The Cure for Pop Culture Exhaustion

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Image Credit: NBC

Burned out by the incessant opinions, snark, and sniping? Drop out of the conversation and binge on something in a vacuum.

While the rest of the world has been busy gnashing its teeth over the How I Met Your Mother finale, mourning the sudden death of Will Gardner, and snickering over Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling,” I’ve devoted the past week to watching the first four seasons of Parks and Recreation. Many would call this a binge — or a cry for help — but I prefer to think of it as a detox. There’s so much hashtagging and around-the-clock quarterbacking in pop culture today. Sometimes one just needs to give herself the quiet relief of sinking blissfully into a Leslie Knope-hole.

The gift of community — of Twitter, or your book club, or a magazine like Entertainment Weekly — is that it invites conversation around united passions. But it can also make it hard to respond intuitively to a creative work with an open mind. There are always the shrill talkers, the poseurs whose tastes are borrowed from the critical mass, and those who wield their opinions like clubs. After the HIMYM finale, Twitter seemed to divide into two hysterical teams — the outraged and the champions (#bloviating). One of my favorite critics, The New Yorker’s excellent Emily Nussbaum, tweeted: “People’s responses on Twitter are turning me back to pro-HIMYM. This is just a mood-ring finale for me.”

When you find yourself ready to fling open your bedroom window and holler, “Won’t you all just shaddap already!!!” you too may be in need of a detox. Give yourself the gift of bowing out of the conversation and waiting to watch a polarizing show like Girls or a beloved one like Breaking Bad in a vacuum, long after folks have moved on to the next big thing. (I’ve watched neither, which is humiliating on many levels.)

Last February I basically stopped showering and socializing so I could watch all 76 episodes of Friday Night Lights in a great, purifying gulp. I’d long heard it was superb, and I understand that by waiting so long to watch it I’m partly to blame for its low ratings while on the air. But the way I fell in love with the show reminded me of the way I’d fall for boys in high school — truly, madly, and deeply. It was a private experience, the characters were my friends and family, and I cried alone during the finale (which was perfect, by the way).

There are simple steps to undergo your own cleanse. Pick a show that you’ve put off watching despite good people swearing by its merits. You can’t go wrong with FNL or The West Wing, which I inhaled last summer. Or, if you’re more committed than I am to sleep or a social life, treat yourself to the brilliance that is season 2 of Parks and Recreation. Revel in the earnest magnificence of Amy Poehler’s Knope and her marvelously specific and weird colleagues. Let the rest of the world wonder about who got shot on Scandal so you can swoon in private over Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza. There is so much out there for us to consume. It’s okay to miss some parties and come late to others.

The other day my 5-year-old daughter asked me the most wonderful question: “Mom, have you ever heard of a boy named Harry Potter?” I had indeed, I told her. I’ve never read the J.K. Rowling series, but when I became a mother I bought the entire collection in hardcover. This summer I’ll read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to her each night before she falls asleep. I’ve heard we’re in for a treat.

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