In my Theorizing Popular Culture class last semester, we learned how television shows and other forms of media are important cultural moments because they are emblematic of the experiences that a group of people shares. Just because some old fart thinks punk music is meaningless and noisy, that doesn’t invalidate the fact that some mohawked, safety-pinned kid related to it. Regardless of that experience and its seriousness, this significance is valid because it made someone feel.
Basically, I just use this cultural theory to justify spending all of my free time on Netflix.
But, still, I see some truth in this capital-c Culturalism. More so in the way that the shows I watch unite me to others, link me with others, make me share with others. I’ve watched a dumb amount of television since coming to college (some of it written off as work for my film classes), and a lot of these shows were at the suggestion of my friends here.
I’ve realized that a lot of the shows I love somehow tie back to the amazing people I’ve met here at Hopkins. Whether one friend forced me to watch Show ABC, or whether the antics of Show XYZ remind me of another friend, I’ve found a friend for every show.
Game of Thrones My latest obsession, I just started season one a few days ago. Though I’m normally the kind of girl who checks out any significant show in pop culture immediately, I’ll admit I was totally behind on this one. Blame the fact that the Lord of the Rings movies were always a struggle for me (the books? A different story), blame the fact that I am HBO Go-less, blame the fact that I feared falling in love with Emilia Clarke (spoiler: I’m in love with her). Danny convinced me to watch the pilot (and lent me his HBO Go account), and I became absolutely hooked.
Game of Thrones reminds me of my fellow students at Hopkins who break preconceived notions everyday.
I feel like Hopkins often has some negative perceptions—it’s too cutthroat, it’s all crazy pre-meds, etc, etc, etc—but every day, my fellow Hopkins students show me that this isn’t the case. Just like I thought Game of Thrones was some lame attempt to recreate JRR Tolkien’s genius, a lot of people think Hopkins is just this place where crazy future doctors go to study. Just as I was totally wrong about Game of Thrones, this notion of Hopkins is totally wrong.
Also, bonus point: after watching a particularly brutal episode last night, and sharing my grief with a bunch of my friends, I was met with nothing but sympathy, love, and hugs. Hopkins students are awesome for not questioning why you’re so distraught over a fictional character, instead offering unconditional support. It’s been a hard day.
Arrested Development The absurdity of this show reminds me of the absurdity of my AMR II dorm. Whenever I need a laugh, I boot up an episode of this show. Last year, whenever I needed a laugh, I popped my head out of my door, and saw a number of crazy antics being put on by my hall mates. The Bluths immediately have me cracking up, and so did AMR II Griffin house.
From sledding down the stairs in boxes to impromptu dance parties to using dorm furniture as workout equipment, there was always something crazy going on in my hall. Griffin kept me awake at night in the best possible way, my body energized by the constant laugher, my sides unable to stop shaking and let me rest. AMR II was a hilarious, memorable, absurd experience, just like the wacky ride of Arrested Development.
Breaking Bad My favorite show of all time, Breaking Bad, has forced me into the kind of obsessive state that I feel like is reserved for shows with crazy, diehard, niche-y fandoms. I’ve spent a weird amount of my free time reading interviews and articles and looking up theories and spotting Easter eggs in the show. I unabashedly find it brilliant, and apparently, so do a ton of other Hopkins kids. I’ve found myself—on several occasions—launching into deep conversations about the merits of the show. I’ve shared my own theories, listened to others, exchanged little footnotes about the show, and heard other people’s trivia. Even friends of mine who don’t watch the show have shared with me something about it (even a polite “Oh, I hear it’s really good!”)
The kinds of conversations I have about Breaking Bad remind me of conversations I have on a gazillion other subjects with Hopkins students. Just as I’ve laughed about Jesse’s punch lines with a friend, I’ve discussed Plato’s “The Cave.” Hopkins students feel just as comfortable talking about the intricacies of a popular TV show as they do debating the world of foreign affairs. I’ve never been laughed at for gushing about Breaking Bad, and I’ve never been laughed at for geeking out over a great poem. Hopkins students are passionate, and talkative, and love to share ideas, even if they involve a meth kingpin.
Dance Moms We all have guilty pleasures. Some, like enjoying a crummy pop song, are relatively universal and not embarrassing. Others, like finding Dance Moms to be a very compelling and important show, are a little less normal, a little more embarrassing. And yet, I’ve found fellow Hopkins students to rant about Abby Lee Miller to, who take sides on the Team Maddie/Team Chloe debate (Team Chloe or die). There is someone at Hopkins for every little interest, every guilty pleasure. There’s a place for everyone. My friends, luckily, have made it really easy to shamelessly enjoy Dance Moms because they’re appalled at the dance costumes just as I am.
Friday Night Lights I have interrupted three—three—conversations with random Hopkins people upon overhearing them mention Tim Riggins, and they didn’t even find it weird. Need I say more?
(s/o to JHU_JackieR for joking about making this a blog post. Oops, I actually did it.)