Lisa Schwarzbaum says, 'Hey, it ain't rocket science, but movies, music, and TV show us who we are'

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 30, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

News flash: Popular culture matters

Unscientific studies have shown that approximately 38 percent of all people posting to this site would like contributors to the Hot Topic column to Lighten Up.

Another 17 percent of those who reply in the space provided below find value in instructing columnists to Get A Life.

Even factoring out the three percent who don’t know the difference between ”their” and ”there” (a mortal blow to the power of any written argument), that’s a big lot of correspondents whose reflexive reaction to any subject with which they disagree is one of flip impatience and ennui. And who nevertheless find the time and energy to write a dismissal. ”Hey, it’s only a movie.” ”Yo, it’s only a TV character.” ”Who cares about __________ ”(fill in whatever you don’t care about here). ”We’re not talking about rocket science, you know.”

Of course, popular entertainment is always ripe for such attack. Yes, I KNOW we’re not talking about rocket science (although popular entertainment ABOUT rocket science — ”The Right Stuff,” ”Apollo 13” — is what teaches most nonprofessionals about rocket science in the first place). Indeed, by its very definition, pop culture is disposable, ephemeral, a matter of taste that reflects daily life far more than it affects it. But love Adam Sandler movies or hate them, for instance, both reactions are worth defending and discussing, because the reasoning behind those opinions really DOES lead to a deeper understanding of contemporary society.

By which I mean that those who dislike ”The Water Boy” are not in need of lightening up. They’re just desirous of different comedy. And a conversation about differing styles of humor, or whether Calista Flockhart is too thin, or what it means when old male actors are paired with much younger female actors, or why it is or isn’t important to be first in line to see ”The Phantom Menace” isn’t a matter of needing a life. It’s a matter of critical judgment, personal taste, and individual experience brought to bear on topics that, while not a whit as enormous as miserable refugees in Macedonia or murdering teens in Colorado, are nevertheless the ribbons and trimmings of our daily lives. So — to quote another eight percent of e-mailers — Deal With It.

I, myself, incidentally, happen to think it’s nuts to camp out for a ticket to ANYTHING. But I’ll defend to the death the right of someone who owns a life very different from mine, who is willing to give it up for Yoda, and who is willing to take the time to explain why. In writing.

  • Movie
  • PG
  • 134 minutes
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