Ways I have interacted with pop culture that I should probably reflect on in therapy
normal list from a normal lady
Aside from one (by all accounts unsuccessful) year of ballet classes, I didn’t really participate in anything as a kid. My childhood was pretty much spent watching TV, reading books, and enacting elaborate scenes with my Barbie dolls staged to *NSYNC songs.
Obviously this all paid off, as I became this (by all accounts unsuccessful) adult who remains obsessed with pop culture (*gestures vaguely at this entire newsletter.*) However, it also resulted in some genuinely weird moments, which I have compiled here for your enjoyment.
At around 18 months of age, I started watching a VHS copy of a Winnie the Pooh movie every single day. In it, Pooh covered himself in mud to disguise himself as a little black raincloud and took a balloon up to a beehive to try to get their honey. Very cute and charming!
And then the bees chased him away, a scene I found so terrifying that I would immediately burst into tears, begin screaming at the top of my lungs, and hide behind a chair to spare myself the sight. I was inconsolable until the danger had passed, at which point I would watch the rest of the film, demand to see it again, and repeat the entire emotional experience two or three times over the course of an afternoon. This happened every day for months.
This being the ’90s, I was gifted a copy of Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul, a book which claimed to contain “101 Stories of Courage, Hope and Laughter.” Unfortunately, one of these stories was a harrowing true story of abuse, which disturbed me more than anything I’d ever read. I knew what I needed to do.
I shut the book immediately, found my mom downstairs, and handed her the book. “I’m not ready for this,” I said gravely. She took it away from me and agreed to hide it from me for a few years. I never asked for it back.
Somehow I acquired a book, I believe in a crate of used books from a relative who was a retired teacher, about a girl cat-sitting for her neighbors to prove that she’s responsible. The cats go missing. The stress was absolutely unbearable, in the most literal sense of the word. I knew that her neighbors would come home and be upset, and her parents would be disappointed in her, and she would get in trouble. Nothing caused me more stress than when characters got in trouble, probably because the Catholic guilt of my upbringing extended into vicarious guilt for fictional people. What could be worse than getting in trouble??
Now more mature than when I’d read the Chicken Soup book, I took the book away from myself without needing any parental mediation. After pacing around the room in agony wondering how I could possibly continue reading this, I put it back on my shelf and vowed to go back to it when I could emotionally handle the protagonist getting in trouble. Months went by, then years. From time to time I’d look at the book’s spine and see my purple rubber bookworm bookmark (a worm with googly eyes) marking the place where the tension got too overwhelming. “Not now,” I’d tell myself. This went on for years. I eventually needed a bookmark at around age 15 or 16, so I decided I should finish that book I started years ago. The cats were found and the protagonist did not get in trouble.
I couldn’t remember what the book was called, so I did some Googling just now. It’s literally called Nothing But Trouble, Trouble, Trouble, and the tagline on the cover was “In big trouble….again.” What did I expect??
DO YOU GUYS REMEMBER MOODY’S POINT?! Okay, so The Amanda Show was the foundational show of my youth, in that it made me realize exactly what I wanted to do with my life (be funny, act, and make fun of things). The best part of The Amanda Show was its teen drama spoof Moody’s Point, a parody of Dawson’s Creek that I found hysterical even though I didn’t know what Dawson’s Creek was. But I got the gist of what it was parodying, and I loved it, and it ended on a cliffhanger.
Intentionally. Like, that was the joke. The “penultimate” episode built up all kinds of wild reveals and it ended with a “to be continued” card, and it was never concluded. I did not get the joke. I was so excited for the Moody’s Point finale, and my brothers and I then sat in front of the TV the following week to see… a re-run. Because the previous episode we’d watched was actually The Amanda Show’s series finale. With the Moody’s Point wild cliffhanger episode, again, in there as a joke.
Nevertheless, I assumed that there had to be a conclusion to the story, so after our initial outburst, I told my brothers we had to keep watching because they probably included the Moody’s Point finale at the end of the episode. My theory was that they edited it into an old episode of The Amanda’s Show, for some reason, and we had to watch the entirety of this re-run to see it at the end. My brothers were furious with me when this turned out not to be the case, and when I commanded the TV for weeks afterwards to see if it ever aired. Again, I re-watched reruns to make sure that the final was never edited into old episodes. It was not. Of course.
I get the joke now, and it’s pretty funny. I miss Amanda Bynes and I still have a crush on Taran Killam, a.k.a. Spaulding, and I found all episodes of Moody’s Point compiled on YouTube and I’m going to watch the entire thing today. But I still think they could have made their artistic intentions a bit clearer to the real Moody fans.
I was not allowed to watch Titanic when it came out in 1997. My mom told me I was not ready for it, a standard I clearly would come to measure all cultural experiences with after that.
But ten years later, I could make my own calls on what I watched, and I chose Titanic under the absolute stupidest of circumstances. We had a a treadmill in our house, and I decided to watch TV while running on the treadmill. Aimlessly flipping through, I found Titanic and thought “I’ve never seen that, and that Celine Dion song is so pretty. I should watch it until it gets to that song.”
The movie was about one minute in when I found it, which means I’d committed myself to watching a remaining 3 hours and 14 minutes for the sake of hearing a song I could easily look up on YouTube. Thirty minutes in, I did not want to run on the treadmill anymore but was hooked. An hour in, I was sitting on the floor next to the treadmill, covered in sweat, eyes glued to the television set. Two hours in (and, due to unfortunate timing, about to start my period) I was sobbing my face off with a bowl of ice cream I’d gotten for comfort during a commercial break. Three hours in, I scared my mom when she walked into the guest room to find me crying on the floor with an empty bowl of ice cream in the dark. When the film ended, the network cut off the credits to show a commercial. I did not get to hear “My Heart Will Go On.”
Oh, did you guys think I was going to turn normal at some point? No, I’m still like this. Last year I got dumped and cheated on, two exciting firsts for me, and I didn’t know what to do to cope with this. My solution was to look up the Spotify profile of an artist I absolutely despise and listen to her entire discography from start to finish.
So I spent a day listening to over 100 songs, every one of which I hated, as I cleaned my room and fixated on how annoying and terrible the songs were. Why were the lyrics like that? Why is her singing like that? (“Why am I like this?!” is not a question I examined during this exercise.)
I had a bad time, which was by design, because I did not think about how betrayed I was by someone who I thought cared for me but instead worked myself into a lather over how much I hated this artist’s entire career. Honestly, the system works. I had her songs in my head for weeks afterward, a welcome intrusion. I love giving myself an additional thing to be mad about during a period of emotional turbulence. I think that is a smart and good thing to do.
Have a great weekend, and try to not be like me in any way, shape or form!