Developing friendships via popular culture

by Kat

Paul and Sophie

Scene from In Treatment (2008) featuring Paul and Sophie discussing her journal, Hermione.

I find myself using a shared love of media to find people who enjoy my presence and could one day become my friend. Knowing that I have all-encompassing passions for films and dramas, it helps to surround myself with like-minded people (e.g., poetry circles and literary groups). I remember watching Sophie’s sessions on In Treatment with a friend in undergrad and finally realizing that my friend understood me. We nodded at the same moments onscreen as Paul’s adolescent client, Sophie, dealt with the complexities of her family, and we made conversation regarding interactions between characters over the episodes. Because I sometimes have trouble explaining my thoughts and feelings to others, it helps to have character dramas to analyze with a friend as I attempt to share experiences from my own life. It feels safer somehow to strongly empathize with someone onscreen than to attempt to describe events from my own life — at least at first.

Maybe I look for people who enjoy the same books, films, and television shows that I do because I expect that I’ll monologue about these subjects at some point. There are times in conversations when I’ll become so excited about particular media and completely forget that the other person may have lost interest. I’ve noticed lately that I tend to miss those nonverbal cues indicative of others wishing I would move on to another topic. When I surround myself with fellow bibliophiles and fans of character dramas (e.g., In Treatment), I don’t have to worry so much when I lapse into monologuing because if the other person is equally interested, we remain in conversation-mode.  My closest friends may not have the same passion that I do for particular dramas, but they can share in my joy about these things regardless.

Even when I’m making casual conversation in coffee shops, I tend to lapse into film, book, or television-related comments within the first 15 minutes or so. Because my speech is often sprinkled with pop culture references, I feel less awkward around media savvy people (which thankfully is a lot of people in their 20s and 30s because of the internet). But other times, I feel like that weird girl who keeps referring to things no one really cares about or understands anyway. On a good day, I begin such conversations, and then eventually ask if the other person still wants to continue the discussion, so we talk for a bit longer. On the best days, I find someone who’s equally nerdy about films, television programs, or books, and we have an emotionally intimate talk centered on these topics.

For me, pop culture can often serve as an emotional mirror: It’s a way for me to process my own thoughts and feelings as I attempt to understand others at the same time. Hence, many of my comments around others begin, “Have you heard of ______ [insert pop culture reference here].” But maybe that’s okay.