Yesterday, I had a long talk with my best friend, the organizational psych grad student, about pretension. And she pointed out a classic trait of all pretentious people: they hate everything. They hate everything, she said, because one is more vulnerable to judgment upon admitting that they like something.
Truer words were never spoken. I’ve never heard a pretentious hipster dickbag admit to enjoying anything unironically with the exceptions of bands and movies no one has ever heard of or seen, and they will admit to enjoying these things until the tragic moment in the life of any pretentious hipster dickbag: the unwashed masses begin enjoying that which they like.
When I was in college, it was Rilo Kiley. Then it was The Decemberists, and Deerhoof and MGMT and now I’ve noticed it happening with Fleet Foxes. On the Venn diagram of society, there are two circles: what they like, and what you like. Your circle is what they ignore, but that tiny sliver of overlap is what they hate with the passion of the Christ. And upon discovery of the new mainstream likability of their former-favorite, the following ever-popular words will always be uttered: They were okay. Until they sold out.
This, my friends, leads us right into the second in my hit (shakes head no) series, Things Assholes Like. This week’s edition…
Things that used to be good until you started liking it at which point it started sucking because you suck because I am strong and handsome.
Now this seemingly-specific category is surprisingly vast. Because it includes my personal favorite mark of the asshole: the belief that things suck now, but used to be good. To experience the most notorious example of this behavior, you only need ask any group of people about SNL. At least two of them will respond “it sucks now.” Now get in your time machine and go back each year right up until 1975. You will hear the exact same words uttered by assholes through time. It’s like the TARDIS, if the A in TARDIS stood for “asshole.”
This particular example is interesting because it’s not merely limited to assholes. When I mentioned this week’s subject to my boyfriend, his response was the typical “yeah, but SNL kind of does suck now.” It has caught and it has spread and it cannot be contained and our only hope is to shut this thing down. Jane Curtain actually summed it up best when she appeared on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (and yes, I recognize that I am discussing my deep love of NPR in my scathing critique of pretentious people, and no I have no response to you other than shut up) and reminded us that a number of the sketches in the so-called classic and infallible early series died and were incredibly dull. And this has been true for every incarnation ever. To that end, the number of “good” sketches have most likely stayed just as consistent.
Sure, there are the exceptions (the Anthony Michael Hall/Robert Downey, Jr. season / the Sarah Silverman/Janeane Garafalo season spring to mind – great talent with nothing to do) but when the same people say every single year how much this show sucks, I have to ask “when didn’t it then?” And they will respond “there’s no way that sentence was grammatically correct” and I’ll respond “then you fix it” and they can’t, and then we’re back at my original question, to which they either have no answer or will inevitably respond (depending on age bracket) “the Mike Myers/Phil Hartman years.” Now who among us would disagree with that? I’m not disagreeing that anything with Phil Hartman is genius (that Sinbad movie notwithstanding). But I remember those years, and I watch them in reruns, and guess what? Some sketches were still boring and lame and died in the studio.
I want to point out that sometimes, these naysayers are correct. For years from the mid-90s on, you could say that superhero movies weren’t good anymore, because they really were terrible up until the first two Spider-man flicks, and even after (I’m looking at you, you Fantastic Four bastards) up until the past year’s delicious comic book movie buffet. Therein lies the difference between assholes and actual people: actual people can admit that things were bad and admit when things are good; assholes can only admit the badness. These are the Internet trolls running around (well, not “running” per se, as I imagine they are quite pale and doughy – “ricotta” is the newly coined term that came out of my conversation with my friend) saying that The Dark Knight was overrated and Iron Man was misogynist and no good. Well sirs, I can find misogyny in my coffee cup, and even I say you’re wrong.
When you really look at it, today’s assholes are just curmudgeonly old people trapped in young people’s bodies. This of course makes sense of the ratty cardigans and enormous glasses in your hipster breeds. And someday they’ll be adorably hateful. But for now, assholes, just shut up and enjoy Andy Samberg and continue to listen to Fleet Foxes even though the rest of us dare to like them. And in the end, we can all agree on one thing: Fantastic Four was truly terrible.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at email@example.com.