Stuff White People Like

February 19, 2008

Rant:

As much as I hate it when people write a post that begins with something like “I’m too cultured/intelligent/sensitive to understand what is funny about…”, I genuinely don’t see what is funny in the blog that was featured on the home page of wordpress, Stuff White People Like. Apparently, white people enjoy stuff that is popular; also, stuff is popular because white people like it. Got it, check. What’s the point?

Is it poking fun at the idea that each person is unique, on the theory that if we were truly unique, our preferences wouldn’t be shared by anyone else? But as Robert Pirsig discusses at length in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, even though quality is somewhat subjective, there is something objective to it as well, or at least some element that causes a correlation between people’s ratings. If Person A believes something is of high quality, it is likely that Person B will reach that conclusion as well, even without influence form Person A.

I agree, our decisions aren’t completely independent. The things we like are influenced by what others like; we use advice and recommendations to discover good things. To some extent, we get value from network goods and shared experiences; watching a movie or reading a book is better when one can talk about the experience with other people. Many people have suggested in the comments section of SWPL that it be renamed “Stuff 20-something hipsters like” or some variant thereof, so maybe the blog is supposed to be funny because it describes hipster culture. However, it makes absolutely no attempt to distinguish between the different reasons people like things. I don’t really see how it’s adding anything to our understanding of the world.

I’m not sure why I have spent so much time talking about this blog if I think it is worthless. I guess I just see it as pointless snobbery; it sounds to me like the authors are saying, “We can objectify these people, therefore their preferences are stupid.” Yet the writers reach this conclusion without pointing out anything that is actually wrong with the things they describe, or even showing that white people’s preferences are somehow artificial.

So, is the blog “Stuff White People Like” funny, or insightful, or in any way valuable? Explain your answer.

Update: Thanks to the Onion, I’ve figured it out. The blog is a less-funny version of this joke:

<i>This American Life</i> Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence

The Onion

This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence

CHICAGO—Producers have documented every single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic.

Now, this is funny because it doesn’t just point out that people like This American Life, it actually pokes fun at the fact that the show is basically just an exercise in being self-absorbed for hipster-types. Now that’s funny, and it didn’t require me to read 70 separate blog entries to understand what the point was.

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One Response to “Stuff White People Like”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Did you find out about that Onion article from “Tough Room”, when Ira said that it had hurt his feelings?

    At any rate, that was a pretty awesome episode. Though it filled me with disdain for Onion writers who are our age but have been professional writers for years already. What the hell?
    ~T


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