“Send in the next applicant.”
The office door opens almost too smoothly. The applicant is expecting some sort of creak; office doors always creak, don’t they? But this one is almost unnervingly silent as it glides open at a touch. The applicant wonders if Gawker is especially careful to take care of its office doors, or if the silence is the result of some sort of overlooked bit of coding. This is the internet, after all. Nothing here is real except the zeroes and ones, which are, not coincidentally, the things you’re least likely to see.
The recruiter sitting at the desk smiles and gestures for the applicant to sit down. The applicant gives the oddly silent door a slight nudge and it closes with an otherworldly smoothness. They sit down in front of the recruiter.
“So,” the recruiter says, in a friendly voice. “You’re here about the Netflix job, right?”
The applicant smiles and nods. “I’m guessing you’ve been seeing a lot of us today, huh?”
“This will be the sixth time I have conducted an interview today,” the recruiter says.
“And you have become exceedingly efficient at it!” the applicant quips.
The recruiter raises an eyebrow. “A line from The Matrix Reloaded? Really?”
“It’s an underrated movie,” The applicant replies. “Don’t get me wrong, the third film was just embarrassing. And both of them squander the potential of the first one, but taken by itself, Matrix Reloaded is an entertaining...”
The applicant stops speaking upon hearing the sound of the recruiter’s throat clearing.
“Sorry, sorry,” The applicant says. “I get carried away sometimes.”
“When it comes to popular culture?” the recruiter asks.”TV, movies, and so forth?”
“When it comes to a lot of things!” The applicant replies. “I can’t help it. I’m always doing that; thinking about movies I’ve seen, television shows I’ve watched, books I’ve read, places I’ve been, people I’ve spoken to...at any given moment I’m probably deep in thought about something. Even right now, while I’m talking to you, my mind has taken that Matrix comment and transitioned into a mental list of genre films I think are unfairly hated. Um, but don’t think I’m not giving you my full attention, too.”
The recruiter says nothing, but hastily writes something down.
“That’s why I love to write,” the applicant continues. “It lets me organize those thoughts and get them down in some lasting form before they flutter away. It’s like a safety valve. No, actually, I don’t like that image. Let’s say...an exhaust port? Wait, that’s worse.”
“So, regarding this post...” the recruiter begins.
“Exhaust manifolds!” the applicant says. “That’s what they had on the Enterprise. I knew ‘port’ wasn’t the word I was looking for! Oh, and I guess I interrupted you, sorry.”
“So,” the recruiter repeats, without betraying any additional emotion. “Regarding this post: I notice you went with a prose narrative.”
“Oh, well, I started typing and it just kind of turned out this way,” the applicant says. “I think it’s a nice way to set the scene. But I guess this is an interview, so it’s going to be mostly just question and answer...I know! If you want, I can switch to more of a Q&A format.”
“Could you?” the recruiter asks.
Sure! Here you go. I’ll put your dialog in italics so it’s easier to tell us apart.
Appreciated. Now, tell us a bit about your enthusiasm for pop culture.
Well, that’s a big one, isn’t it? Where to begin...
I have always been a pretty big nerd. These days you can wear that label like a badge of honor, but when I was a kid, it was still something to be embarrassed about. I read (and wrote) at a much higher level than my peers. I loved young adult novels, cartoons, Nintendo games, and was obsessed with The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation. They brought me a lot of happiness. They also isolated me.
Because most other kids I knew weren’t interested in those sorts of things, or, if they were, they certainly wouldn’t own up to it. Nerdiness wasn’t something you flaunted at my school. The terror of being marked with that scarlet “N” was all-consuming. So I hid my interests, pretended to be into sports, played the role that was expected of me. I doubt I was the only one. But at the time, it certainly felt like I was.
I spent a great deal of time in my own head, mentally unpacking some of the ideas my favorite works of fiction had presented to me. I analyzed and pondered the choices my favorite characters made. I thought about these things far too much. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I loved popular culture so much. It was something I consumed in likely unhealthy quantities, but I couldn’t quite explain why I cared less about the World Series than I did about whether Baloo would ever be able to buy back the Sea Duck.
This went unexplained for quite some time. But that all changed the day I did something completely unexpected.
And that something was...?
I failed math.
Oh, this should be good.
So I had to attend summer school that year, in a completely different school, no less. On the first day, I happened to be doodling in my prized Doctor Who notebook, its cover emblazoned with a photo of Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen standing in front of the TARDIS, both looking terribly concerned about some dire alien threat which was just out of view. Doctor Who stuff was nearly impossible to find in the US at the time, at least where I lived. My dad had brought it back for me on a business trip to London. In America, this was a one-of-a-kind artifact; in Britain it probably cost less than a sandwich, and was just as common.
