Against the Crowd

I’ve never been someone to like the popular thing.

It’s not through some hipster desire to like something before it was cool.  I don’t consider myself a hipster, partly because I am not cool enough to be a part of that in-crowd.

There are many reasons why I avoid the popular thing.

I suppose one reason would have its roots in middle school and high school.  There were the stereotypical crowd of nasty popular kids, the slightly less popular and even more cruel kids trying to get into the inner circle, the mostly overlooked middle ground, and the targets.

Can you guess where I fit in?  The chubby, introverted, bookworm?  I might as well have been born with a target on my forehead.

In my tiny act of rebellion and hatred for those who could be so unkind for no reason, I avoided anything enjoyed by the mainstream.  I was determined to not be like them, and find my own place.
Preferably far, far away.

Later in life, I got over my childhood trauma, mostly unscathed with just a little sympathy for the underdog.  I still avoided association with all things popular, treating any enjoyment from those things like a dirty little secret.  I’m not sure what I thought would happen if people found out, but I knew I couldn’t take the risk.

The worst part was, I honestly did enjoy some of it.  I still couldn’t get into boy bands or pop singers who were more boob than talent, but I found my niche in the fringes of pop culture.  I hated feeling like I was jumping on a bandwagon, but it always took me a little while to hear about something new, and then even longer to accept that it might be alright, even if everyone else likes it.

I admit it, I’m the person who stumbles upon well established, bordering on explosions into the mainstream, and helps to put it over the edge.  I like being able to find wonderful new addictions, but I’m never a part of the initial movement.  God help me, I am a part of the main grouping of sheep bleating something into popularity.

I try to resist.  I refused to read Harry Potter until the first three books were out,  and I had a boring afternoon with nothing to do.  I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was in it’s sixth season (out of seven).  By the time I had found the new episodes of Doctor Who, Matt Smith had already finished his first year (though I did start from nine, not ten or eleven).  I didn’t touch The Hunger Games or Divergent until long after both series had released their final books and finished filming their first movies.

I’m not sure why I resist.  Yes, I have been burned a few times by recommendations that didn’t pan out.  (I can no longer trust my sister’s opinion after a recommendation of the Twilight series.  She has been banned from giving me recommendations until I get some better references for her taste in books.)  For the most part, I really enjoy them.  It’s almost as if they become popular based on their high quality.

But I am beginning to wonder if I am in fact a murderer of popular culture.  Everything I find, slowly dies.  It is only the most resilient of phenomenon that have survived.  Nothing could kill Harry Potter, not even Voldemort.  Though I am very sorry I was not able to kill Twilight for you.  I suppose if I had read the first book when it came out I could have done some good in the world.  Alas, I was too late.

The most recent victim of my murderous tendencies, is the wonderfully talented John Green.  I had heard of his work is a vague capacity for a while.  Little mentions of his books, and screenshots and quotes from the youtube channel he shares with this brother were the extent of my knowledge.  However, the current buzz/obsession with The Fault in Our Stars did catch my attention.  The book sounded good, and John seemed to be both hilarious and intelligent.

I know, there are probably a few of you gasping, worried that I think The Fault in Our Stars is some sort of comedy.  Don’t worry, the internet does an excellent job of spreading both pornography and spoilers.  (Not necessarily spoilers about the pornography.  If you didn’t know the pizza man was going to have sex with the three oiled and half naked women who needed an alternative way to pay for their meal, you probably shouldn’t have clicked on the link.)

The fact that that the book was reported to make the larger portion of the population cry was one of the reason I avoided it.  I cry often enough on my own as an uncontrollable emotional reaction to random stimulus.  I stopped reading the tragic romance genre after my first Nicholas Sparks novel.  I mean seriously, when I know the love story is going to end in someone’s death, why should I let myself get emotionally invested?  In the end it wasn’t peer pressure that convinced me to read John Green’s work; it was a sale on Amazon.  I’m a sucker for a deal, and they roped me in with a book I had been debating for a while anyway.

