People Who Don't Own Televisions Are Boring: the Sociology of Pop Culture

08/30/2013 04:39 pm ET | Updated Oct 30, 2013

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who doesn't own a television? You'll know when it happens because people who don't own a television spend a lot of time talking about how they don't own a television. One reason that people who don't own a TV set spend so much time talking about how they don't own a TV is probably because they don't have anything else to talk about. I like taking walks, but I don't like talking about taking walks. I like talking about Teresa Giudice and how Les Gold shouldn't leave Seth and Ashley in charge of the pawn shop. But the other reason that people who don't own a TV spend so much time talking about how they don't own a TV is because they like to brag.

Do you know what's weird? People brag that they don't know anything about pop culture. What's so great about not knowing something? No, it doesn't make you a genius to know that Jess and Nick hooked up on New Girl. But not knowing this doesn't make you a genius, either.

It has been many years since I paid someone to take the SAT test for me, but as far as I can remember, you don't get credit for what you don't know. Thomas Edison was a genius because he invented the light bulb, not because he didn't watch Miley Cyrus twerking.

I'm tired of pop culture being used as an excuse for ignorance. That Americans can't name their Congressmen is not because they watch How I Met Your Mother. I spent last Sunday watching the blond-haired guy from Beverly Hills 90210 chainsaw his way out of a shark. And yet I can still tell you what's going on in the Middle East. I enjoy the silly hijinks of Breaking Bad. But that doesn't mean I can't have an intelligent conversation about the health care law or the school voucher debate or any of the other Law & Order:SVU plots ripped from the headlines.

Television is good. Pop culture is fun. And, unless you're a gay person living in Alabama, there is no law that says you can't watch TV, enjoy pop culture, and also learn about the smart stuff. You have the time. You're not so busy. You know how I know? Because I'm not so busy. And you're not better than me.

Sometimes elitists accuse television of being a "distraction". Well, what's wrong with distractions? Sometimes it's good to be distracted. We live in a world where a psychopath kidnapped three girls and kept them prisoner in his Cleveland basement for 10 years. So that I occasionally want to be distracted... is that the worst thing in the world? Yeah, television is crap. But the real world is much, much worse.

My father is a brilliant man. And yet he is very excited about the new season of Teen Mom. I like watching trainer Jillian scream at obese people on TV. That doesn't mean I'm unintelligent. I'm smart. I have a Masters diploma to prove it. I mean, I don't literally have a Masters diploma because I traded it for Ke$ha tickets. But I earned the degree.

Not owning a TV doesn't make you smarter. It just means you're out of touch.

But moving on...

Because I watch at least 28 hours of television per day, I'm pretty much up-to-speed on the pop culture world. (The mathematical explanation as to how I'm able to watch so many hours a day? I sometimes watch two or three televisions at a time.) Admittedly, though, there are a few names and titles with which I'm still unfamiliar. I mean, I keep hearing about these things, but I still don't really understand what they are.


What the hell is Burning Man? I have friends who attend Burning Man religiously. Does Burning Man happen once a year, or does it run continuously? Is it always in the same place? Is this a music festival? Who performs there? God it sounds awful. And what is TED Talks? Should I know what this is? And what is Angry Birds? When do I get my invitation to play Angry Birds? Does something actually happen in this game? Can I win money? And what is up with Doctor Who? I've been hearing about Doctor Who for years and I still know nothing about this show. I don't even know how to find it. I have 800 channels. Doctor Who is not on any of them. And who is Harry Styles? He dumped Taylor Swift? That doesn't help me. Everyone has dumped Taylor Swift. Is Harry Styles a musician? Would I have heard a Harry Styles song?

Oh, I could easily do a little research and find out about these things. But I like to keep a little mystery in my life. Besides, I don't have time to do the research. I'm too busy reading about the health care debate. Wait- you mean the President wants to give every American access to health care... and people are against this?! God we're a dumb country.