Life

Why Men Think It's Sooo Cool to Dislike Popular Things

Like: 'Love Island', the Kardashians, star signs and vegan sausage rolls.
July 16, 2020, 8:00am
Kim Kardashian selfie
Kim Kardashian wax work taking a selfie, by Steve Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo
Why, Bro? is a semi-regular series where we look at the reasons why men do the things they do.

What's the issue: Men who make a loud point of not liking a popular thing, thinking their aversion to that thing makes them special and/or original. See Piers Morgan's disproportionate fury at the Greggs vegan sausage rolls, even though they were a huge success.

How long has it been going on for? Let's be honest: forever. We’ve all met a man like this, haven't we. He might be proud of himself for not knowing the difference between a Jenner and a Kardashian and will develop theories about how reality TV rots your brain. In fact, the lineage of Bro Who Hates Popular Culture goes back hundreds of years, all the way back to the 17th century when Oliver Cromwell ordered soldiers to patrol the city of London and seize any food they discovered being prepared for Christmas celebrations, simply because he didn't like Christmas.

Where does it happen? Often in places where people were originally having an amusing and lighthearted discussion? Maybe you're having a nuanced debate about the significance of Molly-Mae's Ellie the Elephant cuddly toy on Love Island when suddenly a man interrupts to announce, yet again, that he Just Doesn’t Get Reality TV. Or maybe you’re bonding with someone because you’ve discovered you’re both Virgos when you hear an ominous grumble: “You don’t really believe in that stuff, do you?” And then without giving you a chance to show them your favourite horoscope meme account on Instagram, or explain that star signs are also a great hack for remembering everyone’s birthday, they launch into a monologue: "How Could The Same Prediction Be Accurate For That Many People?" I mean, these guys clearly know nothing about risings or moon signs.

But they don’t have to be interrupting a conversation to kill the vibe. You could be in a gallery quietly enjoying Picasso’s cubism when you hear the Dislike Bro make the same tired joke: “I Could Have Done That.” You get it: they don’t like cubism, but you don’t want to hear it every time they spot a painting that isn’t literal. Also you’ve seen their doodles and you’re not sure they could draw a cartoon dog let alone Picasso’s Weeping Woman.

Ok, but why? Barry Kuhle, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton, believes criticising popular things is more about making yourself look good than anything else. “I think a part of it is virtue signalling, you’re trying to communicate to others that you’re above them, on a different dimension.”

He adds that it could also be a way of hiding the fact you know little about a subject. Not knowing much about something can feel like a weakness but “disparaging what you don’t know takes that weakness away. You’ve turned it to a strength, essentially”. If men are stereotypically less comfortable showing weakness, maybe this is why I’ve noticed men criticise popular things more than women.

Research has also found that men tend to be more judgemental than women. So they may be more quick to assume something is stupid because they don’t like it.

I asked my brother, who regularly judges me for enjoying Love Island, why he does this: “I just don’t get reality TV,” he says. “Why do people want to watch boring people, it’s called reality TV but it’s not real life, it’s a completely fabricated situation with people acting up. There’s no artistic merit there, it’s voyeurism.” Sure... I’ve heard this before. But more specifically, why does he talk about it all the time? “I guess I like playing devil’s advocate.” This is true. He does love playing devil’s advocate to the extent that he will turn any conversation into an opportunity to play devil’s advocate, if he can find a way.

Annie, 24, has a different opinion: “Men are given the platform to say what they want in society. They face less questioning and being condemned for their opinions so they’re socialised to feel entitled to do so.” All of which probably explains why men think their take on popular culture is unique and special. If no one is shouting you down, perhaps you think you're a maverick – a unique star. Chances are though, you're less of a revolutionary, and more someone who spends their time talking much too loudly over everyone in the pub.

@bethankapur

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.