Earlier this week, Dan Gibson posted about Experian Simmons' most recent poll examining political ideology and TV watching habits. A similar poll was released last year.
This whole thing is fascinating to me, because as much as anything else, the entertainment we consume speak to our vast ideological divides. The most interesting question, to me, is a chicken and egg proposition: does art alter our perspective, or are we drawn to art that reflects our personality and world view?
At the risk of getting overly simplistic, the Democrat list has a lot of very good shows, and the Republican list is rife with mediocrity. For a political ideology that claims to promote excellence, Republican's sure watch a lot of middling TV. Maybe that's by design. If you spend the majority of your day promoting Objectivist principles by waging war against the socialist machine, maybe you just want to kick back and watch Jake Pavelka take his shirt off. I'm not going to pretend I've seen everything on this list. Mythbusters is fun. Man vs. Wild is terrific. The rest of the list is bland. At least the Democrats are willing to mix excellent shows like Parks and Recreation with unmitigated tripe like The View. Republicans don't seem interested in anything even remotely emotionally stirring. Well, except The Biggest Loser. It's inspiring. You can't deny it.
An alt-weekly columnist denigrating conservative viewing habits isn't shocking, I know, but I grew up in an evangelical, conservative family. In seventh grade, I had to create a mythical animal and give a speech about it to my entire middle school. The animal I created was called a Rusheagle, comprised of Rush Limbaugh's grinning head on the body of an eagle that was painted like an American flag. Until I was about 23, I was a staunch conservative.
These days, I probably slant a bit left, but my political perspective is encapsulated most accurately by the moderate/libertarian leanings of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Reading this list, I couldn't help but wonder whether my experience of pop culture moved me in that direction. Here's what I know: Always Sunny in Philadelphia is hilarious, and I have absolutely no interest in ever seeing another episode of The Bachelor for as long as I live. I want to be around people who appreciate the nuance of Parks and Recreation - a show who's most lovable character is a libertarian. (I mean, look at the Pyramid of Greatness.) I want to have animated discussions about whether Treme is overrated. I'm sure Castle (which ranks high among Democrats, as well) is a perfectly adequate procedural, but if I ran into someone who wanted to discuss last week's episode, I would briefly consider sawing my wrist open with the nearest object. I don't even care if it's sharp.
I know these lists don't represent every member of each demographic, but they represent something, and that something is part of the reason I've spent the last decade of my life distancing myself from a culture that seems uninterested in wit, innovation, and art. If these polls are representative of the "culture war", the Us-vs.-Them mentality that's come to define American politics, it just makes me crushingly sad. I mean, really, Pawn Stars? Give me Rush Limbaugh any day. Say what you will about his punditry; the guy isn't lacking for wit.