Why I love Britney OR Judging a Book by its Cover

December 30, 2013

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2004: it’s a snowy Sunday night and thousands of people wait in Montreal’s Bell Centre for the emergence of the toned, dancer extraordinaire, Ms. Britney Spears.

My friends and I watch the fleet of girls dawning barely-there pants and take notice of the few guys in the third row holding their binoculars, looking around to see if anyone can see them looking.

I watch a young man approach the group of girls next to me:

“Huh: I never took you for a Britney fan.” The girl shakes her head in response:
“Oh no: I’m only here because I got free tickets. I would never pay to come see her!”
“Ya – my girlfriend dragged me.” He shrugs and leaves.

These two people don’t seem at all coerced into enjoyment when the spectacular stage of The Onyx Hotel Tour takes the limelight and Britney emerges in a leather-matrix outfit. They look like they showed up at Ben & Jerry’s on free cone day.

The concert was great: fun to watch Spears dance and gyrate, reminiscent of Madonna’s glory days.

We all have our guilty pleasures. The trouble is we tend to judge people dramatically when the pop culture laundry airs.

As a pop culture junkie – who runs the gamut from Breaking Bad to Smash; from Degas to Dancing with the Stars; from Pedro Almodovar to Pitch Perfect – I’m not insisting that the gatekeepers of high-art read why celebrities are ‘just like us’ – but there is room for more than one taste.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of shows, books, films, etc. that aren’t my cup of tea; that doesn’t mean, however, that we should judge people based on only one part of the puzzle (for example, by reading the opening story, you wouldn’t necessarily know that I’m trained in classical piano).

No – I didn’t like 50 Shades of Grey – but I don’t let that get in the way of recommendations I make for people who did love it. And I certainly try not to judge people for it – okay, I judge one colleague but he just needs to see that I wrote that.

Without understanding what other people want in a book – if I let judgment cloud my recommendations – then, I wouldn’t be very good at what I love doing.

Many years ago, a fellow English Lit. major was peeved when I told him that I went to see the film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours – a book that weaves together Virginia Woolf’s writing and life with a modern-day narrative:

“The fact that Nicole Kidman was cast as the inimitable Virginia Woolf is disturbing,” with a roll of the eyes he was gone, leaving me disturbed over his disturbance level.

Why do we care which movies people see and – by extent – which books others read and which music they listen to?

When the students in my drama class are asked to keep an observational, anonymous judgment journal – the most repetitive judgments have to do with others’ tastes:

“What a loser: Justin Bieber is for girls.”
“What an Emo. I bet she goes home and cries all night.”
“Who the hell listens to country music?”
“Ew. I hate rap.”

I’m not immune to judging – no one is – I do, however, try to maintain awareness when it comes to how often and what it is exactly that I’m judging. Why something about another person bothers me so much is usually more indicative about my own personal issues than that person’s.

By judging this book’s cover too soon – you lose out on a majority of the character development.

Try to keep a judgment journal of your own for one day. You might see that your own biases are causing you to miss out on some interesting people.

Who knows – given the chance – maybe Joyce himself would have been titillated by “Toxic.”


  1. Great Post Book Dumpling! Reminds me of a quote by Jim Morrison: “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself”. AND when I told you I enjoyed 50 Shades, you never judged..Luckily I am not a colleague:)

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