My friends often accuse me of overthinking the pop culture that I’m into. It’s true that I do have a terrible habit of analyzing the things that catch my fancy, and as a result I can often find myself pondering something that a creator didn’t intend and most consumers don’t care about. It’s just the way I enjoy my media.
Even though I’d never heard of Ryan Britt, the description of this book rang a few bells. In fourteen essays, Britt dissects offbeat things like whether Sherlock Holmes is a superhero, why Frodo is a better hero than Bilbo, the relationship between Shakespeare adaptations and superhero movies, and of course the literacy of a certain farmboy-turned-Jedi. Someone else who enjoys overthinking angles (that might not really exist) about the pop culture they consume? Sign me up!
Britt’s writing style is breezy and engaging. It’s clear that he’s well-read, but he doesn’t copiously cite sources. These are for the most part lengthy opinion pieces, so even when he has a source it’s merely a springboard. It’s likely for the same reason that the essays don’t quite feel like they live up to the premise very often. Instead Britt uses them as starting points, wandering where they take him until he feels he’s done talking. If it weren’t for the fun pop culture topics and his engaging writing style it might be fairly annoying, but thankfully he makes it fun to follow his trains of thought.
Britt did sometimes casually drop a controversial statement and then move quickly to something else while leaving me thinking “wait, back up and defend that…” but he knows he doesn’t have to. He’s not trying to convince readers to agree with him, he’s trying to start conversations and engage our brains about our entertainment and the world of pop culture. If you enjoy writers like Jon Ronson or Steven Johnson but wish they’d mention Doctor Who more often, this is definitely going to be up your alley.
If you like to use entertainment to turn your brain on rather than off, then Ryan Britt is ready to tell you Luke Skywalker Can’t Read!