Monday, March 24, 2008

I Don't Like 'Stuff White People Like'

Two people I respect have sent me a link to a site that I find despicable. Since the subject of the website is pretty much Fairfield County, let’s see what you think.

When the title of the website “Stuff White People Like” appeared on my screen, I felt a rush of humor and “that’s so funny” that was quickly replaced by the feeling “I will not give this site my time because the humor is based on ideas of race and class that I don’t find funny.” The site struck me as something a 19-year old boy would write.

Haha, white people like expensive lattes and North Face jackets. Actually, that’s what people with money can afford, and it follows race lines because most money lines in the US lie on race because of our history and all kinds of other complicated things. I refuse to look at the site again to think more about why I feel so repulsed by it.

Even if the site is really about socio-economics (as in “stuff yuppies like”), I personally don't find it that funny to laugh at rich people. It's not such a taboo subject for me that I have to joke about it. I can just discuss it.

I just found an interview with the author of SWPL (young white guy, big surprise). I find his comments absolutely stupid. This man needs to take some sociology classes and get a clue.
SWPL: oh yes. this site pokes fun at ME. that’s why I use pictures of myself. those aren’t taken out of irony. this is the shit that I do. I need to call myself out for all of the stupid shit that I take for granted. why do I need $300 bike rims? why is a $10 sandwich considered normal?

It’s fine that this kid is working through his feelings about race and class, but he’s not calling himself out. He’s just making a bunch of jokes. Often humor deals with things we find uncomfortable. I guess that’s what’s going on with the author of SWPL, but I find his writing small-minded, mean-spirited, and not very enlightening.

I'm not trashing the people who sent me the link... but I want to know why people who I know are intelligent like the site. Why do people who care about race and issues relating to race and class find it funny?

Maybe it’s funny to laugh at people, like the one about how all white people think their kids are gifted. But I don’t have to laugh at that- I can just talk about it, because I know those people. When I had just moved up here from Virginia, 8 years ago, maybe I would have found jokes about yuppies funnier. Maybe it’s now too familiar to me to be funny. Or maybe it’s just not funny because the SWPL author is saying nothing new. I’m from an area where the majority of people were white or black, and I took a lot of courses on African-American history and lit in college, so nothing that SWPL kid is saying are things I haven’t already heard in a way more interesting format.

Can someone please tell me why smart people think the site is funny?

11 comments:

John Cocktosten said...

You're overthinking the site. SWPL is as empty-headed as those VH-1 specials wherein people make snarky comments about daily observations (see: I love the '80s, any countdown on E!). I think the guy came up with a joke, has been riding it and will continue to until it dies... simple as that.

But you bring up an interesting point about money/race. Perhaps the only reason the site is popular is becaus it IS emptyheaded... imagine the outrage if it were written by someone of another race and actually had some social criticism mixed into the humor...

Lambira said...

I think the reason the site bothers me somewhat, is that it PRETENDS to be making fun of the stuff white people like when in fact it is ironically romanticizing how cultured, classy, and entertaining they are, or something.

They could have just called the site "what rich people like" but then probably nobody would have bothered to read it.

I just made my own head hurt. I am not too smart and not perceptive about the social commentary. And lord knows I love plenty of low-brow internet entertainment sites that pisses other people off...

Stamford Talk said...

See, I'd ordinarily agree that I'm overthinking, except that NPR did a feature on the author and said that his site tries to "get us to rethink stereotypes by writing about what white people like" and described it as "flipping stereotypes on their head." That is so obviously not the case, am I right? Don't we all know that there are stereotypes or white and/or yuppie people?

I find it hard to believe NPR would have an even slightly positive take on the site. The audio of the program cuts off the interview so I can't listen to it- but maybe that's not a bad thing so I don't become enraged.
I also found an LA Timesarticle about it that I think misses the point. I don't understand why people think his site is something new.

Lambira, I think you're right about no one reading it if it was "stuff rich people like."

zobot said...

There is an interesting article in the Boston Globe about SWPL that I think makes a lot of sense.

The fact that the blog makes fun of rich (though the article says, and I'd agree, middle-class) white people is exactly what makes it interesting and uncomfortable... The blog exists to mock/stereotype a group of people who generally would consider themselves above stereotyping.

I will admit to having read only a few pages of the blog before getting bored with it, but it's certainly not something that I found offensive...

-Mr. Z

kg said...

