Talk about losing touch. First, my friends, and now the popular media.
I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a ravenous media consumer. I watched a lot of television, went to the movies often, and was keenly aware of all the new shows and celebrities. I also followed politics the way a sports fan would follow football or a horse race.
During last year’s US presidential primary, however, I made a snarky reference to Rick Santorum when posting on Facebook. I said I’d be swearing off sweater vests, which was a steady sartorial choice of the former Republican candidate. One US citizen living in Mérida expressed puzzlement. “I don’t get it,” she said, and I was immediately envious that she was unpoisoned, untroubled by any knowledge of the loopy characters paraded by us in the media. We had been practically glued to MSNBC through the election, like Scouts listening to ghost stories at the campfire. He might be president? Ohhhhhhh! At that moment I began to strive for that level of bliss: happily unaware of all the nonsense.
I have found myself increasingly aloof to mass media. Maybe it’s just what comes with age; you get “out of touch,” unaware of all the trifles that don’t really matter. I kind of monitor pop culture from the corner of my eye, but these days when I get home I find Paul and I are more likely to have conversations — sitting outside while it’s still warm, watching the birds and listening to the crickets — before flipping on the television. I don’t really follow the latest celebrities and haven’t been watching any of the popular television shows. (I consider it a major personal failing to be aware of twerking.) Although I’ve been into Mad Men, Breaking Bad was too dark to be interesting to me. Right now, my TV viewing consists of House Hunters (of course), Project Runway, the offerings of Turner Classic Movies and the occasional classic TV reruns like Jack Benny or Maude. Escapism seems to draw me in. Yesterday, I realized how much progress I’ve made in uncluttering my mind. Well, I’m still a bit of a social media addict, but I can only tackle these things one step at a time.
Evidence of progress: This front page was a big hit yesterday, and it left me completely bewildered. I was kind of pleased with myself that its meaning escaped me. This is a sign of progress. It refers to the government shutdown, about which I’ve paid scant attention. The wordplay and imagery also references House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, who I’m aware of because he was a big star back when I knew who the big stars were. And I know about House of Cards because I Googled it. It was a big presence in the Emmys last week. There was a bit of an upset at the Emmys when Jeff Daniels of The Newsroom took the best lead actor award, for which Spacey was a favorite. I know that because I Googled it. It’s comforting that I can ignore all this stuff and then look it up on Google if it turns out I want to know something later.
Mérida expats don’t seem to indulge in water cooler conversations like we do up north. It’s not just the fact that expats don’t gather in offices with water coolers. They tend to talk about everyday life: the food, the weather, and other expats (yes, I’ve heard it can be a gossipy bunch). But the conversation isn’t so much driven by mass culture. That’s my impression anyway. Of course, it’s harder when you’re in Mérida to keep up with the latest shows, if you’re interested in keeping up.
House of Cards isn’t a network show; it’s streamed on Netflix, so I assume it’s more accessible to expats. Technology is conspiring to keep us saturated in pop media wherever we go. This is good news for Paul when the UConn Huskies are playing. It will be a happy thing for me when TCM has a Hitchcock festival. But I doubt we’ll be keeping up with the Kardashians. Three cheers for you if you’ve missed the reference planted in the previous sentence.