Recently I was playing Friends Monopoly with my family and my sister said a few things that got me thinking. She said I am ‘basic’, that I don’t have my own original taste and like things because they’re super popular. Side note – to defend my sister, she wasn’t saying any of this in an insulting way, we were joking around. But I still felt a little bit hurt and I did try to defend myself.
I’ve never thought of my taste as being ‘basic’. Throughout high school and in the years since I’ve been both on and off the bandwagon. I like some popular things and dislike others. Urban dictionary defines basic as “only interested in things mainstream, popular, and trending.” The second definition says the term is used to describe those “devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.” Bit harsh isn’t it?
I’ve been thinking about it a bit more now, and I don’t think I should have to defend myself. Most popular culture is popular for a reason; because it’s good, interesting or entertaining. No one should have to apologise for liking something that many other people also do. Well actually, no one should have to apologise for liking anything, no matter what it is. But yet, it seems to be a very common and acceptable thing to do. I don’t remember exactly what sparked my sister’s comments, but the examples she gave of my ‘basic taste’ were completely true and correct.
A prime example was that I loved One Direction, but I didn’t like Justin Bieber (whom my sister loved). I’ve always listened to mainstream pop music, because that was a style of music my Mum liked and that’s what you got on those ‘So Fresh’ complication CDs in the 2000s. Nowadays, I love Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran. It did take a little time for me to fall for each of these artists, I didn’t hop on the train or bandwagon immediately, but now, I’m dedicated. I don’t fall for every single No.1 hit, never listen to regular radio and I can’t stand the ‘Today’s Hits’ playlists on Spotify. I just like what I like.
When my family were teasing me, I was thinking about some of our different and common interests. My sister listens to singer/songwriter and also likes Shawn Mendes, but I think his music is a crossover between our different tastes. On the other hand, my brother barely listens to any ‘new’ music and loves Queen, AC/DC and Michael Jackson. I would argue that both their tastes are also ‘basic’, just a different type of ‘basic’. But why do I insist on arguing that point? Am I still trying to defend myself? Why can’t we all just like what we like?
To continue to use music as an example, I always thought of musical soundtracks as less mainstream. In recent years they’ve become more and more popular – which is amazing! Since owning a smart phone, I’ve always had two playlists of my favourite songs. One for musicals, and one for all others. A few years ago, that playlist would include Hairspray, Grease, Wicked, Singin’ In The Rain and various Disney movies. Now, my favourite soundtracks include Legally Blonde, Kinky Boots, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and most recently Mary Poppins Returns!
Other examples of my ‘basic taste’ were Friends, Harry Potter and trends like moustaches and watermelon. I could try and claim that I loved Friends and Harry Potter before they were insanely popular in the way they are now, but it would be a complete lie. Based on my age alone, I’m late to the party. Friends started airing before I was born and I don’t think I ever watched it on ‘live’ on TV, only catching reruns. But I loved the show and have treasured my 10 season box set for about eight years now. Harry Potter was published just after I was born, but I didn’t start reading the books or watching the movies until I was maybe six years old? I honestly don’t remember a time without Harry Potter. Though I am a few years short of being able to claim that I’m part of the original Harry Potter generation.
But maybe none of these things have increased or decreased in popularity at all. It’s possible I always thought that these things I liked were less popular based on what my friends and peers were interested in. In primary school, I only remember one or two other friends who liked Harry Potter. Now, the majority of my friendships were built on our love for the boy wizard. I always liked Disney movies, Annie, Grease, Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. But until I started high school, made some new friends and was introduced to a few new shows, I didn’t know how much I loved musicals. Until a friend started discussing the best sitcom pilots and theme songs with me and recommending more shows, I always thought I loved TV worlds and characters more than everyone else did.
Whether anything I’ve mentioned should be considered ‘basic’ or not, why did I think that I shouldn’t like something because everyone else does? Should I only like things that no one else does, because then I’ll be ‘original’ or ‘an individual’? Do any of these things make me uninteresting or devoid of personality-defining characteristics? I don’t think they do.
So then why was I offended when my sister called me ‘basic’? When I googled ‘ya basic’ to find a gif from The Good Place, I also found the scene where Michael (Ted Danson) uses the phrase to insult another demon (Sean), “In the words of my actual friends, ya basic! That’s a human insult, it’s devastating, you’re devasted right now.” But I don’t think I am devasted. As I’ve already said, I like what I like.
We often refer to things as being our ‘guilty pleasure’ when we think we should be ashamed of liking something. It’s a socially acceptable way to admit you’re a fan of something supposedly unpopular. I’ve referred to various artists (*cough* One Direction *cough*) and tv shows (*cough* Glee *cough*) as being a guilty pleasure because others thought they were bad. But the reality is, they were widely successful and very popular. Why should I feel guilty?
I’d hope that now, with a bit more confidence, I wouldn’t call things I really like ‘guilty pleasures’ and I hope I don’t judge anyone else for theirs. The internet, social media and streaming has changed the way we consume and create media. It’s now easier than ever to find people who share the same views and like the same things as you. My feeds are perfectly curated and full of Potterheads, Friends fans, Gleeks, Arianators and Swifies. Another thing I found while searching for The Good Place gif, was an article where D’Arcy Carden (who plays Janet) explains how the phrase came to be on the show. She said, “I think we’re all a little bit basic.” I think we are.