OPINION

Pop Culture Warriors with Lisa De Pasquale

Pop culture word cloud concept

This week’s guest: Emily Jashinsky

Fred Rogers’ famous advice during scary times was to “look for the helpers.” It’s sorely needed when engaging in the pop culture war in a positive, rather than reactionary, way. Emily Jashinsky is the Culture Editor at The Federalist and one of my favorite writers on all things entertainment. Her recent articles on “the dawn of the Yellowstone universe” and defense of Sam Elliott’s comments on the importance of preserving the American western are must-reads. It’s easy to only criticize Hollywood, but more valuable to stand up for projects that advance freedom and the American experiment like Emily does with her writing. Be the helper! 

Pop Culture Warriors with Lisa De Pasquale is an interview column dedicated to the significant work of freedom lovers who chose the path of more resistance. Not only are these pop culture warriors fighting the predominant groupthink in entertainment, but also the predominant groupthink on the right side of politics that entertainment doesn’t matter or that the pop culture war is lost. The purpose of this column is to highlight their projects and contributions to expand freedom in new, exciting, and counterculture ways. 

Who inspires you?

I love the Red Scare girls because their freewheeling, heterodox, anti-PC musings on current events always help me open my mind and think through politics and culture with a much broader aperture. I’ve been listening to them for years and find the show just helps me mentally transcend the confines of Beltway discourse.

My mom inspires me more than anyone. We all need someone to be a human template that inspires us to be good and she’s mine. Being decent when nobody’s watching and nobody cares is a hard thing to do but for her it’s just like breathing. 

What was your childhood pop culture obsession?

I cycled through a lot of pop culture obsessions, it’s one of the easiest ways to look back and mark different chapters of my childhood because when I went hard, I went very hard.

Somewhere around 2004, about a year after the show ended, I dove headfirst into an obsession with “Dawson’s Creek.” Around the same time, I started seriously watching “Friends.” I’d picked up on both shows when they were on the air, but wasn’t allowed to watch them, so when DVR came out, I would record TBS’s daily, chronological broadcasts of each, reliving the ’90s in the time between soccer practice and whenever my parents got home from work.

“Dawson’s Creek” is entertaining for teenagers. It doesn’t age well when you revisit it. I’ve always loved the ’90s aesthetic and ’90s music in particular but wasn’t quite old enough to fully experience it since I was in elementary school during Y2K. But I always felt like those two shows were really definitive of the decade, even while it was happening. “Dawson’s Creek” has one of the best television soundtracks to this day.

So as soon as I could dive into the shows, I did. Everyone loves “Friends” but I think I’ve seen most episodes more than 10 times. For what it’s worth, I support Dawson and Joey and find the alternatives as offensive as they are inconceivable. 

What was your first concert and how did you get there?

 I tell people all the time that I have the greatest first concert experience ever, not because it was crazy or historic. It was actually very tame. But it was Patty Griffin, Emmylous Harris, Shawn Colvin, and Buddy Miller at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. My mom couldn’t make the show so my dad took me with him. It was a subzero January night and I vividly remember arriving at our seats just as Emmylou Harris was playing the opening notes of “Red Dirt Girl.” It was instantly mesmerizing. I went home and listened to almost all of their full catalogs via the old iTunes samples way into the next morning, downloaded everything I could onto my iPod Touch, and listened to those songs every day for years. I still have a playlist based on that night. It opened up a new world for me. 

Why does Bravo matter in the pop culture war?

A lot of people, including many Bravo superfans, totally misunderstand the network’s project. Reality television is not meant to model virtuousness, it’s meant to model bad behavior. The point of modeling bad behavior is to reinforce our shared understanding of right and wrong. 

The “Real Housewives” are like “Grey Gardens,” depicting the early stages of elites’ moral erosion. You’re meant to laugh and be horrified. They’re not protagonists, they’re Tony-Soprano-style antiheroes. They’re also humans so they’re sympathetic at times, but they’re certainly not on our TVs to be perfect social justice warriors or perfect Christian mothers. I think there’s a very reasonable argument that Bravo unintentionally glamorizes their decadence and depravity but I also think it’s a valuable glimpse into what decadence and depravity do to people’s lives. Without it, we’d mostly just have programming that intentionally glamorizes those lifestyles. 

Tell us about the last movie, TV show, book you consumed for entertainment.

Since it’s my job to consume as much pop culture as is humanly possible, I watch and read multiple things every day. Yesterday I finished the most recent season of “Righteous Gemstones” and watched the new “Gilded Age” episode. “Gemstones” drags at times and can feel tonally uneven, but I got some good laughs out of this season. More than the prior season, actually. “Gilded Age” is just visually and technically stunning.

What would you say to readers who say they’ve opted out of the pop culture war?

I think some people really do feel like they’ve opted out of the pop culture war or somehow transcend it, but that’s just not possible. It’s in our advertising and our clothes and the corporations that control our lives. The left is waging a culture war in every conceivable arena so I generally think it’s good for people who want to fight back to understand what the battles look like. That doesn’t mean everyone should watch Bravo, but it’s not super helpful to intentionally shun news about pop culture rather than occasionally dipping in and really thinking long and hard about what it means.  

“Girls” is a show a ton of women my age watched that ended on a powerfully conservative note. It was really misunderstood by the left and the right. There’s value in really, deeply understanding the message a popular show imparted on a generation of girls. 

What can readers do to support you? 

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