At a certain point, a person outgrows enjoying things ironically. You may know what I’m talking about; if not, the sentiment is expressed wonderfully in this Onion/AV Club article by Sean O’Neal.
I’m fairly sure most of my own sarcastic and ironic reactions to popular culture can be traced back to my teenage years. Drawing a line in the sand and proclaiming “I love this band!” or “This movie is the greatest ever made!” was always a daunting proposition for me as a teen. Saying you liked something meant that you endorsed it… which in turn could open you up to ridicule.
Much safer was to hold the world at arm’s length, commenting wryly on frivolous things from the sidelines. Enjoying pop culture ironically was and is a safe way to prove your mettle; you can “enjoy” something without fully getting behind it. This is something I did when I was a teen and see in teenagers I work with today. A blase shrug of the shoulders is your best defense.
In the recent past, I was a fan of the reality show America’s Next Top Model. My best friends’ and I would spend hours laughing over the inherent silliness of the concept and overblown execution of Top Model. We would gather together to watch America’s Next Top Model and compete to lob the best/worst insults and observations about Tyra Banks’ ego and the contestants subjected to her whims. I have had (and I am not kidding when I say this) relationships with women which began, in part, over a shared love of the outsized ridiculousness of ANTM.
I truly enjoyed the show… but I also recognized its’ place as a bottom feeding mess of reality TV.
When I moved to Ohio, our cable provider did not include The CW for about two years. I lost the thread on the show and moved on with other pursuits. When I read that Top Model was going to be doing an “All Star” season, I thought, “What a great opportunity to get back into the show!” Our cable company now proudly carries The CW, and Tyra was bringing back models from the previous “cycles” (Tyra-speak for “season”) when I was an avid watcher. Ellen and I tuned in, excited to kick back and snark all over the show like we had in years’ past… and I couldn’t do it.
Whatever small part of myself I reserved for massive enjoyment for ANTM has shriveled away, leaving me blank-faced for most of the premiere episode. Things I would have found hilarious a few years ago (Nigel’s hair! The judge with the stupid straw hat! The Christian model who wouldn’t wear skimpy lingerie but opted for an even skimpier bathing suit!) flashed past me and I registered neither enjoyment nor disgust. Enjoying America’s Next Top Model, both ironically and sincerely, has passed me by.
Now, to be fair, I’ve looked at some TV review sites and it’s generally accepted that the first episode of this cycle of ANTM was a mess, and the second episode rebounded somewhat. I will also fully cop to the fact that I probably should never have been watching the show to begin with.
Even with that knowledge, I felt a weird sadness at the loss of a part of myself. I mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for the show after it aired and a friend said “Oh no! We lost you to the grown ups!”
There’s nothing wrong with growing up. I’m a FAR better human being now than I was in 2005 or whichever time I’m being nostalgic for. I wouldn’t trade the person I am now for anything… but I’m going to miss parts of who I used to be.