Friday, February 22, 2008

Stuff White People Like: A Blog Review

OUR FAVORITE PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR, Mike Spencer, wrote in with some smart observations and questions about a relatively new blog called Stuff White People Like (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/). The blog has only been up a couple of months, but it's already received almost 2.5 million hits--roughly 2.5 more than this one. Though it's difficult to tell much about the main personalities behind the blog, it appears to be curated mainly by a guy who posts under the name Clander, a resident of Los Angeles who rides a bicycle (see post #61). His ethnicity is undetermined, but he has a disarming ability to look at mainstream American culture the way an anthropologist might see some heretofore undiscovered tribe.

Each entry on the site features a snazzy picture and an example of stuff White people like such as products (coffee, tea), stores (Whole Foods), items (kitchen gadgets, Apple products), personalities (Mos Def, John Stewart, Ira Glass), experiences (difficult break ups, marathons, recycling), ideas (knowing what's best for poor people), and culture (Juno, NPR, irony). Most of the entries are pretty funny and in general, delivered in a self-aware droll tone that endears more than annoys. There is a playful mocking of the fetishes of upper-middle class North America that is hart to resist.

In his classic investigatorial way, Spencer hits on the main issues of the blog? Does the race of the person posting affect the tone of the post? And, is the site about race or, as Spencer correctly intuits, really about class?

At present, the entries are warmly sarcastic. There is a sort of meta-teasing involved. No one really asserts superiority or inferiority on account of race. The site is much more about icons of accomplishment and learning.

Which makes the site, as P. I. Spencer notes, about the icons of economic class, and, more specifically, left-leaning urban markers of class. A conservative site in the rural South on "stuff white people like" would probably not include Michel Gondry (#68), Sarah Silverman (#52), or Asian Fusion food (#45). I grew up in Oklahoma around a lot of White people, and pretty much no one I know in Oklahoma likes John Stewart, the Prius, marathons, NPR, Juno, or Mos-Def. They sure don't like Barack Obama (see #8 and my previous piece about Obama and the Plains).

What the site gets right, though, is how American culture associates mainstream urban and suburban whiteness with yuppiness. There is a kind of predictability absent of edge or self-awareness that infuses a great deal of what we might call literate commercial culture. SWL does a nice job of poking fun of the things a lot of us might be embarrased to live with but don't want to live without.

11 comments:

  1. I love your blog and this post is fascinating. Thanks! I live in Oklahoma (Norman, but still Oklahoma) and I am typing this on a Mac while listening to NPR...I also love Sarah Silverman and Juno was my pick for best of the year. Who knew I could be so white, right here in the middle of the country?

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  2. Thanks for your kind note. I, too, am listening to NPR while typing on a mac. Give a shout-out to my home state for me---my parents still live there. In fact, did you see my earlier post on why Oklahoma and Kansas went in opposite directions in terms of Clinton/Obama?

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  3. I'm glad the humor and self-mocking tone of the SWPL is not lost on you. Most of the reviews of the site that I've seen take the whole white-people-thing too seriously. I still can't figure out why the site is so popular.

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