5 Pop Culture Questions (Answered Once and For All)

By Yennaedo Balloo

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Everyone knows that one, the “answer” is the egg, because of evolution, something, something. However, depending on how you answer, it may reveal something about how you think, or a point you’re trying to make in the moment- or maybe the important thing isn’t the answer, it’s in the fact that you’re asking the question at all.

There are certain, chicken or the egg questions that have the same purpose in pop culture. Many of them have answers, but when we ask these tired questions the more important thing isn’t the question, it’s why we’re even asking it. I’m here to cut through some bullshit with my usual brand of honey infused scotch:

Which is better: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

This is one of the classics. The first time I was asked this, I had no idea who either band was. I recognized a couple of each of their songs from car and cruise commercials, but this little Indian boy from Trinidad had a better knowledge of Calypso and Bob Marley than of either of them.

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The Answer: It’s really a matter of what you mean by “better.” If we’re talking overall influence and cultural impact? The Beatles. Are we talking composition and song writing skill and mastery? The Beatles. Entertainment and enjoyability? Stones, all the way. Sorry, but it’s way easier to let loose and dance to any random five songs by the Stones than anything on Abbey Road– much as I respect the hell out of that album.

Abbey Road.jpg

Why Ask? Because the answer you give is pretty revelatory about the factors you include in judging a band or artist. More than that, while the two groups are contemporaries of sorts, they were doing fairly different things within the same space, and the Stones come off as “safer” more entrenched in existing pop sounds, rather than innovating as The Beatles were.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, can we not agree that the fact that so much of the Stones’ discography still slaps shows they were beyond just the pop sound of a moment? Time has aged this one out of relevance, and it was always a false comparison even when it claimed to be relevant.

Mick Jagger Clap.gif

Still, if anyone asks this to you again and you want a more succinct response to have handy, the real answer is: “The Who.”

Team Kanye or Team Taylor?

This is the rubicon of our age. I literally joked on a first date that I’m “Team Kanye” to get that out of the way, because I do love me some Kanye. This is a weird one because the two artists occupy such wildly different genres that there’s no real “competition” between the two artistically- which is what should matter. While Kanye is definitely my most played artist, I also listen to Swift and there are a couple playlists where both artists appear (my playlists are “mood” based, so they can be very eclectic).

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The Answer: Yes, the two have had personal drama, he said she said and all that- I’m not here to pass a moral judgment, and that really should be able to be divested of the music. This really comes down to: do you like hip hop? Do you like country-pop? Which do you like better? In which case they’re not at all mutually exclusive, and neither requires you to put on some henchmen uniform and fight to the death for either just because you enjoy their music.

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Why Ask? Because a lot of people tie up fandom with the artist rather than just the artist’s work. This is a sticky subject, but there are definite lines artists can cross wherein I’ll say: I do not want you benefiting financially from my consuming your work, but thus far neither Kanye nor Taylor has crossed that line in any kind of truly unacceptable way. I don’t want to hear detailed minutae of the “phone call” or whatever else- 1989 was dope and so was The Life of Pablo. Let’s move on.

Marvel vs. DC

Marvel heroes are set in the real world, and thus occupy a more accessible space where they can tell more grounded stories we can analogize to our own circumstances, but then again, DC heroes being less constrained by our geography means their stories can become more opaque in their symbology and ascend from the grit of the “real world’s” geography and reach something more.

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The Answer: Marvel definitely has the better film universe- in part because the filmmakers and Kevin Feige in particular has a much better hold on what the universe and characters represent in terms of a wish fulfillment: the people we feel like we see on the streets turned amazing. DC films hasn’t quite gotten the knack for what their characters are: they’re myths. Batman is our Odysseus, Superman our Hercules, Wonder Woman our Athen- wait, Athena is a character in Wonder Woman’s pantheon, isn’t she? I guess that doesn’t work, but you get my point.

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When you’re picking one or the other, you’re picking what you want your heroes to represent: the person you are and the hero you hope you would be in a given circumstance, or the person no human can ever be, but you still want to strive to be (aka, Batman).

Why Ask? The difference in framing of the mythologies leads to differing views of the two universes and why people would reach for one over the other. DC’s approach to their mythic figures has a simplicity that can seem appealing, versus the perceived complexity of Marvel’s universe, and its similarities to a world we know.

It’s very often a litmus test of how you view the real world based on the comic universe you’re most identifying connecting with, and there’s a perceived intellectualism (or lack thereof) based on which of the two you lean toward. The fact is, escapism is escapism because it’s all fiction and it all just comes from enjoyment.

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Or maybe you’re just a Marvel fan who’s looking for a DC fan to kick while they’re down since it’s been over a decade since The Dark Knight.

 

Sherlock?

There are so many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, that it’s a mess of a cage match to try to settle which is best, but there’s one that people asking which you think is best expect you to answer with.

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The Answer: God’s answer to: ‘I bet you can’t make an otter into a sexy human’ was: “Hold my Cumberbatch” and it’s no wonder that the BBC series set his star on the rise. Cumberbatch is a delight to watch, and the series is a mostly tight set of long form episodes that really give the mysteries time to develop, and give the characters time to shine, develop relationships and really dig into you.

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However, this is just one interpretation of the famed detective and his motley. Not just character wise, but also stylistically. Moffat did a great job of incorporating modern technology into the mysteries, but there’s something to be said for a Sherlock Holmes using his wits to save the day without the benefit of cell phone and other technology.

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I won’t go through the long list of Sherlock adaptations, but Downey Jr’s two outings as the character on the silver screen were delightful. Even though both films were released at the same time as the BBC series’ run, it really showed the kinds of different spaces interpretations of the same character could occupy.

Why Ask? Because for one, The BBC Sherlock is brilliant, and finding people who watch it and can share the fandom even this long after the series has wrapped is always fun. There may be a deeper, less ideal reason though and it’s that slightly insufferable superiority people have who point out that they watch the BBC as a character virtue. Never mind the thing is on Netflix, they watched it on BBC, along with Downton Abbey.

Pokemon or Digimon?

We’ve come to the granddaddy of them all, the sole reason why I wrote this entire article. It was ALL just an excuse to get to write. This. Piece. Do you remember these shows? Like any Saturday morning cartoon, they were all about selling toys and video games that tied into the show, and they did their job well. However, the challenge of any cartoon is to actually do more than just flashing bright images at you as a 20 minute long toy commercial occasionally broken up by 10 minutes worth of other toy commercials: what really sells those toys is actually having a story, and forging a connection with your young viewers.

The Answer: PSYCH, the answer is Yu Gi Oh. (You should’ve seen this coming from the Beatles v. Stones section above).

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Yu Gi Oh managed to tell and completely ridiculous story with so much heart, and a positive message about cleverness, faith in your friends, and there always being a deus ex machina (or deus ex tarjeta) to save the day until you need a cliffhanger for the season finale. You wouldn’t think it, but this show managed to have so many inspiring moments, and tear jerkers that it’s truly underrated.

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Then again, Pokemon has a media and merchandise empire, so in terms of its primary goal of selling kids toys, A+, but it was so much of a “monster a week” that you couldn’t form connections with the hundreds of different monsters that have now appeared, you could really only forge those moments with Ash, his friends, and Pikachu-

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Okay, well I guess Pokemon had more than a few really touching moments too.

So, Digimon…

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Damn it all. They were all really good.

Why Ask: I dunno man, I need a few minutes alone.

 

 

Yennaedo will answer all of your questions on Twitter. He also has a pop culture blog, Optional Irony.

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