Recently, I had to give an impromptu speech in a group I joined to improve my speaking skills. My fellow club member asked me “What is the one skill set you could teach others?” I didn’t have time to think about my answer and just blurted out the first thing that popped in my mind. My natural, unfiltered response: “How to watch TV.”
I’ve discussed in multiple posts how I pride myself in TV watching skills and the useless trivia I’ve found. So it’s no surprise this would be my first response. The question, however, made me realize that I could teach others how to become an expert in pop culture because I have so much experience with it. Why, you may ask, would this skill be important? It isn’t easy to translate into a job (given the competitive nature of the entertainment industry). Nor does it provide anything intellectual to make you better understand the world.
The best reason to become a pop culture nerd is that in a world with a lot of stressful news, sometimes it’s good to have some light knowledge to spark conversation with others. I’ve found that exposing my pop culture knowledge helped me better converse/bond with my new co-workers. These conversations helped me feel more comfortable in my new environment, and helped reduce some of the social anxiety I felt. I’ve noticed that nothing unites people more than a discussion on television and ridiculous celebrity antics
Other reasons to be a pop culture nerd? You never know when it will come handy in a trivia contest (see my post here on tv trivia you could use).
If you’re still looking for another reason, then I have the best one for you: it makes you stand out. I sometimes struggle with defining what my expertise really is. I’ve had multiple jobs in different areas. While I’m grateful for those experiences, I don’t have a set speciality like what others have (e.g. teacher, doctor, lawyer). However, the one thing I always feel knowledgable about is pop culture. If anyone has a random question about who was in what movie (and is too lazy or unable to look up on the phone), I can often name the individual. It’s not a skillset most people have. Even though it’s not a job marketable skill set, my pop culture expertise sets apart my personality as fun.
Whether it’s the above reasons or something else, if you’re looking to become a pop culture nerd, here are simple steps you can follow.
Start following Entertainment Writers
My favorite entertainment writer to follow is Michael Ausiello. I’ve been following for years. He always covers underrated and appreciated tv stars and shows (for example, Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights. He was into these shows long before they became popular to masses). However, he always has good scoops on TV shows. He conducts funny and laid-back interviews with actors. You never get the impression that he’s sucking up to the celebrity (cough- Ryan Seacrest- cough). Nor does he ever ask cliché questions. He is relatable and fun. He started off on TV Guide and now has his own blog, TV Line.
Other great entertainment writers to follow: Lesley Goldberg , Mo Ryan, and Alan Sepinwall.
Read Entertainment Weekly, E! Online, and People
For pure day-to-day celebrity gossip, “Entertainment Weekly”, E! Online, and “People” are my go-to sites. Entertainment Weekly has a mixture of serious tv critique (which is great if you really want to get into true tv nerdiness of production, storytelling, etc) and also the headlines. E! Online is basically a comprehensive look at the recent celeb ridiculous behavior. “People” also is a mix of good celebrity news and also human interest stories (which are also good, light conversation topics).
If you really want to get deeper into the celeb gossip, check out Lainey Gossip. Lainey (and her fellow writers) do such smart analyses that I feel I’ve gained insight on the human psychology/behavior as a whole.
Get into that IMDB Rabbit Hole
I can’t quantify how much I’ve learned about actors, shows, and movies just by getting into an IMDB rabbit hole. I’ll initially start by looking up an actress on IMDB (most often due to my curiosity on his/her age). A minute later, I’m clicking on who this actor starred with in the past. Two hours later, I now know about the actor’s career and personal life plus the same of her former co-star’s former co-star’s former co-star. A long way from where I started but well worth the knowledge I gained.
Watch the Emmys and Oscars
Yes, these award shows are long. Yes, the presenters’ banter is usually funny and irrelevant. However, the shows give a good look which actors, tv shows, movies are on the “it” list. You then know what to watch to keep up with conversations. Plus, the award shows do occasionally have shocking moments that you want to catch live (before everyone spoils it.) Case in point: last year’s Best Picture Flub.
Attend ATX Festival
RLR is a huge fan of ATX Festival (we attend every year) for multiple reasons. Our site is full of multiple posts on the cool panels the festival hosts. You learn so many random facts about a show’s origin/behind the scenes- directly from the sources (the actors and directors). This information is not always publicized or discussed outside the festival. I learned, for example, Katey Sagal (Married with Children, Sons of Anarchy) is Norman Lear’s (the genius behind shows like All in the Family, One Day at a Time) goddaughter. Who knew!?