Marvin takes a tongue-in-cheek quiz seeing how much of a cultural elitist you are, according to Charles Murray. Here are my answers:
1. Can you talk about “Mad Men?” Well, I could talk about it pretty well for someone who’s never watched it. My mother and sister had a lengthy conversation when I visited them this month, so I have a general idea of what’s going on.
2. Can you talk about the “The Sopranos?” No.
3. Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right?” Yes. Though mostly because Slate reminded me recently, which is probably a pretty elitist reason.
4. Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? Yes, many times. Though not since around 1990.
5. Can you hold forth animatedly about yoga? No.
6. How about pilates? No.
7. How about skiing? Nope.
8. Mountain biking? Nyet.
9. Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? Non.
10. Does the acronym MMA mean anything to you? Yes. (One of my co-workers is a fanatic for it.)
11. Can you talk about books endlessly? Pretty much.
12. Have you ever read a “Left Behind” novel? No.
13. How about a Harlequin romance? I read a trashy romance novel a long time ago, though I don’t remember if it was Harlequin specifically.
14. Do you take interesting vacations? I try to.
15. Do you know a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada? No, but I know a few people who do, if you’re interested.
16. What about an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor? No.
17. Would you be caught dead in an RV? I coveted an RV more than once during my road trip, especially when I was setting up the tent. But then I reminded myself of how much gas I’d be buying.
18. Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? I’ve been hoping to go on a cruise sometime, but it is pricey. Since when is this a proletarian thing?
19. Have you ever heard of of Branson, Mo? I’ve been there, but didn’t see much that interested me. What does that say?
20. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club? No.
21. How about the Rotary Club? No.
22. Have you lived for at least a year in a small town? No (assuming we’re excluding suburbs).
23. Have you lived for a year in an urban neighborhood in which most of your neighbors did not have college degrees? I don’t know. I might have in L.A., since there were a lot of immigrants there, but I didn’t do a poll.
24. Have you spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line? Technically yes, but since my mother was always ready to bail me out financially, I would say no.
25. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian? But of course.
26. Have you ever visited a factory floor? No. That’s a pretty big oversight for a business reporter, now that I think of it.
27. Have you worked on one? See above.
Does this make me part of the cultural elite? Probably. Does it mean I live in a bubble “isolated from mainstream America”, as Murray says? I’m less convinced of that. In fact, I wonder who these people are he’s been talking to who’ve never heard of MMA or Branson and have no evangelical friends? My guess is, young people. If you’d talked to me at age 23, I would have been like that, and might have come off as a bit of a snob. But parochialism is a common feature of youth. The nice thing about all this reading and travel that characterizes life in the elite is that it gives you an opportunity to broaden beyond where you grew up.
In fact, I would venture to say that if the New Elite is ignorant of “low” culture, they’re not only failing to listen to people outside their bubble, they’re failing to listen to people inside their bubble. There have been academic studies of every pop-culture phenomenon you could name, the New Yorker has printed lengthy profiles of such persons as Rick Warren and Brad Paisley, and Murray’s is one of a vast number of articles in elite publications I’ve read fretting about whether the elite is out of touch with the heartland. In fact, the charge of being an ignorant provincial is a very elitist sort of criticism itself. The more common populist charge is “forgetting where you came from.” If I came from Marin County, should I forget that?