Pop Culture: Don’t You Forget About Me

by Brook Gardner-Durbin

“What came first — the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?” These lines, from the opening pages of “High Fidelity,” are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, and are at least partially played for laughs.

That doesn’t mean they don’t hold a grain of truth, however. After all, who doesn’t have a favorite song to go to when they’re down (“Waiting on a Sunny Day,” Bruce Springsteen), when they want to hear something beautiful (“Not Dark Yet,” Bob Dylan) or when they need something upbeat to keep them awake through an all night study session (“Miss Missing You,” Fall Out Boy)? How many students on campus do you think don’t have a go-to song for these or any other occasion, knowing the power of a song to alter their mood?

A song, and pop culture in general, can do more than that, however — pop culture can be life altering. In 2002, Eminem was at the height of his popularity. “The Eminem Show” and the soundtrack to “8 Mile” were tearing up radio, and it was early enough that people still cared about what was on the radio. These albums had a profound impact on my life and the lives of millions of other then-children. It may be a stretch to draw a direct connection between my love of Eminem’s music and my enrollment at MSU, but his influence can’t be ignored either. Consider the facts: once upon a time I wasn’t interested in either music or English, some time later I was exposed to Eminem’s music and became interested in how sentences were constructed, and today I am majoring in English literature.

That’s why I started writing for the Culture section of the Exponent four semesters ago, and why I am proud to serve as the Culture editor today. The events covered by the news desk are important and have clear impacts on our daily lives — but it is easy to forget the impact popular culture can also have. In 40 years, I won’t remember whether my taxes went up or down a few percent a year, or who served in this or that office. I’ll remember the nights my first girlfriend and I sat up listening to The Format, the feeling in my gut as Tech N9ne came to the stage at my first concert, and that I met some of my now-best friends arguing about “Transformers” (it sucks).

The Exponent’s Culture section is dedicated to highlighting the people, places and events that can have a similar impact on our readers’ lives. Not every interview can or will be with someone destined for the history books, and not every review will send you to a restaurant or art exhibit where you’ll have a life-changing experience. But here’s the thing — you never know in advance. All you can do is learn what’s out there and take part in it when you can. Go see the indie movies. Spend the night at a local show instead of with Netflix, even if the group is barely out of the garage. Someday you may find that is all you remember.