Last month, I asked what pop culture feels bad for you. This time, I’m curious what pop culture feels good for you – that makes you feel better for having seen or read or listened to it. Part of the reason I loved The Simpsons and Futurama when growing up was because I felt like it rewarded me for knowing things – because I’d read about physics, I could laugh at “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!” – and it felt like it encouraged me to read up even more. This has often been a part of stories I like; informed by reality even (especially) when they’re not realistic, where knowing things improves the experience. Part of my relatively muted reaction to Adventure Time was how the jokes about the metaphysics of the world were based on nonsense words rather than physics joke, which I know is petty but had become an inescapable part of my sense of humour. The Simpsons in particular always tried to find that spot where a line could be funny and true at the same time. This has factored into a lot of art that I like – it has taught me something true that I had never considered before, whether that’s a detail about the world or an emotional state I’ve never experienced. I’ve been working long hours the past month; I assumed this would leave me too tired to read anything dense or new before bed, but paradoxically, I’ve found the thought of reading something as lightweight as, say, a video game tie-in novel to be exhausting and rereading a beloved old favourite, no matter how fascinating, as a waste of my free time. I’ve found myself mainlining Michael Moorcock novels that I know have something to say and that I know will surprise me in some way and that I know will draw on knowledge I don’t have.
What is the pop culture that makes you feel good?