My Popular Culture New Year’s Resolutions

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I realize that New Year’s Resolutions are pretty pointless. They are the reason why I have to wait in line to use my favorite elliptical machine at the gym for the entire month of January. They are the reason why people stock up on healthy crap, like quinoa and farro, and then never ever cook it. Resolutions give people false hope that it is possible to change their change terrible lifestyle habits and grating personality ticks. I’d like to think that I’ll be a better mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend/colleague in 2011. But I will likely go on being my inadequate self, no matter how many resolutions I make.

However, resolutions that do not require me to diet, exercise more, act nicer to people I don’t like, act nicer to people I do like, or stop kicking puppies are far easier to keep. In the spirit of not making myself a better person in 2011, below I have listed my popular culture resolutions. Please to enjoy:

1. Rather than watching them in fits and starts, in 2011 I resolve to finish watching all available episodes of Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Friday Night Lights.

I tend to watch TV on DVD in the summertime, when most good television is on hiatus, or during the “slow” times, like the winter holidays. That means I tend to feast on back-t0-back episodes of a series, watching two episodes an evening for several weeks. But then, like a fickle lover, I abandon the series as soon as one of my favorite network or cable shows premieres. I have completed seasons 1 and 2 of Breaking Bad and seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Dexter. But Friday Night Lights? Poor, sweet, Friday Night Lights. We have watched you in such a piecemeal fashion that I can’t recall where we left off. Is Julie (Aimee Teegarden) dating Matt (Zach Gilford) again? Is Landry (Jess Plemons) still trying to cover up that accidental murder? Is Tyra’s (Adrianne Palicki) hair straight or curly? I am so sorry Friday Night Lights. I have neglected you and you deserve better.

2. I will make more of an effort to see movies while they are still in the theaters.

Before I had children, I went out to the movies all the time. ALL THE TIME. After the birth of my first child in 2006, I didn’t go nearly as much. And after the birth of #2 in January 2010, movie-going stopped almost entirely. I needed to be around to put the baby to bed around 7:00 pm (he is/was breastfed) which meant I could only go to movies that started at 7:30 pm or later. And due to the chronic sleep deprivation inflicted upon me by my darling baby boy, I couldn’t go to any movies that finished later than 10:00 or 10:30 pm. Indeed, I am ashamed to admit that I recently fell asleep (briefly) during a 9:20 pm showing of True Grit (2010, Ethan and Joel Coen). This means that any movie I wanted to see had to start no earlier than 7:30 pm and no later than 8:00 pm. Not much wiggle room. Not much fun for those who tried to make movie plans with me. However, in 2011 I plan to wean the baby (soon soon soon) AND teach him how to sleep through the night. Easy right? Greenville movie theater that smells like pee, here I come!

3. I will watch Firefly.

A few years ago my husband and I borrowed Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD from a friend. We loved it and proceeded to watch the next 6 seasons within one year (hey, we only had the one kid then). So when Firefly, Joss Whedon’s much-lauded follow-up project became available on Netflix Instant earlier this year, my husband suggested that we watch it. At the time we were still knee-deep in Breaking Bad episodes (see Resolution # 1), and our DVR queue was filled with shows. I simply couldn’t commit. So my husband watched it without me. Then, last semester I decided to observe my colleague’s class, a team-taught  course on frontier mythology. The day I visited they were discussing Firefly. By the end of the class I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Why didn’t I watch it with my husband? Oh the regret! You see, 90% of my TV and DVD watching is done with my husband at my side; this is our “quality time” together. So if I ever want to watch something that he does not want to watch, it is very difficult to find the time for it. But in 2011 I will make time for Firefly. Even if it means putting the kids back into their safety cages. Don’t be concerned. They like their cages.

4. I will watch more movies that are a. not new releases and b. not assigned for my classes.

There was a blissful time in my life, not too long ago, when I would sit on my  couch, pen and notebook in hand, watching film after film. These were the dissertation years, when watching films all day was part of my “homework.” Sure, some of the films I had to watch were real stinkers, like  Cutthroat Alley (2003, Timothy Wayne Folsome) and Teenagers from Outerspace (1959, Tom Graeff). But it was fun even watching the stinkers. However, once I started my position at ECU, I found that I stopped watching older films unless I planned to teach them in my classes. I stopped working on that list of films that all film scholars have in their heads: “The List” of films that I want to see and that I know that I need to see. So in 2011, I resolve to watch at least some of the following (Yes, I realize that there are some films on this list that I should have watched a looooong time ago. And yes, some of these are stinkers):

Eyes without a Face (1960, Georges Franju)

Thelma and Louise (1991, Ridley Scott)

Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos)

Red Dawn (1984, John Milius)

Summer Stock (1950, Charles Walters)

Panther Panchali (1955, Satyajit Ray)

Play Time (1967, Jacques Tati)

There are so many more films on “The List” but I want my New Year’s resolutions to be reasonable. And I am hoping that blogging about my resolutions will ensure that I stick to at least some of them. I also plan to blog about some of the films in Resolution #4 as I watch them.

