifteen years where not only do you like everything that's popular, but everything that's popular is MARKETED TO YOU. And even if you don't like it, per se, you are aware of it enough to argue why you hate it. "God, I love *NSYNC, but Willa Ford is just beneath me," is something that I would certainly never say, or, indeed, even understand at this junture in time or any other, but which would be evocative of this particular period in the pop culture id.


"Am I so out of touch? No. It's the children who are wrong."

So, I think this semi-distinct phase (although I will keep it distinct) first occurred to me when my wife told me around New Years two years ago that Joe Jonas had broken up with Taylor Swift via text message, and I realized that I had no idea who any of those people were. And she looked at me like there was something wrong with me. I'm vaguely aware now that Hannah Montana is popular, and Twilight is increasingly a cultural phenomenon, but I have no interest in any of these things. I'm not even knowledgeable enough about them to make fun of them properly. I know Miley Cyrus is Billy Ray Cyrus's daugher - which is a lot more comforting to me, than, say, having her come out of the blue. But one day, my co-worker came into the office while the radio was going and said, "Ah, Miley Cyrus." That song I had heard every day, that one about how it's about "the cliiiiimb" was apparently by someone I didn't even think made songs that played on the radio. I guess I thought her songs only played on the Disney Channel, which, as far as I'm concerned, is still the repository of the Wuzzles and Zoobilee Zoo. The best way I can describe this phase is that I'm aware of all the business I should be aware of, but I'm not yet at that horrible level where it all seems alien to me.


"I used to be with 'it.' Then they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm with isn't 'it,' and what's 'it' seems weird and scary. It'll happen to you."

My father doesn't believe video games have evolved in any way past Super Mario Brothers. I don't know if he believes this ironically, or genuinely, but he consistently says it, that all video games are essentially the same (i.e. a platformer, albeit with a hedgehog instead of a plumber.) I don't know what to make of this kind of attitude. I didn't know what to make of it in the late '90s, when even back then it was patently untrue. But it occurred to me that your idea of things can become calcified. If you're not constantly checking up on something's status, it stays in your mind however it was the last time you checked in on it. A friend of mine has a brother who was 2 when I met him at the age of 12. He's quite possibly out of college now, but I habitually think of him as 2, because I haven't seen him that often since we first met.

I'll give you an even scarier example, at least to my way of thinking. There is a group of you, possibly a select few, but I hope broader than that, who, while reading this post, instantly identified each and every one of my header quotes. Certainly by the show, probably by the character that said each one, and quite vaguely possibly by the individual episodes. However, I'm warning you now that there are kids, kids born more than a decade ago, who can't do that. While I was in Georgia I sat down in the common area, which was the only place with a TV, on a Sunday night. I, and I suspect a vast swathe of my generation, have only one expectation on a Sunday night, an expectation we've held sacred for the past twenty years. The Simpsons. 8:00 pm, sharp, unless football's running late or it's a holiday and they're playing movies. However, inexplicably, there was no Simpsons on this particular Sunday night in Georgia. I even went to the trouble to ask the room, "Is anybody watching this?" ("This" in this case referred to The Pelican Brief, a not so great, twenty year old shitty John Grisham movie showing on Ion.) "Does anybody want to watch The Simpsons?"

Silence. Horrifying, horrifying silence. The guy next to me turned and said, "Is that show even still on?" Blasphemy. And with that, I realized that the show which had served as a pop culture Bible for my generation, unsurpassed but perhaps joined by the likes of Seinfeld or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was irrelevant. I was like a toothless old man begging to watch Matlock. And it sickened me.

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