Rohit's Realm

// / archive / 2008 / 11 / 18 / too-elite-is-plebeian

November 18, 2008

Too Elite Is Plebeian

To those even marginally familiar with the unholy marriage of irrational vitriol and consummate self-loathing that is the Realm, the notion that the author of this most futile of sites is often branded an elitist ought to be tautological. Indeed, as I myself wrote a few years back, Rohit's Realm was formed on the steadfast pillars of anger, cynicism, bitterness, and elitism, and to change that would be to deny the very essence of my being; I am nothing if not angry, cynical, bitter, and elitist. And while this sentiment rings as true today as it did three years back—the only thing I continue to hate more than the dirty, unwashed masses is myself—a recent thought has left me in a most tremulous of dispositions. Is there such a thing as too elitist? (Perish the thought!) And, if so, is not that state just as plebeian as not being elitist at all? (No! It cannot be!)

Perhaps I ought to step back. Given my constant state of mildly tempered misanthropy, it might seem that I would encounter few opportunities to question the virtues of elitism, let alone my own embodiment of said virtues. As with most truly infectious and debilitating ideas,1 this one overcame me not by frontal attack but by slowly festering until it had overcome my subconscious and left me in a state of inconsolable cognitive dissonance. The infection was precipitated by a seemingly innocuous discussion a few days back in which a contemporary television program, Gossip Girl, was mentioned. The problem was not so much that I was not able to follow the discussion—I do not watch the program, which, in and of itself, is not a big deal—but that I had never even heard of it. What?

I realize that this sounds rather ridiculous, but in my defense, I do not watch television—at all. In fact, I do not even own a television, nor have I in the past two years. This is not so much a function of a political stance (for example, TV rots the brain!), but rather, priorities. I have very limited time and something had to go; television, adding little value, did not make the cut.

My Internet consumption, though more extensive, is almost entirely limited to what interests me: news, politics, science, technology, and the occasional meme.2 In short, I have virtually no connection to the dirty, unwashed masses beyond the occasional glance at the cover of a tabloid at the supermarket, and until last week, was blissfully untroubled by this state of affairs.

The extent to which I have become fundamentally disconnected surprised me, however. Is television still this crucial to dissemination of popular culture? If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, the answer must be a resounded yes. This brings me to the normative question: is this sort of disconnection a Good Thing™? Does it comport with the noble goal of elitism?

It is, of course, difficult for me to analyze this point given my own position, but my intuition suggests that there is some point of attenuation at which the (few) benefits of engagement with culture begin to outweigh the (many) virtues of unchecked disinterest with crass and common pursuits—and perhaps, as it stands now, I have passed this point of attenuation. To be better than the masses, logic suggests, one must at least have a cursory knowledge of what it is that defines the masses at any given time. Otherwise, how could one ever know that he or she is indeed better?

Two more considerations counsel in favor of this intuition. First, departing full-speed on the better than thou train inevitably leads to absurd and puerile results. Pursuit of an ideal for the sake of itself is rarely a value-added venture. A brief look at the futile lives of theoretical mathematicians or despicable hipsters should be sufficient proof. Second, in some rare cases, a bastion of guilty pleasure might even emerge. A good example of this would be the television series The OC and The Hills. While the former, though completely over-the-top and melodramatic, was nonetheless a sort of self-aware parody of itself, the latter has claims to nothing beyond the vapidity of American existence that is to be both condemned and loathed. On their face, the two shows seem similar—and similarly uninteresting. Had I chose to disengage entirely, I would have never seen the difference.

The irony of this sorry situation is not lost on me—nor, I hope, on you, dear readers. In my bid to be more elitist, I am going to have to engage with the masses. My only hope is that in this endeavor, the pendulum does not swing too far the other way; it is a delicate balance, this elitism stuff!

That said, where should I begin? Gossip Girl? Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

^ 1 See, for example, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848). In the spirit of Big Game Week—and 'Merica—better dead than red! Go Bears!
^ 2 <Insert joke about hardcore pornography and deviant sex.>


Why are you constantly trying to deny your heritage? You know your life in high school was exactly like The Hills.

I say the first step is to stop spending your nights at bars and start spending them at a more 'Merican place: Wal-Mart.

If the experience doesn't drive you to suicide, it should allow for extensive study of the unwashed masses.

Dude, I don't own a TV either, but I have two sources of TV:

1.) Is for The Office and 30 Rock. You can watch 30 Rock at any point without having to know any of the story arcs, so it would be good to jump on that. Plus, Alec Baldwin's character should be your aspirational goal in life.

2.) Netflix. You risk being behind a season on the "it" shows, but for the sake of skimming high quality television, it serves the purpose extremely well (and efficiently).

I would highly discourage watching Gossip Girl. Tangentially, it seems to imply that any conversation arising from this show would immediately place you in the "friend"/gay category vis-a-vis the opposite sex. And it's highly doubtful a show geared toward the Cosmo crowd would be a sufficient guilty pleasure for a 25 year old 2L.

How am I not your guy on this?

30 Rock
Friday Night Lights
The Office
Rescue Me

Three of those six are popular. The other 3 are too good to be popular.

I may not be the best for what the masses watch, but if you follow those shows you'll be watching the best of what some of the masses watch.

The secret to Rohitness is conflating elitism with nerdism. You don't have a TV not because you are intellectually superior, but because your apartment only has room for five screens, four of which are currently showing a Unix command prompt. (The fifth is probably on facebook.) Don't bullshit your readers; it's not that you're too good for GG, it's that you'd rather write Milton Friedman fan fiction on your ASCII text editor.

When you refer to the "dirty, unwashed masses" I'm surprised you didn't like to this website:

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