5. I will stop wasting precious “screen time” on Reality TV shows with little nutritional value.


Most reality programming is the TV equivalent of McDonald’s. It’s great when you’re consuming it, but you know that at best you’ve filled your body with worthless calories, and at worst you’re gearing up for a heart attack. Don’t get me wrong: MTV’s reality shows  have served me well. I have devoted many a blog post and article to The Hills, The City, The Real World and Teen Mom. And my next book project will focus on these programs and their teenage audiences. But, in 2011 I vow to cut out all “unnecessary” TV junkfood from my diet. I will not watch the revamped American Idol. I will not watch any dance competition shows. I will not watch anything in which people try to lose weight, compete for plastic surgery, or interact with a Kardashian. This is not a moral choice. There is nothing “wrong” with these shows. But if I want to keep Resolutions #1-4, then I need to trim some fat. My kids won’t stay in their cages forever.

6. Finally, and most importantly, in 2011 I will play more Angry Birds.

Because those stupid pigs won’t kill themselves.

So, what are your popular culture resolutions for the year? Remember, it is so much easier to watch a movie than exercise! Won’t you join me on the couch in 2011?

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14 thoughts on “My Popular Culture New Year’s Resolutions

    kimakass said:
    January 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Thank you for yet another amusing and bang on the button post. As I tumbled into the new year I kicked myself for all the hours watching reality TV (love it as I do), made a resolution to finish watching shows that languish on my hard drive, watch shows that I have never got to and go to the cinema more. So, I’m glad to hear that I am not the only one with this kind of media angst.

    Just for the record I have fallen asleep at 10 in the morning watching Bringing up Baby with a class after yet another sleepless night with my second child. It doesn’t get much worse than that!

    I look forward to reading all of your blogs this year. A guilty pleasure for me when I should be marking or writing lectures. Keep em coming!

      princesscowboy responded:
      January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks Kim! It always makes me feel better to hear about another mother’s experiences with balancing work and sleeplessness. Not that I’m happy that you had to go through that (sleep deprivation IS torture)! But when you are going through it it often feels like you’re in your own private hell. It’s easy to forget that there are so many of us out there!

      Anyway, I hope 2011 brings you many full nights of sleep and lots of “quality” TV!

        kim akass said:
        January 5, 2011 at 5:00 am

        I’m still catching up with this season’s Desperate Housewives and it’s refreshing to see Lynette suffering from a 2 month old 2 hour a night sleep habit! Enjoy 2011 and I look forward to reading your blogs.

    Pris said:
    January 4, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I understand having a list of classic films you’ve never seen, but OMG, you’ve never seen Red Dawn? How is that possible? I feel like there was someone watching it every other weekend in grad school.

      princesscowboy responded:
      January 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      That’s exactly why I feel so compelled to see it! I think RED DAWN was even a selection for our short lived film screening group but I was out of town that weekend or something. I WILL see it this year!

    Joe said:
    January 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Pop Culture resolutions? To immerse myself more fully in pop culture, perhaps? I suffered through three episodes of the first season of Survivor and two episodes of American Idol (and probably some Big Brother here and there, too) until deciding I loathe reality TV. I’ve never seen Jersey Shore or Real Housewives of [Insert City Here]. I’ve never watched those CW shows, either — the ones with all the pouty teenagers. [except for Buffy. LOVE Buffy.] Should I? What am I missing? Enlighten me. I feel so alone in my disdain for watching people eat bugs.

    One resolution I could embrace: actually making time to watch the Netflix movies that come. They sit on top of my DVD player for weeks before I decide if I haven’t watched them yet, there must be a reason.

    Can I get by with reading the journal Pop Culture?

      princesscowboy responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 9:43 am

      I am a huge fan of reality TV. Yes there is a lot of garbage out there: JERSEY SHORE, FLAVOR OF LIFE, and any of the plastic surgery-themed shows. But there is a lot of great stuff out there too. Reality TV has done a lot for the game show — a genre I have never liked. But competitions like SURVIVOR, PROJECT RUNWAY, and TOP CHEF are consistently smart and entertaining. AMERICAN IDOL was fantastic for its first few seasons but I was eventually turned off by the lengthy and exploitative first round auditions (e.g. playing elephant sound effects when an overweight hopeful walked into the room for her audition). And the first few seasons of THE REAL WORLD were pretty amazing (now it’s mostly about drunk extroverts).

      You shouldn’t write off all reality TV though– there are a lot of diamonds in the rough.

    Liz said:
    January 4, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Astonishingly, I have seen some of the films you have not – Thelma & Louise and Summer Stock, which is a favorite of Big Curt’s and one of the many musicals/movies from that era we watched together when I was a kid.

    Pop culture resolution: Watch Mad Men starting with season one

    Nick said:
    January 4, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Let it be known that I claim full credit for Anna’s incorporation of Firefly into her class 🙂

    Now if I could only get up the damn gumption to revise and submit that paper.

    Anna said:
    January 5, 2011 at 10:39 am

    More movies in the theater – YES! I am in! Also, I’ll watch Red Dawn with you, just so we can yell “Wolverines” together.

    […] I vow to be a better person or promise to call my mother more (sorry Mom). Instead, I made some popular culture New Year’s resolutions. Number 2 on my list was a promise to see more films while they are still in the theaters. I do […]

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    December 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

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