And that afternoon, something extraordinary happened, someone recognized what was on my notebook. And he thought it was awesome.
In short order, we were joined by a small group of kids, all of whom wanted to talk to me about that weird British show that aired sporadically on our local PBS station. What was forbidden at my regular school was inexplicably popular at this one. In the weeks to come, as I spoke with those kids about our shared interests in movies, books, and TV, I began to recognize exactly what it was that I loved so much about pop culture.
You mean that it helped you make friends.
No. Well, yes, it did, but I hadn’t been without friends before. I just never shared those particular interests with them. But that wasn’t what I meant.
What I loved...what I still love...about popular culture can all be summed up in that first word. Popular. “Of the people.” All that time, I had thought my preoccupation with the works of people like Gene Roddenberry, Carl Barks, and Louis Sachar was a solitary pursuit, but it never really had been. Because when I talked to my new friends about Scrooge McDuck or William Riker, they knew exactly who I was talking about, and it felt to me like a small miracle. We had only known each other for a few days, yet we already had all these characters and experiences in common. Bunnicula, Peter Venkman, and Sailor Moon were like mutual friends, their exploits common touchstones we could use to launch a hundred different discussions. It was so weird. I remembered watching the cliffhanger ending of The Best of Both Worlds by myself, yet I could discuss it with a friend as if he had been there with me. Because, in a way, he had.
That’s what I love about pop culture: It’s a conversation. You don’t just consume it alone. You can’t. Because the shows you watch now were inspired by older shows which contributed to the discourse in the past, and today’s shows will in turn inspire tomorrow’s.
And in between, there’s all of us, the viewers, the fans, the critics and bloggers, sharing our thoughts and impressions of characters, stories and scenes, and adding to this vast, endless conversation. And that’s what makes it possible for all of us here to talk about these commonly-shared stories together. The stories are fictional, but the shared emotions and connections they help create are real. And now with the internet, we’re sharing these experiences with people we’ve never met who live in parts of the world we’ve never been to.
And, well, I think I have a lot to contribute to that conversation. I’m very good at coming up with interesting angles on a story, in a way that hopefully entertains the reader and encourages more discussion.
That’s what I want, ultimately: to be a bigger part of the conversation, as a contributor to Gawker, and maybe someday as a creator of my own stories. Oh, can I tell you about the novel I’m working on? There’s this girl, and she-
I, um, don’t think we have time for that.
Right, right sorry.
So to wrap up, please rank the accuracy of this statement as it pertains to you: “Pop culture is my life!”
I’d rank it as false.
Really? After everything you just said?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still way too into it, especially the sort of genre stuff that Io9 likes to cover. But that’s not all I am. It’s not the extent of my interests, or my experiences. For a long time, it essentially was, but I worked hard to break out of that, and become a more well-rounded person. I’ve campaigned for various causes. I’ve lived in three different countries. I write all the time, on all manner of subjects. I’ve held all sorts of jobs from stable hand to assistant to a state senator. One time I took a month and walked all the way across Spain.
I’m guessing that was a post-college “finding myself” sort of thing, wasn’t it?
Junior year, actually, but yeah. And it worked! Well, more or less.
My point is, I don’t think you can effectively write about any given subject if that’s the only thing you’re interested in. You need a wide range of experiences that you can draw upon to bring fresh insight to the topic. Otherwise, you risk just repeating what’s already been said. I think I’m well-rounded enough to avoid that.
You realize, of course, that you could have all the experience in the world and still end up repeating what’s already been said.
Well, sure, I suppose there are no guarantees. But I try my best.
Oh, before I go, I should mention that I also have an extensive posting history on Kinja, if you’d like to see some of the other stuff I’ve posted in response to various Gawker network stories. I think some good examples include this post about Fox News’ new set design, this postmortem for Blockbuster Video, and this appeal for more politically complex video games.
So yeah, I think that just about covers what I had planned to say to you. Do you need anything else from me?
What are the last five items on your Netflix Recently Watched list?
Arrow, Blackadder, Once Upon a Time in the West, Fringe, and Adventure Time. Oh, and John Lennon: Love is All You Need, for obvious reasons.
Hmm...alright, I think I have everything I need here.
Great! Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. I hope you’ll consider letting me become a greater contributor to the conversation.
With that, the applicant stands and shakes the recruiter’s outstretched hand. The applicant smiles, nods, and, with another quick “thank you,” they make their way toward the door. It opens and shuts without a sound, and they are gone.
The recruiter is holding a notepad, now filled with shorthand notes written while listening to the applicant speak. The first sentence at the top of the paper is written slightly larger than the rest.
“At least they didn’t try to defend Revolutions,” it reads.