One of the most interesting things about America is how diverse it is. There’s room for everybody! Well, maybe not physically. Not always, not with how fat we are. Seriously, have you seen us? We’re HUGE. There’s a lady in one of those obesity scooters who always goes to the free advance movie screenings, and we dread having to sit behind her because she wears flimsy, sleeveless house dresses whose straps can barely contain her cascading rolls of back fat. Also, one time she brought with her, in a plastic bag, no joke, an entire roasted chicken, which she ate during the movie. I’m not kidding. It smelled delicious, but did she share? No, she did not.
Ugh, I’m off-topic already, and it’s only the second paragraph. That’s bush league, Snider. Bush league. My point is that American society encompasses a kaleidoscopic array of different types of people. While Americans share some broad similarities — we hate rush-hour traffic, we’re tired of “American Idol,” we are fat — in almost every other category there is a wide range of differing opinions, tastes, patterns, and characteristics. You might live next door to someone who is completely opposite from you in every way — and yet, given the size of the population, the odds are good that there are thousands of other people just like that person.
For example, let us consider Tyler Perry. He is a highly successful writer/director/female impersonator who, despite his success, is still so lacking in self-esteem that he puts his name in the title of each of his movies: “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail,” “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns,” “Tyler Perry’s Cavalcade of Embarrassing Stereotypes,” etc. His films gross an average of $50 million each, which breaks down to about 6 million tickets sold. Six million people pay to see the average Tyler Perry movie — and I don’t know a single one of them. Not one! Aside from fellow reviewers who attend out of obligation, not one person within my sphere of knowledge has seen a Tyler Perry movie. And it’s not because I don’t know any black people, because I DO know black people. They just aren’t the black people who go to Tyler Perry movies.
So who ARE the black people who go to Tyler Perry movies? I don’t know! That’s what’s so fascinating! Here’s this subsection of American culture with millions of adherents, and it’s happening all around me, and yet it doesn’t interfere or even overlap with my life at all. The same goes for NASCAR, a thing that apparently has millions of fans, not one of whom is anybody I’ve ever met. (Meanwhile, less than 2 million people watch “The Daily Show” every night, and it seems like everyone I know is one of them.)
Or look at this. It’s all the adventures of Dorf, the midget sports enthusiast played by Tim Conway, compiled onto one DVD and packaged in a “collectible tin,” available through Amazon.com for $13.49. You and I look at this product and have thoughts like this:
– ALL the Dorf videos fit on one DVD? So when they used to sell individual VHS tapes of them, you were paying like twenty bucks for one 25-minute episode? And people agreed to those terms?
– How can something be “collectible” when there’s only one of them? This is the entirety of the Dorf canon. Once you have this DVD and its “collectible tin,” you’re done collecting. There is no sense of accomplishment in that. You can’t have a guest in your home and proudly say, “Take a look at my collection!” and then show him one measly DVD in a cheap tin box. That would be sad.
– It’s labeled the “Super Fan Collection,” which implies that there are varying degrees of fandom when it comes to Dorf. But the “Super Fan Collection” consists of the entire series on one DVD. What does the level of fan just below “Super Fan” buy? Half a DVD?
And yet I guarantee you, there are people who would look at that Amazon.com page and have thoughts like this:
– I know someone for whom this would be the perfect gift!
You and I cannot imagine such a thing. We may be able to think of people who would find Dorf’s antics amusing enough to own on DVD. But do we know anyone who loves Dorf SO MUCH that he would be delighted to receive, as a Christmas present, the “Super Fan Collection” in the “collectible tin”? We do not. But such a person exists! Thousands of them, probably! And if they should stumble across this column, they will say to themselves: “How can this guy and all the people he knows not love Dorf?! Dorf is hilarious! He’s very short, which is already funny, and wacky shenanigans tend to ensue when he tries to teach you how to do something!”
And yet despite all our different entertainment preferences and personal choices, we all live more or less peacefully together in one big, kooky society. When we encounter eccentricities, we generally exercise our right to either tolerate, ignore, or make fun of them. Hey, you want to bring a roasted chicken to the movies? Be my guest! Heck, roll up with an entire gang of scooter people — a complete squadron of motorized cautionary tales — and devour an entire coop’s worth of chickens! What do I care? Just eat quietly, if you please. This country has no room for noisy people.