The first night I began reading I promised myself I would only read one chapter, and virtuously put the book down after five.  The next morning I awoke to this.  Maybe I am giving myself delusions of grandeur assuming I can kill a franchise or career on my own, but this is quite a coincidence.  The eulogy for John Green’s underground hipster street cred was literally being written as I began reading.  I don’t think I’m over estimating my power here.

There is a lot I can say on that particular article, as some of the concepts were patently offensive, and others were a bit pretentious.  (Just because you find something first does not mean it belongs to you.  Finders keepers doesn’t even really work in grade school people.)  Maybe I will address some of these ideas about the relationships between writers, their genres, and readers at some point here.  But for now, I’ll leave that topic alone.

I have no plan of reviewing the novel here either.  There is plenty out there if you want to know if you should buy the book or not.  All I have to say is,  my Amsterdam experience had fewer pretty bike paths, and more windows full of dildos and prostitutes surrounded by the smells of pot, piss and penis.  The canals and houses were just as beautiful as described though.  And there are some great museums.

I’m not even going to get into my own fears of what releasing a pop culture serial killer into the world of writing might do to the future of publishing.  I’ll just assume that if it has lasted for hundreds of years, it can survive my supernatural ability to kill things.

Instead I will leave you with this.  I’m very sorry to all of you formerly underground John Green fans.  I didn’t mean to force you into the light of day.  Sometimes I don’t know my own strength.  I will work hard to only use my powers for good in the future.


2 thoughts on “Against the Crowd

  1. I’m sorry that you found my post pretentious and offensive. I really did not intend to write a “eulogy for John Green’s underground hipster street cred.” I was trying to explore the John Green effect, which is the way the media has put him on a pedestal as the savior of YA literature. These folks have made the claim that Green has been at the forefront of the creation of “literary YA,” which is simply false.

    I’m actually curious about exactly why I came across as pretentious and offensive, because I am academic and don’t want my future work to sound this way. I’m still exploring my ideas and how to effectively communicate them, so the feedback would be immensely helpful!

    • I took a little while to think as to how to respond, mostly to avoid having to speak around the foot I stuck in my mouth again. I had an emotional reaction to a small line in your post, enough to make me mention it later, out of context and with no explanation. I was trying to stay on topic for my post (something I am quite bad at accomplishing) and instead threw something out that needed a little more.
      I did enjoy your post, and I agree that the effect is fascinating, though I do not view it through the same lens your work on your PhD would give you. I mostly thought it was funny that just as I start reading this author, the discussion about his new mainstream appeal is getting underway. He is definitely no longer something that is mostly known by those in the intimate literary world, and is now out with the rest of the world. Having very recently seen a small segment of the ‘hipster’ idea of finding something first, and avoiding the mainstream, it made me laugh to feel like I was a unwitting murderer of yet another underground movement.
      I don’t view you as pretentious or offensive. To use a bad cliché, it’s not you, it’s me. What causes a person to be upset by another’s words is usually more of a reflection on the offended person. Everyone has their little hot buttons, and one small thing pressed mine. It does not mean that any of your points were invalid, or even incorrect. It just means I didn’t like that they might be true.
      As an academic with a wonderful and unique perspective, I would NEVER suggest you change anything about your studies on the effect of young adult literature and authors, or even how you present them. First of all, I am hardly qualified to judge your work in any sort of academic manner. Secondly, the pursuit of knowledge should never be censored to please the masses. It is not your job to make everyone happy, only to inform them. When the intelligent people of the world, particularly our teachers, begin to change the information they give in order to make knowledge something everyone can agree with, we lose out on the truth. Even when I don’t like it, I do believe that the truth is more important than my opinion or my ego.
      (And feel free to call my pop psyche, and philosophizing pretentious. I’m thinking it too!)

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