Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stuff White People Like: Criticism

In the early summer of 2008, Stuff White People Like hosted a contest to see who knew the most about white people, and who, by extension, was most deserving of a signed copy of their new book, released July 1st. The contest closed on June 20th, with winners being announced on June 23rd. (I didn't place.) Entries had to be fewer than 350 words. I submitted the following.


As a way to preserve their status among the cultural elite, white people are fiercely defensive of their tastes in music, film, and literature. As such, they love to read and debate criticism of said media in order to validate their own opinions. However, it is considered gauche to simply parrot the opinions of others, so white people are forced to pick and choose which critics with whom to align themselves so as to appear neither pretentious nor uninformed. Chuck Klosterman is a popular choice among the demographic of hip, collegiate whites aged 16 to 35, as his everyman persona, conversational style, and ironically journalistic devotion to pop culture ephemera have made him a hero to the generation weaned on Saved by the Bell. Movie buffs of a populist bent favor the musings of Peter Travers, chief film critic for Rolling Stone, while whites (generally male) who would consider professional criticism as a career idolize Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Roger Ebert, and Pauline Kael, the leading propagators of a style which posits subjective estimation as objective fact. It is important to white people that their opinions are both seen as unique and appreciated for their insight, and they take great pride in the time and effort required to formulate their individual points of view. As a result, they often take personal offense at viewpoints which conflict with their own, and will go to great lengths to ensure that their opinions are seen as correct.

When white people come together to discuss the relative merits of a piece of pop art, the conversation can get heated in a hurry. Many white people harbor a secret desire to be paid for their opinions - the ultimate validation of their taste - and they will take any opportunity to enact that fantasy. The Internet provides the perfect platform for this endeavor, and message boards and chat rooms devoted to pop culture discussions abound. However, the fundamental truth that taste is wholly subjective and ungoverned by objective standards often goes ignored by those who engage in debate.

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