Sunday, April 11, 2010

All about white stuff

I am in the mood, dear Reader, to test your knowledge about white (read "North American left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk") popular culture.

Question 1: Why do some white people stay in for breakfast on a Sunday morning?

Question 2: Why do some white people like not having a TV?

Question 3: Why do white people love Japan?

Three questions will suffice to illustrate my point. If you don't know the answers, I will offer you a preview.

Answer 1: White people love their brunch places but some have breakfast at home on a Sunday morning for the simple reason that they want to read the Sunday edition of The New York Times.

Apparently reading the newspaper will make them look good on Monday morning when they need to impress their co-workers by telling them about the latest books in the Book Review section or a discussion of a thought-provoking issue in the Magazine section.

Answer 2: Some white people like making other white people feel bad and not having a TV is one way of making themselves feel good about their life and life choices.

When other white people talk about Casey James, Crystal Bowersox and Andrew Garcia, among other American Idol (Season 9) hopefuls, those who do not own a TV will smugly say: "I didn't see it, I don't have a TV. That stuff rots your brain."

Answer 3: White people love Japan for many reasons. Sushi is one but it goes beyond food. All white people either have taught/will teach/wished they had taught English in Japan. It is a dream for them to go overseas and actually live in Japan.

Besides filling their need to travel, it also helps them to gain important leverage over other white people at sushi restaurants when they can say: "This place is pretty good, but living in Japan really spoiled me. I've had such a hard time finding a really authentic place."

My three questions were based on the observations of Christian Lander, author of the book Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions (2008) (see photo of book cover above).

The answers (which have been slightly adapted) were excerpts of passages from the book. I recently got my copy from Amazon.com after unsuccessfully searching for it in book stores in Kuala Lumpur.

Reading it was a hilarious way of spending my Sunday morning and afternoon.

Lander's comments on the "supposed habits and preferences of the pale-skinned"  first appeared in his blog, also called Stuff White People Like. It was and still is immensely popular. A white person had forwarded me the link and it got my attention.

Some love it: "Oh, lord, it only hurts because it's true! Love the blog". Others find it "offensive and racist" while The New Republic describes it as "weak satire".

Yet Lander, a PhD  dropout, is "gently making fun of the many progressive, educated, upper-middle-class whites who think they are beyond ethnicity or collectively shared tastes, styles or outlook," writes Gregory Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Times. "He's essentially reminding them that they too are part of a group."

Lander admits that "the things I post are all the things I like too!" and that he is calling whites out and "poking fun" at himself.

As a non-white person, I find Lander's take on white popular culture refreshing.

I also see non-white people doing some of the things that he illustrates.

There is no escaping globalisation.

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