This week’s question comes from assistant deputy managing editor Kelsey Waite:
What pop culture have you loved to death? As in something that you’ve consumed so often you can’t revisit it.
When TV editor Erik Adams suggested that I finish The A.V. Club’s unfinished Gilmore Girls’ reviews by resurrecting our TV Club Classic feature, I was so excited. Getting to write about my all-time favorite show—the first one I signed up for on TiVo—seemed like a dream come true. And I did enjoy my deep dive into two episodes per week, covering seasons four through seven. But an unfortunate thing happened—I don’t need to see Gilmore Girls ever again. Oh, there may be a time several years from now when I turn to “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” when I have the flu or something. But I was so intensely immersed in that show for several months, from July 2017 to May 2018, that I pretty much ruined it for myself. Turns out there are several things about the show’s later seasons that I didn’t realize how much they bothered me until I started writing about them at length: the Christopher marriage, the April plot speed bump, Lane getting the total shaft. And don’t even get me started on Digger Stiles. GG will always have a special place in my TV-shaped heart, but I no longer feel the need to return to the friendly autumnal splendor of Stars Hollow, which saddens me, because I loved it so much. Of course, this all may change in a few years when my daughter becomes an egghead high school student forced to deal with her frequently immature mother; GG could be the perfect show to get us through her teen years, necessitating a revisit.
There was a period of time where I probably listened to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” an average of 30 to 50 times a day. When it first came out back in 2004, I, like many right-thinking people, immediately became addicted to the frothy pop-rock confection. So I put it on my gym mix. I put it on my car CD mix. I put it on my homework mix. But most of all, I’d leave the tab containing the video on in my computer 24/7, and just play it on a loop whenever I was checking email or wandering around the internet. It started to get to the point where it would seem like something was wrong if “Since U Been Gone” wasn’t playing. I would find myself humming it while running errands, or mentally uncoupling and recoupling the verses in new arrangements when out with friends. One time I found myself writing an entire movie based on the story of this woman who was very, very happy to have ended a relationship, and just how shitty it must’ve been to push her to write a song celebrating its conclusion. Needless to say, this couldn’t go on indefinitely. And like most relationships, there wasn’t any one clear moment that proved the tipping point. It just got removed from my workout playlist, and then my homework mixes, until, one by one, it left my life. Now when I hear it, I feel nothing. The numbed aftereffect of a star that burned too brightly. We are through. (Though I could never abide that obnoxious “U” in the title, and post-breakup with the song, it’s okay to say so.)
I, like many disaffected suburban youths of the ’90s, once found sanctuary in the music of Nirvana. Everything changed, however, when I stumbled upon Love And Death: The Murder Of Kurt Cobain, a book positing that Cobain’s 1994 death wasn’t actually a suicide. It spoke to me because, enamored as I was with Cobain’s music and personality, it hurt me to know he’d chosen to end his own life. I unpacked the book’s evidence for whoever would listen, and when I got older, penned a play about Nirvana’s legacy that folded in some of the evidence. I had something of a reality check when I workshopped the script with a theater in Seattle—a woman acting in the play knew Cobain from his days as a struggling rocker in the Northwest. “I like your play,” she said, “but, you know, we all believe he killed himself.” It was presumptuous of me, I realized, to project so much on a mythic figure I loved, especially when you meet someone who knew them as the human being they were. I reworked the play to directly confront my initial intent and explore the delusions we create as fans, which, honestly, made for a much more interesting story. But spending so many years immersed in Cobain’s myriad biographies, the conspiracy theories, and his music just burned me out. I got too close to it all, and though I still love and appreciate Nirvana’s music from a remove, it’s hard for me to listen to it without reviving those intense emotions.
As the resident Adam Reed fanatic on staff—with four seasons’ worth of Archer reviews under my belt to prove it—I’ve probably spent as much time indulging in the asinine, chaotic, delightful rhythms of Reed’s writing style as anyone on this planet could reasonably expect. And while I love Archer dearly, the bulk of that time actually comes from another source: Reed and Matt Thompson’s old, and best, Adult Swim show, Frisky Dingo. (And yes, I know: Don’t at me, Sealab 2021 folks.) For many years, Frisky—an ostensible parody of superheroes that spends a disproportionate amount of its running time on arguments about the minutiae of HR squabbles—was my go-to stress relief show, something I could throw on in the background and chuckle along to while playing video games, or otherwise idly wasting a day of my precious life. As such, its various intentionally dumb catchphrases—“Boosh,” of course, and the always-relevant “What the hell, damn guy?”—will be burnt into my brain until the day that I, too, am devoured by an evil kaiju-sized ant baby. But it’s also a show designed for a younger, more cynical version of the person I am now, one who can get more laughter, and less anxiety, out of awful, random things happening to awful, random people. I still love it, and always will. But after at least 50 full watches of the damn thing over the course of my lifetime, I don’t know that I’ll ever view it all the way through again.
