Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Best and Worst of Our Lives

Last month my friend Aimee attended the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX and made detailed reports about it on her Facebook wall. It sounded like a wonderful festival, and Aimee enjoyed herself immensely. Out of all the things she posted, one thing in particular stood out to me, and I'm bringing it here to you all today. 


During the festival, author Chuck Klosterman was asked the following question:
Imagine it's several hundred or a thousand years in the future, our civilization is gone and alien anthropologists and archeologists are excavating the earth and finding artifacts of our popular culture. What would be the worst thing you hope they would find and the best?
This is how Aimee documented his response:
Klosterman had some great answers. First he said the best thing would be his apartment, in tact, so that future beings would use that as a blueprint to base their own lives on. Then he said he'd give some more serious answers. He said the worst thing would be Tucker Max's book (Assholes Finish First), because that's such an untrue version of what the world is like and it would be a shame for them to think it was a real reflection on us. The best would be The Beatles' movie Hard Days Night, because they might think that we were all charming and happy. He said it all much better, but I didn't want to be rude and take notes while I was in there.
 Ever since I read this, I haven't been able to let go of the question. I have rolled this around in my head, each time adding to the lists, defending my answers, taking from the lists when my defense was stupid. But what I can't do is narrow the question down to just two answers, one best thing and one worst thing. I've never been the kind of person who can answer these kinds of questions succinctly. In a situation where I have to make a decision between two things, I can certainly decide for myself which of the two is the most beneficial. But when the selection pool is everything in the world, well I'm not so good at narrowing it down. Being a geek, I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and there are far too many things in the world I find fascinating. Add to that the fact that I'm opinionated (yes I know you're shocked), and that I spend a great deal of time assessing and reassessing the value things bring to society, and you can understand that I have things on both sides of the question that I feel strongly about. 


So after an epic internal debate, I have whittled my lists down significantly. Since the question says "our popular culture," I have decided to only include things in the 20th and 21st centuries, as anything older than that is no longer pop culture but considered classics. 


The Best:

  • Star Trek. I say this not only because I am a huge Trek nerd, but because Star Trek is hopeful science fiction that presents us with a world in which people are living and working together peacefully. The entire Earth is united, and we have strong allies with other planets. At the time the original Star Trek came out, it was revolutionary. There was a multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-species cast who all lived and worked together on the Enterprise. So I would want future people to know that we one day dreamed of a united, peaceful planet free of sexism, racism, and poverty. 
  • Harry Potter books (but not the movies). The wizarding world that Harry and company live in has its problems, no doubt. But among the witches and wizards that aren't followers of He Who Must Not Be Named you will not find racism or sexism or soul-crushing poverty. In fact, J.K Rowling created what is arguably the best feminist icon in modern literature - Hermione Granger. 
  • Rock and Roll music. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. All of the classics. Joan Jett, Melissa Ethridge, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Amanda Fucking Palmer, and though she's not rock, Adele. And modern nerd rock - Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants in particular. And I would be remiss if I didn't give a special mention to "No Rain" by Blind Melon. That song makes me very happy. 
  • Pictures of people with their pets. I think few things show who we really are better than how we love our pets. 
  • Role Playing Games. From pen and paper types like Dungeons and Dragons, to video games like Chrono Trigger, RPGs show off our creativity and imagination. And they're a hell of a lot of fun. I want future people to know that, despite everything, we had a lot of fun. 
  • And on a similar note, board games. Particularly Monopoly. Like Star Trek, Monopoly came out at a time when there wasn't a whole lot to look forward to, and it gave people an opportunity to step into another world where they had money and assets and have fun. 
  • My grandmother's meatloaf recipe. Cause it's delicious. 
The Worst:
  • Twilight. Yeah I know, it's easy to hate on Twilight. But I would hate for future people to think that women of our time were blank voids unless we had an abusive, controlling man lusting after us. 
  • Cook books of the 50s and 60s. There was some regrettable food back then. But I hope this isn't found just so we can save face, but so future children aren't subjected to eating ham Jell-O loaf at their 20th century festivals. 
  • Infomercials. I don't want people of the future thinking we were too stupid to use blankets, skillets, and knives
  • This video:
    • Now I try very hard not to be a judgmental person, but in this case I just can't help it. First off, your boobs are not a bag of holding. Second, this is your wedding. That phone shouldn't even be anywhere on your person on a day like this. I get so frustrated with people who can't disengage from their phones to watch a movie, have lunch, or spend time with people, but this just takes the cake. I certainly would like future people to know about our technological advances, but I don't want them to think that everyone was a slave to them.