OK...I think I may have been one of the people who sent this link to Stamford Talk....I had no idea it would create such a stir. I have to admit that I do happen to find SWPL kind of funny. I guess after listening to all of the serious issues in the news and in life, I find it kind of humorous to laugh at some of the stereotypes it addresses. I guess I never took it too seriously. To me its kind of like a Saturday Night Live spoof. You cant take it too seriously when you read it. I can see how perhaps if you think about it too hard, you can take offense, but I just get a chuckle.

Chris said...

I think SWPL is hilarious. Maybe you have to grow up in a certain environment (i'm thinking about 'elite' private schools in the northeast and wine & cheese liberals) to truly understand the humor. No, that implies a lack of understanding...which I don't think is the problem...it just doesn't hit that indefinable funny bone for you.

The guy struck a chord by writing stuff that makes people laugh at themselves. now it sounds like he's going around promoting it and saying lofty stuff to get attention.

but it's still funny.

mistersquid said...

I agree with Lambira that the site masquerades as self-deprecation but is, in fact, a graceless homage to self-absorbed and -satisfied white yuppies.

Does anyone really think that poor white people will find "Stuff White People Like" even remotely humorous? Do Black yuppies find "Stuff White People Like" evidence that they are in fact like white people?

I don't think the site merits deep concern or even anxious hand-wringing. The site would be much better if the items it identifies as things white people like were editorialized to show the hypocrisy and self-satisfaction of privileged whites reveling in their material wealth.

Stamford Talk said...

OK- after reading these comments and talking to one of my best friends who thinks the site is funny (the conversation involved NPR and her new Lexus), I have a "draft two" of my opinions. My husband and I just chatted, and he always has good (totally opposite of what I think) things to say. I'm going to do a whole new post, but my initial thoughts:

--I now accept that smart, respectable, critical-thinking people find the site funny, but it bothers me that the media seem to think it's new or meaningful. The Boston Globe calls it singular, then says Chris Rock talks about the same stuff. The author (and NPR) thinks he's looking at stereotypes, but in the Globe article he doesn't seem to have a grasp on what stereotypes are. There is a disconnect here that I've got to figure out.

--It also disturbs me that this is just about the only time I've ever seen race and class discussed in this area... and it's not even being discussed.

I know it seems like I’m taking the site too seriously, but I think I have an outsider’s perspective on yuppie life, the FC, and SWPL that I can make clearer after some time thinking and drafting tomorrow.

Nikki & Ric said...

Thanks for introducing this site to me, ST. I get tons of forwards but I'm assuming this one was never sent to me since I'm not white... curious. In my brief look at SWPL, it seems it could be renamed "Stuff Pretentious People Like". It didn't read as a tongue-in-cheek commentary to me but then again, I know way too much about stuff white people like just by living in this society so I'm bored by it. I'm overloaded with it so I don't need to frequent the site but I'm sure some folks need to have a "That's so funny because it's SO TRUE!" moment on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Here's a really funny knockoff:

http://stuffwhiteparentslike.com

Michael said...

First of all, SWPL is definitely funny. I'm gonna go a step further, though, and say that Stuff White People Like is a good name for it, better than Stuff Rich People Like or Stuff Yuppies Like, etc. This is because the issues and behavior of the people described in the blog are issues which arise directly out of white people's cultural heritage.

The best example of what I mean is the way the blog talks about white people's guilt. Many of the blog posts discuss how rich white people are motivated by guilt because their success has come at the expense of someone or something they have oppressed: the environment, Indians, indigenous cultures all over the world, etc. A good example would be the "Recycling" post.

Rich white people are most susceptible to this guilt because they are reaping the biggest benefits from the dirty work of previous generations of white people.

So even though rich people of any race may share a lot of the traits described on the blog, they do so largely because they started hanging out with more white people as they started going to schools and working in businesses that had previously been predominately white. But since white people were the original rich people in Western culture, their experience has largely shaped the culture.

And it's really funny because the people described by the blog are still reaping the benefits of their privileged place in our society, even as they feel guilty about it. Rich white people turn their guilt about their heritage into a way of differentiating themselves from poor/middle class people by buying expensive sushi/organic food/stuff from other cultures, thus differentiating themselves from the poor.

So you end up with a funny picture of these people who are the elite class of their society, actually feel guilty about it, and use their guilt to reinforce their elite status. It's ridiculous, and hilarious.