While on Scott’s Blog of Doom recently, one of his writers had this question posed to him for the readership to answer:
“What artists or movies that someone likes serve as your own litmus test? The litmus test is essentially a non-mainstream artist/movie that hasn’t been shoved down the throat of the public and/or is universally loved. And if a person likes it, you have a good idea that the person seriously knows their stuff (or is just plain cool).”
I adored this question because although I’ve never thought about it in these explicit of terms, I realized I use this construction constantly when I’m chatting with people. So I thought about it, and I came up with my own criteria that I use mostly sub-consciously.
While in high school, I met two of my best friends. Junior year I met Stephen on the swim team. One of us referenced the band Cannibal Corpse, a ridiculous death metal band with a colorful assortment of charming song titles such as “Fucked with a Knife” and “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt.” One of us referenced this band, the other heard it, and thus began 15 years of riffing on them. While my litmus test certainly isn’t “ability to ironically appreciate obscure death metal band’s over the top song titles,” I suppose I like anyone who has a slanted view of the world and has a wealth of bizarre shit to draw from conversationally.
Senior year I met Jason during a dreadful production of The Diary of Anne Frank. He had a ton of punk rock patches on his backpack and a bunch more safety pinned to his sweatshirt. This was a much easier connection to make since he clearly liked punk rock, and so did I. Although I suspect we both thought the other was a poseur until we got to know each other better.
But by seeing his love of punk rock out front, I knew we would at least have some shit to talk about. So that brings me to today. What kind of stuff do I like that if someone else likes, I automatically bump them up a few notches in my cool book?
There’s always punk rock. Particularly Face to Face, The Bouncing Souls, or Strung Out. The work of Quentin Tarantino. The show “Parks & Recreation.” Seasons 1-3 of “Community.” Super extra bonus points for knowing anything about why Season 4 does not apply to discussions about “Community.” Podcasts “WTF w/Marc Maron” or “The Nerdist.” Chuck Klosterman. The writing of Drew Magary. And probably the biggest one right now for me – the show “Archer.” Archer is without a doubt the funniest fucking show I’ve seen in a long time (possibly ever), and if you think it is too, we’re going be fast friends.
Some others that help, but aren’t universal. I love the UFC, but I only like certain types of UFC fans. There are too many bizarro thug steakhead UFC fans for me to automatically connect with all of them. Same with WWE. If you’re a particular breed of WWE fan (such as a fan of Scott’s Blog of Doom), you’re probably okay. Metal fans are totally hit or miss for me. Same with craft beer drinkers.
And then there’s the opposite side of the coin. I met someone who told me they like “deep stuff like Mitch Albom” that made me immediately shudder because Mitch Albom, in my opinion, writes schmaltzy, clichéd horseshit. My mom likes Mitch Albom, and since I adore her, I carry guilt about feeling this way. My friend Jamie told me he felt the same way about the work of Dan Brown as I do about Mitch Albom. Additionally, I despise sports talk radio and have never seen an episode of American Idol. I don’t think “Modern Family” is funny anymore, and I have no interest in motorsports. Although far less important than coming together over something we both like, identifying that which you have no common ground with another person can also be instructive.
So what about you? What are your cultural litmus tests? I’d love to hear from as many of you as care to share. This is an interesting topic to me, so feel free to join in down below.