Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mostly Not Guilty Pleasure: Being Shown as a Pretentious Jagoff

I'm trying this new thing where I attempt to not believe in guilty pleasures. Guilty pleasures implies that you're ashamed to like something because it's not socially acceptable. Eff that. If you're into J-Biebz, love the hell outta that kid. If you can't get enough of your Lisa Frank notebook, you write the minutes from your management meeting in that thing. As the inimitable Dave Grohl says:

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I believe you should be able to like what you like. If you like a fucking Ke$ha song, listen to fucking Ke$ha."

Word, Foo.

So today I'd like to introduce you to one of my Mostly Not Guilty Pleasures: People unknowingly acting like pretentious jagoffs. 

Let's not mince words: I am a know-it-all. There's something in me that just has to be a wonder-killer when someone tries to pass off an urban legend as truth, that has to suck the air out of the room by correcting a misconception. But it comes from a good place, I promise! I, too, once believed that "Ring around the Rosie" was a song about the plague! I even have the Usenet group posting to prove it! And I was so interested (and okay, a little embarrassed) when I learned that that wasn't the case that I want to share that knowledge with everyone, even when they obviously couldn't care less about my factoids. 

I'm getting better, in general. I've learned there's a time and a place to gently correct someone (first off, make sure you're right- another lesson learned, there) and a time when you must just leh tha shi gah, y'know? This also gives me the added benefit of not being on the receiving end of unasked for knowledge as often, which is a blessing. So I shut my mouth more than I used to, bite my tongue till my mouth gets a hint of the coppery taste of humility, all the while knowing that yes, though it is most definitely "jury rig" not "jerry rig", you have an hour and a half car ride ahead of you with this person and that one sentence can either make it a pleasant one or misery on wheels. Choose your battles, people. 

In my quest to not be so much of a know-it-all, I find myself getting a lot of mileage out of that "better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open one's mouth and remove all doubt" adage. This isn't to say that you shouldn't talk about topics you're unfamiliar with or ever take risks - hell, we're all wrong about something, sometime, it's called being human - but there's a certain amount of schadenfreude that sets in when a know-it-all gets their comeuppance (eg: this self-professed "expert" on Photoshop who tries to show off his skills while simultaneously wasting them analyzing a pretty obvious fake picture on The Onion). Professing to have your finger on the pulse of something chic, of being a very specific know-it-all, in other words, can lead to a myopic worldview and an overeagerness to appear in-the-know. Wine aficionados, political zealots, smug parents - nothing's sweeter than knowing they don't have all the answers.

But don't get me wrong, I have no interest in mortifying these people or in making them upset - that's not funny and should only be done with the truly abusive (who probably won't back down even if they're wrong). Yes, it takes a certain amount of skill and silliness to effectively show the ridiculousness of a situation without making it seem like brutish bullying.

Which brings me to today's MNGP.

Below are two of my favourite examples of this MNGP. The first is by Sacha Baron Cohen as fashion icon "Bruno", getting the fashion expert to group celebrities into "hot" or "not" categories by getting him to choose between the wildly inappropriate suggestions of "keep them in the ghetto" or "send them to Auschwitz". Outrageous but telling, the guest has no problem going along with the unsettling categories Bruno proposes or changing his opinion when it suits the shows "sponsors". SBC at his best.

Another good  is a recent video by Jimmy Kimmel in response to the new premium Starbucks coffee blend that will cost $40/lb or $7/cup. He brings his taste-test to the streets to see what people have to say about it and the result is pretty funny. Like the first video, the key is sort of an Emperor's new Clothes vibe. If someone would just say "I honestly don't taste much of a difference" or even "I like A better but I wouldn't pay much more for it", they would come off looking intelligent. It's that insistence of meaning, that we are more sophisticated than the pleebs who would drink coffee at McDonald's that gives us such joy.

And as many smiles as I get out of these, they make me nervous as hell. While not on coffee or fashion, I stall for answers all the time until I can research something. But funny reminders like these keep me in check of doing it too often or too elaborately. Because sometimes the only thing worse than saying "I don't know" is saying "I was wrong."


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