I’m guilty of this for a lot of video games, to the point where I had to force myself to go back to Breath Of The Wild to play its extra content even though I’d argue that it’s the best thing Nintendo has ever made, but one game that I definitely don’t see myself ever going back to is Red Dead Redemption 2. I loved every intermittently plodding second of Rockstar’s big cowboy sequel, whether I was shooting bandits or picking flowers, and I’d probably have fun if I went back to finish some extra missions or create my own cowboy hero in the online multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, I spent so much time experiencing everything I possibly could from the main story that I think going back without that hook—i.e., just playing it as a game—would feel empty. I could always replay the story, but it is so long, and some of it moves so slow that it wouldn’t have the same impact now that I know where it all ends up.
Here’s a rundown of nearly every Thursday night during my last two years at college: Bake a frozen pizza, eat half of the pizza, meet up with friends, drink two 40s, eat the rest of the frozen pizza, go to bed. And in the second of those two years, somewhere after the first 40 and before the other half of the pizza, there was dancing. It was a weekly ritual with its own internal rituals, including someone inevitably grabbing the iPod and playing “Whoo! Alright! Yeah… Uh-huh!” by The Rapture. Why “Whoo! Alright! Yeah… Uh-huh!”? Why not the dance-punk act’s undisputed classic, “House Of Jealous Lovers”? It was all about the call and response in the bridge: “People don’t dance no more / They just stand there like this / They cross their arms and stare you down / And drink and moan and diss.” We weren’t those jaded assholes! We were dancing! And though I’d always wish we were dancing to the clearly superior “House Of Jealous Lovers”—which also climaxes in a call and response!—I was still happy to give myself over to the slippery groove of “Whoo! Alright! Yeah… Uh-huh!” To hear it now, however, is to feel the arid haze of hangovers past and the aching of a body that can no longer metabolize 80 ounces of beer and a whole pizza in a single night (and probably never should’ve in the first place). In retrospect, maybe it’s better we didn’t drive “House Of Jealous Lovers” into the ground.
Maybe it’s strange to say that you’re burnt out on an entire genre of entertainment, but I just don’t follow comedy, particularly stand-up comedy, nearly as closely as I used to. It’s a pretty common experience for a long-term Chicagoan to see the people you used to watch do bits for five people in a dingy dive bar move out to L.A. to pursue their comedy dreams. And not being a comedian myself, I have fallen out of touch with a lot of the friends who got me into that scene and have since moved away. There is a fun side effect to drifting away from a period in your life when you drank way too much Old Style on weeknights, though, and that’s getting an occasional PR email announcing that an old friend finally scored the Comedy Central special they’ve been dreaming about for years. That feels really good—as does not having to wear sunglasses to work nearly as often as you used to because your head is pounding.
Whether I have immersed myself in its iterations to the point of drowning or have simply outgrown it, I think I’ve officially reached the end of the road with Rent. The rebellious spirit of Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking (and, tragically, final) work spoke to me as a budding theater devotee, and like many of my peers, I studied the music intensely. I very desperately wanted to dance on a table and belt “La Vie Boheme” in front of an enraptured crowd, or take on the establishment with an overwrought performance of “Over The Moon.” (Spoiler alert: I have yet to accomplish either dream.) In college, my friend Jordan and I would pop by the theater to see the fairly panned, but totally fun film adaptation whenever we needed a pick-me-up. (Another spoiler: We would need a total of five pick-me-ups.) But as I struggled to watch Fox’s live television event, I realized that the person I am now has zero connection to the story that once inspired defiance. I can never turn my back on its legacy, or the many reasons as to why it resonates across multiple generations, but I’ve reached my threshold for the wailing guitar riffs and my sloppy renditions of “Tango: Maureen.”