Being “Cultured” Is A Privilege

Photo Credit: Kacie Burns

As music, film, fashion, and literature become increasingly more globalized and accessible, people around the world are absorbing various forms of media previously unattainable. As a result, I’ve witnessed a shift in the way we talk about enjoying art. No longer are there just subcultures everyone seems to float between at their leisure, but instead the conversation has become a binary; those perceived to be “trendy” and those considered “cultured,” the latter of which relish in their so-called “ability” to appreciate what few others do. 

To me, this “cultured or uncultured” nonsense is just that: nonsense. Pop culture is meant to be enjoyed, and there’s simply no other way to look at it. I encourage diversity, but the problem for most lies not in the motive, but the means. Being deemed as “cultured” is not easily accessible. It’s for the privileged.

I know this may seem contradictory to my statement on the increased accessibility of all this art in the world. However, what I’m touching on here is not the accessibility. It’s every other factor that leads to the acquisition of these hidden gem albums and movies and styles that’s the problem. In order to truly explore the mind-blowingly vast collection of music on Spotify, for example, or dig through reviews on Letterboxd and then go out and find the movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime, it takes a whole lot of time. A whole lot of time most people in this country cannot afford, as there’s just too many other, arguably much more important, things to do. Trust me, I’m one of those people who attempt both of those things, and finding the time is the hardest part of the whole ordeal.

Let’s say you did carve out a weekend to scope out all this art. You’ve spent a full weekend watching films (that’s what the fancy people call them, of course, not “movies”) and listening to albums (because listening to just one song is never enough). Now comes the maintenance of what you’ve just discovered. Understanding the full scope, the meaning, the “artistic quality” and point of view. And sometimes, the most crucial part is convincing yourself you actually liked that album or movie (because we both know you’ll probably hate at least one “masterpiece” eventually).

But let’s not forget what I find to be the most humorous argument of these “cultured” folks; that pop music is somehow objectively bad. It’s called “pop music” for a reason: it’s popular. Just because something has gained mass appeal doesn’t mean it’s somehow beneath your enjoyment. Give it a try, it might surprise you. It’s okay for someone else to like the same music you do. 

Not only are these elitist sounding “culture connoisseurs” failing to recognize all of this, but they are disincentivizing newcomers to enter what should be an incredibly rewarding community. The more and more I tried to catch up to those around me, to sound more knowledgeable and like a cultured little intellectual, the more experiencing the art began to become a chore. I didn’t want to listen to long albums for hours on end, or sit through films that were “indie” when I could barely keep my eyes open after the first ten minutes. Sometimes I just wanted to turn on the radio and listen to a song that’s the pinnacle of cheesy 2010s boy bands, playing in a loop on WHUD for the sake of nostalgia. I want to watch a blockbuster Marvel movie from the display screen on my TV so I can talk about it with other kids at school. And that’s okay too.