Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Super Pop" Is Poppin' (Too Bad One of the Lists isn't about Making Better Blog Post Titles...)

Yay! Today The Empire Strikes Forward is being featured on a blog tour for Zest Books! I am reviewing their new title by Dan Harmon: Super Pop! Pop Culture Top Ten Lists To Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make it through the Holidays. Harmon has taken on a lofty goal and broken it into bite-sized pieces for our short attention spanned culture--tackling all of pop culture in just 300 pages seems an impossible task, but it's certainly one for which Harmon was well prepared.

Instead of reading the book cover to cover, I decided to use this book the way it in which it was intended. I started with the introduction, to find out exactly what that intention was, and was rather encouraged by Harmon's unique voice and sense of humor. The introduction purports that Super Pop is sort of a field guide to any situation one may find themselves in, and I found myself bored on a Tuesday night, so I started looking through the book for anything that would make me less bored.

The book is split into five major sections for surviving the modern world: "Be More Interesting", "Get Smart(er)", "Stop Doing it Wrong", "Find Happiness" and "Survive the Holidays". Each section then breaks down even further into a handful of top ten lists, and then the lists recommend the top ten examples of pop culture that will help you to navigate, or educate yourself about the indicated situation. My personal favorite (so far) is Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales (the television show) as the number one example of "explorers who can take you to the unknown". Mind you, this is the same list that contains The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo himself.

Using DuckTales at the top of a list normally dominated by Han Solo Indiana Jones Harrison Ford is a perfect example of how Super Pop functions, because, let's face it: you're reading a book about pop culture, so there's a good chance you already know how iconic both Star Wars and Indiana Jones are, and why they are still so popular. You've probably heard of Duck Tales, and there's a good chance you've even watched an episode or two (or you're me and you've seen them all...), but then there's less of a chance that you've read The Travels of Marco Polo. Or maybe you've read it multiple times, and then there's a good chance you never had time to watch Duck Tales, because you were super busy reading books from explorers in the 1200s.

One of Harmon's goals with Super Pop was to change up the game of recommending things, if there is such a game. Harmon explains in an interview with Zest: "I was tired of seeing the same old things recommended all the time, and I thought that if I could just start out with some new list ideas, that the rest would take care of itself". Sometimes Harmon succeeds, but largely because he is recommending things for a list that's never even been written before, like "preparation for every eventuality (and several alternate universes)". This list may be the only place in the world that you can find Spirited Away, Tuck Everlasting, Children of Men, A Wrinkle in Time, Flatland, A Handmaids Tale, Misfits, and Groundhog Day all on one list.

Some of Harmon's explanations of things are somewhat reductive, for instance he explains all of Doctor Who in one paragraph and urges readers to introduce themselves to Star Trek with the 2009 movie (TOS all the wayyyyy). But I suppose if you're unfamiliar with either of those franchises, you're going to have to start somewhere, and you may as well start small. These simple explanations of massive franchises work towards another of Harmon's goals: "I, for one, have a very hard time enjoying a book or a movie unless I feel it's in the service of some greater good--sounding informed, for example, or feeling better about myself, or actually learning something new. With a little planning and ambition, I am convinced that pop culture can lead to a more fulfilling existence." Sounds like a more solid reason to catch up on Star Trek than "are you SERIOUS? how have you never seen STAR TREK BEFORE?".

As I said at the start of this post, I haven't read all of Super Pop yet, but I haven't had to survive every scenario put forth in the list of lists. Harmon set himself a lofty goal with this project, but the love and effort he put into it has paid off, and Super Pop is definitely a success!

You can order your copy of Super Pop today at!


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