Why white people like stuff white people like

Things just became a meta taco. The New Republic has taken the time to explain why white people like reading the mildly humorous website Stuff White People Like.

A few observers have already pointed out, rightly, that Stuff White People Like isn’t about white people in general, but rather about a very specific demographic sliver of left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk–in other words, people like me. These people have previously been trapped and tagged alternately as yuppies, or Bobos, or (by yours truly in New York magazine) grups. Basically, they embody the uneasy marriage of urban affluence and liberal (and/or progressive, and/or alternative, and/or “indie”) ideals. For example, there are plenty of white people in America who fairly obviously don’t like (#15) yoga or (#46) The Sunday New York Times or (#28) not having a TV. But it’s much funnier and, at least on its face, more original to say “White People” rather than “Yuppies.” I mean, if someone sent you a link to a blog called “Stuff Bobos Like,” would you even open it, let alone forward it to all your Bobo friends?

But if this blog is such a piquant satire of white liberal cultural mores and hypocrisies, then why do so many white people like Stuff White People Like? I imagine the most common reaction among its readers is summed up by one rhapsodic commenter: “Oh, lord, it only hurts because it’s true!” And that’s the problem. The reason the phrase “it’s funny because it’s true” has become a shorthand for things that are neither (a) funny nor (b) particularly true is because humor is rarely truly satirical when its targets also make up the bulk of its audience. Or, if it is, the audience doesn’t tend to find it funny. Think Colbert skewering Bush at the White House press corps dinner. I don’t remember Dick Cheney slapping his knee and shouting “Oh lord it only hurts because it’s true!” Instead, with this brand of comedy, the goal is to comfort, rather than challenge or disturb, the audience. (Other things widely known to be funny-because-they’re-true: Britney Spears is a bad mom; cats are standoffish, while dogs are blindly loyal; women love shopping, while men can’t get enough sex. Are you with me? The ladies know what I’m talking about!)

The author, Adam Sternbergh, boils it down to the website making white people feel superior or reaffirming that notion. But the site is just kinda dumb, written by a white guy for what seems like a black audience. It’s a strange concept and it is, like I said before, mildly (that might be overstating it) amusing. So it’s got that going for it.

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