Pop culture is everywhere. It’s the music we listen to, the books we read, and the fictional characters we publish on our body pillows. And I’m deeply fascinated by it, which led to my current career in which I attempt to shout over the whirlpool of the internet about why my opinions about Superman are the best ones. I also kind of owe all is pop culture — not just because it pays my rent, but also because it saved my life at two points.
When I say that pop culture saved my life, I don’t mean in the sense of “He told me he’d shoot me unless I listed my top five Rolling Stones albums.” See, I’ve combated with depression for a very long time. A longer time than any actual sum of years that I can mark it, as depression has a tendency to spread itself out across your life, so that you’re not quite sure of what it was like before a mix of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness draped itself upon you like a heap of wet sweaters. Pop culture saved my life because, at those two points of my life, it was all I had.
When I was a sophomore in college, all of the things that I’d once thought were definite about myself seemed to dissipate. I was in the middle of an on-again, off-again long-distance relationship, and surprisingly enough, “Hours away and broken off all the time ” isn’t the best recipe for romance. It was one of those relationships where you actually feel lonelier when you get off the phone with them because rather than be excited that you got to talk to the person you care about, all you can think is “What did they mean by that? Why would they say that to me? Do they know how words run? “
My brother, who had been my best friend for the last 17 years, was hours away, dealing with school and his own friends, so I couldn’t lean on him as much for supporting. For a long time, he was like the bouncer to Club Daniel’s Mood Swings. People would come up to give me shit, and my brother would block the door and tell them that there was a cover-up, and when they asked how much that was, he’d tell them “Fuck off dollars and suck my nuts cents.”
I also get turned down for the program that I wanted to get my major in. This basically set me in the position of go looking for class that sort of dealt with that major, in the hopes that the dean would find my attempt and say “I know that we turned you down for the broadcasting program, but ever since then, you took a class in Performing 18 th-Century Poetry On the Stage, so you can just alumnu now if you want.” I felt trapped by my own inadequacy. I was the RPG character that no one had bothered to level up, surrounded by the characters that God had been playing with for hours.
When you’re depressed, the stillnes is thick and omnipresent. You could buy a pair of rubber waders and fucking plod through the silence of depression. And it was on one of those very quiet nights that my roommate asked me if I’d ever watched a demonstrate called One Piece , which I knew two things about: 1) It was an anime, and 2) Yes please, anything that will distract me from this. Now, for those that have never heard of it, One Piece is a show about a dude who has the power to stretch his limbs, and he employs that power to better punch people. And I kind of fell in love with it immediately.
More important than the plot was the fact that One Piece , along with its themes of standing up for yourself and against those who would prey on the helpless, is based around the idea that there are no useless people. You might be surrounded by people who are remarkably strong in comparison to you, but you have things to contribute as well. Basically, it was Everything Daniel Needs To Hear Right Now, And Some Japanese Pop music: The Show .
There were around 300 -plus episodes to watch by the time I started, so there was no chance of me ever going back to the well and finding out that the One Piece had all dried up. And that was important because for the first time since I started college, I felt like I had a place that I could go to whenever the aloneness began to crush me and all of the noises around me turned into that frightening anthem that starts playing whenever Sonic the Hedgehog have started to drown.
You often hear other people describe their loved ones as “their stones, ” but for a certain span of period, One Piece was my rock. It’s a goofy escapade show about a supernatural pirate crew, and I can honestly say that it might be the reason that I’m around to talk about it right now. It gave me something to cling to when my entire being felt annulled. And this would happen again once more in my life.
About six years later, I saw myself in the wonderful stance of being able to make my living write. And then, an email later, I discovered myself not in that stance anymore. This would’ve been alright if “making my living” translated to “Saving up fund all there is feeing out of my parent’s refrigerator.” Unfortunately, it translated to “I have to pay rent and buy dog food and perhaps more people food if this jar of peanut butter takes a vacation.”
The woman I was dating and living with, the woman who would subsequently go on to be my spouse, encouraged me as my bank account implored for mercy. And while I could tell her that I was having money problems, I didn’t want to tell her about the fact that I was spiraling again. My wife is a masterpiece of a human being, and I can recite sizable portions of the Return Of The Jedi movie novelization. Everyone has job difficulties, but I couldn’t reveal to her that I was pathetic. That I was on a constant search for self-worth, and sometimes, when I suppose I’ve procured it, I blink for a second and it’s gone.
In college, I considered suicide because death wasn’t as scary as the inevitability of waking up the next morning feeling like I didn’t have a purpose in the world. There was no defined amount of depression from day to day, or from month to month. It was just going deeper and deeper. I discovered myself in the bathroom between class, sobbing, because I didn’t know where the pit aimed. There was no bottom. There was just more.
I didn’t do a big cannonball into the pool of despair and instinctively reach out for some kind of amusement. Instead, one day I watched Tim Burton’s Batman , and then I watched it the next day. And the next day. And the next day. I watched it every day for more than a month. I had it on in the background while I applied for jobs and while I cleaned dishes and while I played with my puppy. Because, like One Piece , it was there. It gave me something steady to hold onto. I was OK, and the earth wasn’t crumbling beneath my feet, and eventually I’d find work again, because for two hours during the day, I could breathe.
Warner Bros .
Luckily, that the project works would end up being me analyzing this movie too much .
I’ve mentioned Batman in my columns a shit-ton of times, and I’m sorry about that( not really ). I’m trying to pull the reins on it a little bit, I swear. But it’s hard to not go back to that two-hour tribute to Jack Nicholson’s dancing talents. It propped me up. I needed it. And if you’re wondering where my spouse was during the emotional affair that I was having with Michael Keaton, eventually I told her about what had been going through my head, and she understood, because she’s just the fucking best, you guys.
I can’t tell you that pop culture is any kind of substitute for professional or personal assistance. Doing that is the equivalent of those assholes who tell you “Feeling depressed? But have you tried camping? ” And if you feel like you need help, and you feel able to find it, please do. But if you’re a fan of something, whether it’s a comic series or a particular band or whatever, and it helps you through stuff, there’s no shame in that.
If binging ten episodes of Gilmore Girls is going to assist you in increasing some aspect of your happiness, binge the fuck out of it. If you do a mean cosplay of any of the characters of Yuri On Ice and dressing up is going to make you feel like you belong, cosplay away. And if you think that recording an all-flute cover of the score of Banjo Kazooie might just be the thing that get you to tomorrow, go for it.
His name is Banjo and he has a banjo? Aww. That’s kind of cool, actually .
The point isn’t “Pop culture will save your life.” It’s “Passion will do you wonders.” That passion spurs motivating, even if the motivation is merely are applied to clear your head and concentrate on Michael Keaton hollering “YOU WANNA GET NUTS ?! Come on … let’s get nuts.” Perhaps your passion is cooking or landscaping or juggling cats. Mine just happened to be these admittedly goofy movies and TV proves, and I think that since most people view those things as silly amusement, it’s hard for them to imagine them carrying enough significance to pull person out of that bottomless pit of dicks.
I think we don’t genuinely talking here pop culture improving lives, because a majority of it is fictional and every human being has different opinions on it. It isn’t real, and we are capable of spill our hearts out about it, merely to hear “You’re dumb, because Christian Bale is definitely the superior Bruce Wayne.” But if it’s important to you and helps to build life worth living, that’s what matters. And it matters because you matter.