"Rick does not like the new Star Trek. Why can't he just let go?""Rick hates American Idol. He is a wierdo.""Rick does not drink at Starbucks. He must not understand coffee or America.""Rick is not enamoured with 24, Lost or Heroes. He just isn't cool.""Rick does not like Christian music. He must be going to hell.""Rick would rather drink water than Bud Light. What is wrong with him?"
As a supervisor in CPE said to me one day, hoping to get a rise out of me, "how much energy do you put into not fitting in?" My answer surprised him. I told him, "None whatsoever. I expend most of my energy trying to fit in." In fact, I want to like all the pablum and mind numbing entertainment that Hollywood sells us. I just cannot. Seriously. I am unable.
When I find those with multiple tattoos and piercing, dressing boldly and declaring their difference with the world, I sometimes think to myself... "poser." Why? Because when I talk to them, especially those of the Christian variety, I usually find myself in the company of someone with very conventional ways of thinking (overstating to make point). They want to rebel from the pack, which I can appreciate. They want to be noticed for their differences. But, at the end of the day, they are pretty mainstream thinkers (which is fine). As for me, my brain operates so differently (I am told), that I want to blend in just a little bit.
You see, I want to be the guy enjoying Adam Sandler comedies, living in the suburbs, driving an SUV, eating whatever is thrown in front of me and drinking cheap beer. I want to be the guy listening to Hannity or Olbermann, voting for whomever I am sold, caring deeply about American Idol with my pure bred dog sitting on my lap. I want to attend First Baptist Church, sing the simplistic, overly emotional songs, while reading the Bible in the proscribed manner and buy into the myth of American Christianity and exceptionalism. I want to live happy and without thought about the consequences of my every action. I want to be Jude Law's character from I (Heart) Huckabees before his revelation. Instead I am Mark Wahlberg's fire fighter. Trust me, I don't want that. I don't want to question everything.
Or maybe I do. In fact, I am very comfortable within my skin as a contrarian that looks at life quite differently (it is all I know). I do not go out of my way to be a strange guy that sees the other side of the coin always. It is just me... and I wish people would accept people that are not inside the mainstream, especially the ones with conventional haircuts and clothing, that look like everyone else. It seems easier to accept those that LOOK different than those that THINK different (and this goes on all sides of the political/ religious and social spectrum- they are all the same).
Let me be comfortable as someone that does not just let go at Star Trek and let the inanity of the plot overshadow the wonderful characterization. Let me think John Mayer is a sellout and Coldplay rewrites the same song over and over (so does Dave Matthews). You see, I quite enjoy being someone that demands of our culture that they shoot high, whether it is food, politics, religion, beer, film, television or music. I think we should demand better than what they feed us. Why is that so bad? Why should I just accept whatever THEY are selling us?
Is it a threat to others and their deeply held feelings and beliefs that I do not agree with them? I went through this in 94-95 with Friends. The fact that I thought the show was stupid on so many levels was a threat to others that liked it. Who cares? It is just one guy's opinion.
If you like a stupid sappy show, so be it. Just don't expect me to like it because it is the cool thing and everybody likes it. If you like something I think is bad, stand up for it. Don't justify. Show me its intrinsic value for you. I don't care what your line of reasoning is. In fact, I will think highly if you can show me you have thought about it. You are thinking for yourself, which is all I want, even if you just like movies where guys and girls meet at the airport when all hope is supposedly lost (it worked for me in I Love You Man).
But let me hold onto my idea that (usually) when everybody likes it, it may appeal to the lowest common denominator. Just face it. That does not make you a bad person because you like the following (and it does not make me a freak because I do not like this stuff):
American Idol (I don't like oversinging. I like subtlety. I am not impressed by power alone)
Starbucks (Again, I like subtly. I am not impressed by strength at the expense of taste)
Walmart (never liked it, even before the labor stuff. It always stressed me out)
McDonalds (did not grow up on fast food, never been a fan of the stuff. Blame my parents)
Coldplay (one good album, many mediocre ones. It all sounds the same, like midtempo worship songs)
Lost (went there with superior X Files. Not heading down rabbit hole again)
Titanic (it made my butt hurt and I had to pee)
24 (I will gear myself up to sit down in front of the TV to be stressed out for an hour, oh, and watch people tortured)
Chili's, Applebee's and all fern bars or chains (man cannot live on chicken fingers alone)
Ron Howard flicks (see Coldplay)
Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell or (there are exceptions, usually dramas)
Dan Brown novels
Dallas Cowboys, LA Lakers, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, NY Yankees, Tiger Woods (I like a little competition and I hate extreme cockiness)
NASCAR (not a snobby southern thing though)
Dancing with the Stars, So you think you can Dance, Extreme Home Makeover, etc....
Reality Television and soap opera type dramas, most medical dramas (OK, most television)
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Mel Gibson
Wild at Heart or anything by Eldridge (actually pretty much anything popular that Christians read)
John Mayer, Norah Jones, James Taylor and most of the artistic pop singers
So what if I think Braveheart, Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, Silence of the Lambs and Forrest Gump were overrated. I think that most big hits are.
By the way, there are plenty of popular things I like, including:
Sportscenter, The Daily Show, Seinfeld, MASH, fried chicken (I just don't eat it), Green Day (even if they sound like the superior Ted Leo), U2, Radiohead, The freakin Beatles, the freakin Beach Boys, the freakin Stones, Batman: The Dark Knight (the 2nd biggest film of all time), 5 Guys, In & Out Burger, Michael Jackson (the musician), Madonna, Prince, Harry Potter, Iron Man movie, Boston Celtics, Sweet tea, Google, football, baseball, basketball, The Office, Brian Williams and NBC News, 30 Rock, Judd Apatow comedies, Seth Rogan, The Shack, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, Alfred Hitchcock, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Slumdog Millionaire and Jesus. I could go on and on and on. See. I am just like you.