Getting Critical with Pop Culture

Getting Critical with Pop Culture

by Lisa Levy

Listen: It’s been a long pandemic, and it’s not over yet. One of the ways I have gotten through it—and there is evidence that I am not alone in this—is turning to pop culture. In these days when time feels both slow and hard to push through, popular culture acts as a salve and a way to feel connected. Anecdotally I’d say we are all much more wrapped up in pop culture now then we were when our lives involved long commutes or rushing to and fro. Now, it seems, everyone has fallen down the pop culture rabbit hole of her choice and watched The Queen’s Gambit, or listened to Cardi B, or watched endless YouTube videos about a pet passion (for me, it’s bullet journaling and vintage clothes).

A lot of people have dreamed of blogging about movies or writing book reviews and publishing them somewhere other than Goodreads. As a hardcore comedy lover, or a TV addict, or a resolute gamer, you can write about your passion.I don’t believe in hierarchies in popular culture—whatever you feel compelled to write about is the right topic for you. In fact, I am on the record as saying there are no guilty pleasures (a piece a lot of people disliked, but that’s part of being a critic too). Why should pleasure be guilty? Who decides what is worthy or prestigious and what is trashy? How do our backgrounds and beliefs about pop culture color our choices about how we choose to spend our free time?

We all engage with pop culture every day: we check gossip sites, we hit Spotify, we read about an actor, we play an alphabet soup of games, we watch YouTube videos, or binge a Netflix show. There are as many forms of popular culture are there are ways to write about it. We live in an age of democratized criticism: the only thing stopping you from writing about your favorite show or game or song is you.

During this unprecedented period in our lives, I encourage you to write about what you love, whether it’s reality TV, sneakers, gaming, Tik-Tok videos, movies, or fashion.  Explore your passion for romance novels or geek out about the latest gadgets—all forms of pop culture should be up for analysis, description, and debate.

Lisa Levy is a writer, essayist, and critic. Her work has appeared, among others, in the New Republic, the LARB, the Believer, the Millions, the Rumpus, TLS, the CBC, and Lit Hub, where she is a contributing editor. She is also a columnist and contributing editor to Crime Reads. Her essays are included in the collection Talking About Pauline Kael and the forthcoming anthology Dating & Sex: The Theory of Mutual Self-Destruction. Lisa is teaching a new TWC class this winter, Everyone’s a Critic: Writing about Pop Culture.