Ah, "the masses": that ever-growing blob of humanity with the ever-shortening attention span ("Squirrel!") that has yet to meet a Spider Man, or Batman, or Iron Man reboot they won't wholeheartedly embrace.
For them, entertainment is effortless and thought-free. Instead of seeking out new things and, through a process of elimination, forming their own tastes, they merely make note of what the folks they deem cool" are watching or listening to, and become interested in that instead.
In doing so, music, movies, and TV become a sort of social exercise where the actual tv show, song, or movie becomes secondary to the social experience. "Rocky Horror Picture Show" anyone?
Let's say you start a new job or begin attending a new school. What better way to ingratiate yourself to your co-workers or fellow students than to discuss your shared interests? Wait, yours might be unfamiliar to them, better go with their interests! So when talk at the water cooler turns to the latest episode of "Game Of Thrones" or "The Walking Dead", unless you're already a fan of such shows, you now have some homework so that you too can partake in the witty repartee 'round yonder water cooler next week.
Seems harmful on the surface, right?
Not when you consider the misery such seemingly innocent actions force upon spouses, family members, and friends who are now forced to tolerate your sudden left-turn into Sheep City. Case in point, a woman I dated to the point of cohabitation landed a new job with a nice pay raise. This was all fine and good until she began bringing her work home with her. Sadly, it had nothing to do with work, but, rather, her incessant need to be liked by everybody in the workplace.
The woman I thought I knew, who I thought liked certain things, much of which I thought we had in common, was now cramming entire seasons of TV shows like "World's Biggest Loser" and "Iron Chef" because these shows were all her new co-workers talked about.
Now, I couldn't blame her for wanting to be well-versed on such topics in order to understand the quotes as inside jokes flying back and forth between co-workers who, oddly enough, all drink out of Dilbert coffee mugs, but when she'd traded in her own "beloved" travel mug adorned with the logo of her favorite neighborhood coffee spot for one with Dilbert's face on it, I finally saw the dark side of following the herd.
See, the masses don't stand around talking about some remarkable indie film with a great cast and an ending nobody sees coming, or how much fun they had at the Ingmar Bergman film festival. No, they quote from "Die Hard" and "Terminator". They see "The Minions" and Motley Crue in the same weekend and enjoy both equally. You'll know this based on the selfies they post: "Here I am at the Motley Crue show! I'm cool, yeah?"
No, cool is the person who goes to see Jeff The Brotherhood at the Empty Bottle on a Tuesday night during a blizzard and doesn't give a rat's ass whether you, me, or the people at work, know about it. Oh, sure, they'l be wearing an understated JTB t-shirt to work the next day, but that's only because it's either that or do laundry.
Even I don't know if I'm kidding about that last part.
See, whether you listen to Taylor Swift or Sigur Ros, there is no crime in wearing your new concert tee to school or work the next day. Heck, that's half the fun of buying tickets in advance and then being completely giddy for the next five weeks, but the effect is lost if every other student or co-worker is wearing the exact same t-shirt simply to be cool.
My first taste of this phenomenon occurred when I went to Cedar Point as a teenager and was amazed by the number of Iron Maiden shirts on display throughout the park. You'd have thought the band had just played in the parking lot and handed out free t-shirts to anyone who wanted one, but that was not the case. The next year, I again visit Cedar Point and see that all traces of "Eddie", Iron Maiden's mascot, have been replaced by the NIN logo.
This year, I visited Cedar Point for the first time in three decades and saw that the more things chae, the more they remain the same. This summer's t-shirt challenge belonged to Taylor Swift. Not only did I count 22 Taylor t-shirts before I lost interest, I actually heard the following conversation take place in line for one of the water rides:
"Oh hey, you like Taylor Swift? Me too. We should hang out."
I know, I know, not everybody gives a shit about making the necessary effort to find great music. Most people just like being part of something big, safe, and predictable, even if it means hanging around with people they will eventually realize they don't even really like and shooting their own brain cells to death one by one in the process.
To those who seek out their own musical flavors, even at the risk of complete social ostracization, not even caring if anyone ever notices their JTB tour shirt and goes "Oh, hey, cool Jeff The Brotherhood shirt. I saw those guys at the Empty Bottle decades ago"
But it's nice when it happens.
Yes, thinking for yourself can be achingly lonely at times, but the few like-minded people you meet along the way do tend to have actual personalities and their thoughts are actually interesting, impressive even, and not just a regurgitation of something from Dave Grohl's FB page that got shared 19,807 times.