I was looking at the Sunday Times a couple of days ago and noticed an article about Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. It came out in 1993. It was one of the most lauded albums of the year—of the decade. It’s now being reissued, along with some early songs Phair recorded as Girly-Sound, in a 25th-anniversary special edition.
Until two days ago, I’d never heard it.
Why not? I’m not sure. I was buying a lot of CDs in 1993. I wasn’t scared of women with guitars; that same year, I played the crap out of Juliana Hatfield’s Become What You Are.
I just…missed it. I’m glad I found it. It still sounds pretty great today. And it got me thinking about pop culture blind spots—books and films and TV shows and music that a zillion people love, but are a complete mystery to me.
For example: Harry Potter. Never read a book. Never saw a movie. Probably won’t. At this point, it just seems like a lot.
Ditto for Marvel Universe movies. Superhero stuff in general. Just not interested.
Other gaps, I’ve been working to close. Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Edith Wharton, E.M. Forster, Tolstoy, Proust, Madame Bovary, Moby-Dick—all experienced for the first time in the last four or five years.
WDM staff reveals blind spots!
Of course, I had to ask everyone in the office about their blind spots. Here are the things some of us know very little about:
Nick Honeywell: “There’s this game called Fortnite that’s like the most popular online game ever. I hear people talk about it all the time but have no clue what it’s about. Also: Breaking Bad and the Beatles.”
Andy Teipen: “Mötley Crüe and most similar ’80s hair bands, Harry Potter (haven’t read any of the books; saw part of the first movie), Lost (never watched), Gilmore Girls (never watched; only mention because I know you love it); Stranger Things (never watched). Even though I have seen some Seinfeld, I cannot quote a single episode like most people I know. I know nothing about Star Trek.”
Casey Cawthon: “Sadly, I’ve yet to catch an episode of Game of Thrones, and I never got into Seinfeld. Total blind spots for me.”
Alex Mattingly: “Prince and Bowie. Never heard a full album, never really heard more than the occasional radio single. The severity of this blind spot was obviously driven home in 2016, but by then it felt far too late to even try to make up for it.”
Jenny Tod: “Star Wars and Star Trek come to mind for me. They have always been a blind spot. I’ve had minimal exposure to Marvel movies, but they just don’t interest me too much.”
Abbie Spahn: “Hmmm, where do I start? As I’ve consistently said, literally since my Q&A blog when I started here, my pop culture knowledge is sincerely lacking. A few of my blind spots: Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Handmaid’s Tale, any and all Bachelor/Bachelorette series (including almost ALL reality tv), and most books that aren’t cookbooks, health-related, or written by Liane Moriarty or Dr. Brené Brown.”
Robin Beery: “Here are a few things I have no idea about. But I feel like I’m only scratching the surface: Pauly Shore movies, first-person shooters (except Duck Hunt), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rage Against the Machine, Gilmore Girls, The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, and This is Us.”
Lucy Smith: “Game of Thrones. Star Wars. All pop music. (I couldn’t even tell you the name of a popular artist.)”
Taylor Streeter: “I’ve never seen The Matrix, which is apparently a huge no-no, in some opinions.”
Mindy Ford: “Bachelor/Bachelorette. Housewives of Atlanta, New Jersey, etc. Kardashians. All of the popular animated adult cartoons: The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, South Park, Family Guy, etc. Twilight books and movies. Fifty Shades books and movies. Country music: insert all popular artists here, including Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, etc. Marvel, Harry Potter…I’d add Disney to this list, e.g. Frozen. I can go on and on…”
Abby Reckard: “Twin Peaks (and basically all of David Lynch)…all Kevin Smith…Twilight (although that was probably by choice). I have somehow never read A Wrinkle in Time, even though it was maybe the biggest book of my childhood. I haven’t seen a single Avengers movie.”
Christine Hudson: “I have a pretty long list.
- Harry Potter. When the first Harry Potter book came out, I was attending a Christian school and it was banned. I suppose the administration thought the book was some sort of starter’s guide to witchcraft, wizardry, and black magic? My parents agreed with the ruling and I couldn’t have the books at home, either. I missed reading them as a kid; by the time I was old enough to drive myself to the library, I felt like I was too far behind to ever catch up.
- The Lord of The Rings. I don’t know how or why but I missed these movies entirely. I missed seeing them in theaters when they came out. I tried watching The Fellowship of the Ring sometime last year, but still feel like I’m just missing something? And the books are so long that I could sooner read the entire Bible. Though I’ve read The Hobbit.
- Friends. I have never seen a full episode of this show! I don’t know how.
- Game of Thrones. Am I the only person on this earth without an HBO login? Why/how has everyone seen this? Why can’t I watch this, too?
- To Kill A Mockingbird. It kills me that I haven’t read this book. How did the education system fail me like this? In 10th grade, I was in an AP English class where we read Crime and Punishment while the rest of the 10th grade read To Kill A Mockingbird. That’s a crime and a punishment.
- A Clockwork Orange. Given how much I like dystopian futures, I don’t know how I’ve made it through life without reading this.
Liz Phair photo by Bethany Chambers from Chicago, IL, USA (Liz Phair on ‘Perfect World’) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.