It’s Okay to Enjoy Pop Culture. I Promise.

Okay, first of all, let it be known that I would say this to Marc’s face. Just so everybody knows: this is not me starting some silly blogger fight or talkin’ smack about Marc Barnes. I feel exasperated but I am also saying this with a smile on my face. For the sake of charity and clarity I want to point all that out.

And actually, I would love to have him over to the house for dinner so we could discuss music. He’s a poor college student, right? He could bring a couple of his poor college student friends, and I would make them some home-cooked meal: enchiladas, cubed steak with mushroom gravy, homemade pizza, maybe my husband would grill burgers and steaks. We’d give them beer (are they 21?) and I’d have my super awesomely good chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

An added bonus is that time with my five kids aged five and under would be what a seminarian friend calls a “cele-booster” for Marc and his chastity-pursuing friends. It would be a highly beneficial, fun evening for all.

But at some point in the meal Marc would say something like:

Now the merely popular does not have this quality [of being continually, universally good]. Popular music is consumed and digested at an incredible rate. There is no honest “going back” to songs that are released as objects of fashion. Popular music has no scent of immortality about it — it must be continuously replaced by “the next big thing.” If any one doubts this, I defy them to listen to “Call Me Maybe” with honest enjoyment, free from nausea, nostalgia or irony. There is no inherent good aimed at in fashionable music, and thus it barely lasts a month before it is used up and discarded.

And I would return by leaning towards him and shaking my fists while semi-shouting and laughing:

I can! I *can* enjoy “Call Me Maybe” without being nauseous, nostalgic, or ironic. Because it’s just a fun song. That’s it. It’s not supposed to be beautiful or transcendental. It’s just supposed to be enjoyed right now – as it comes on the radio when you’re driving in your car or getting ready for a date night or making breakfast for your kids.

It’s like listening to The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie” or Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”. Okay, that last one might be a little nostalgic. Yet there was no nostalgia, nausea, or irony when I listened to those other songs as a child and there’s none when I listen to them today. They are nothing more than pop songs, simple and redundant and with ridiculous lyrics, but I enjoyed them then and I enjoy them now.

They’re just fun and it’s OKAY (really, truly, I promise!) to enjoy things just because they’re fun. Like popsicles, dandelions, and trick-or-treating. In my house we enjoy Frappes from McDonald’s, bike rides around the block on a cracked sidewalk, and even a good fart joke. Those things are mediocre, mundane, and crass but we can still enjoy them. Not everything has to be about saving the world in grandiose, gorgeous ways. I’m not trying to belittle the very important role of beauty and excellence but the simple and ordinary are good, too.

Now, following all that, Marc may jokingly say:

ordinary people







Which would make me laugh because I love Sherlock. 

But honestly,  I’m okay sitting o’er here in the corn and soybean fields and being ordinary. I will wear my “gaggy Christian t-shirts”, eat Blizzards from Dairy Queen, and listen to “Call Me Maybe”. I will be ordinary and find worth in those things because it’s enough that I enjoy them. My enjoying them is a genuine part of who I am and there is value in just that. I don’t need to be embarrassed for liking pop music or pop culture, assuming that the pop culture we’re talking about is morally neutral. They do have an inherent goodness in that they are enjoyable, they make me and many other people happy, and that is enough.

So in conclusion:

Marc, just enjoy the flippin’ song. And if you’re interested in coming over for dinner, well, call me maybe.

14 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Enjoy Pop Culture. I Promise.”

  1. Avatar

    YESS!! Thank you, Bonnie! And you seem to be referring to one of my favorite themes (glorification of the commonplace) from a Romantic lit class that I took at Bradley! I’m siding with you on this one although I do usually enjoy Marc’s/BadCatholic’s writing 🙂

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    I think this is a great take, Bonnie. While I do try to limit the clutter in my brain (and just READING about this song is going to get it stuck in my head for days), attempting to forcefully limit my enjoyment of God’s good earth to ONLY the very important and noble doesn’t seem like a battle worth fighting. I can enjoy a gourmet french dinner but also enjoy cheetos and Mt. Dew. They are not mutually exclusive. And while I may choose to limit my consumption of junk food, that doesn’t mean I stop LIKING it.

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  4. Avatar

    Great post, Bonnie. Glad to know there are other Catholics who can enjoy pop culture for what it is. There’s nothing wrong with songs and stories that make us smile or laugh or feel good without having any particular social relevance. If they lift our spirits, they are, in a way, doing something divine. I don’t know that “I Love Lucy” had any other inherent purpose than to make people laugh – but what’s wrong with that?

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    I really enjoyed this post. And I really enjoyed Marc’s post also. I don’t think you are talking about quiiiiiiiite the same things. I don’t think Marc was saying that it’s not okay to enjoy popular culture, like some sort of Jansenist or the separatist Catholics who are saying (really) that the World Youth Day flash mob dance is lewd and no man can watch it without committing the sin of lust. I just think that he meant that a lot of popular culture is either lewd or tacky or both, and that as Catholics we ought to do better. Enjoy things that are just plain fun, but don’t fall for enjoying garbage tarted up as “hip.”

    1. Avatar

      I agree. I don’t think Marc is saying that it shan’t be listened to ever by the real Catholic but rather that we recognize it for what it is and refuse to be satisfied with its flakiness. Using the analogy from above, we shouldn’t try to fool ourselves that cheetos are just as valuable as a real French dinner and buy the line that it’s all just a matter of taste.

  6. Avatar

    haha- I love this! WE don’t do much of mainstream ‘pop culture’ (I saw the video to call Me Maybe and it really ruined it for me…and the lyrics…I know, I know- that’s not the point of this post!)….but ‘intellectual type Catholics would chide me for having Christian Contemporary music on…but you know what?! It is positive and encouraging! I need that! yes, we do classical and chant as well…but sometimes, one has to get moving!

    In terms of television ‘pop culture’- have you watched ‘Longmire’- I highly recommend it….and parts of it are meaningful! 😉

    an ordinary person

  7. Avatar

    *Thunderous applause* Catholicism is the universal Church: we able to embrace everthing true, everything good, and even everything ordinary (except evil).

  8. Avatar

    Okay. This is the type of article that certain people post to their facebook page on the merit of the title alone. “YESS!! I like what the world is offering now! Give me more!” I tried the experiment of living like a hermitess for the last sixteen years (long story) and came back to pop culture, trying to give it a shot. My ears just couldn’t take it. Marc’s article was thought provoking and intelligent- and he never said that you couldn’t enjoy dandelions,etc. for crying out loud. Please, people- think this through. Compare the two articles. Then post your “yay for fart jokes” comments. Sorry, exasperated and fed up with the “oh yes you can be a moron and not think things through!” articles like this one.

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      A very enjoyable and amusing article. Let’s not be puritan. Lovely to see a mention of “Louie Louie”. It really brings back memories. The nostalgia thing is a problem. Was music really better in all ages than the years from the nineties to the present?

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