There will always be that one fad that drives you up the wall. Whether it is a song by an artist you don’t particularly like being played constantly on the radio, some fashion trend you don’t understand, or a new television show or book that just doesn’t appeal, we’ve all had the urge to roll our eyes and complain about these things and the people who can’t seem to stop talking about them. While it’s perfectly normal to dislike certain aspects of popular culture, it has become far too normalized to shame individuals who happen to enjoy trends by giving them the label of “basic”.
While not exactly the most academic of sources, one of the top Urban Dictionary definitions for the word “basic” highlights the cruel implications behind the simple word: “Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to”. While this is definitely a negative hyperbole of the way “basic” people are viewed, there is a grain of truth to it.
Although it’s easy to dismiss basic shamers with a “haters gonna hate” kind of attitude, the truth is that the widespread tendency to look down on people who enjoy mainstream culture can be used as a powerful weapon to trivialize entire groups of people. This strategy is used with particular effect against women. As anyone who has ever watched a movie knows, it’s common for female protagonists and love interests to somehow separate themselves from other girls and women. Looking through this lens, a woman can only prove her worth by rejecting things that society views as feminine. The same feminine values that are rejected by the I’m-not-like-other-girls protagonists are then used to prove the vapid and nearly evil nature of popular rivals. This kind of thinking is still used to dismiss women in a variety of settings; in the zero-sum game that women are often forced to play there are often negative consequences to both conforming and breaking with popular culture.
Luckily, for us, the mentality that encourages women to tear each other down in order to foster their own success is being replaced by a culture of women supporting each other. However, while a lot of progress has been made in this direction we still have a long way to go to end “basic” shaming. It’s time to realize that rejecting popular culture on principle does not somehow make you special. We all have different tastes in music, literature, and television and deserve to enjoy these things without having others tear us down. It’s time to realize that “basic” as defined by Urban Dictionary does not exist; we are all special and uniquely talented in a way that is recognized by those we love most, and this individuality is not increased by tearing others down. So, in the spirit of rejecting the idea of being basic, go forth into the semester with your head and pumpkin spice latte held high.
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