Flannel shirts, Miley Cyrus, and pop culture

pop culture

It was the fall of 1991. I wore a flannel shirt to school. Towards the end of the day, this guy who was obviously way cooler than me came up to me during passing period. To say we were friends is an overstatement. We did, however, have some mutual friends, and we knew each other. So it wasn’t unheard of for us to say “hey” to each other on occasion. During this passing period, he did something different. He comes up to me, points at my flannel shirt, and laughs.

“Why are you dressed like a lumberjack?”

Then he walked by and disappeared into the sea of people. I didn’t have a chance to defend the comfort of my choice of shirt for the day. And I wasn’t going to go after him to state my case because that would make me late to class.

A funny thing happened just a few weeks later. Nirvana had grabbed the world by the throat with Smells Like Teen Spirit, influencing almost every aspect of pop culture. The grunge movement had come and it was a dominant pop cultural force. And that includes the fashion world.

So guess what that guy who called me a lumberjack was wearing just a few weeks later. That’s right. I saw him walking down the school hallway with a flannel shirt. What was once uncool had suddenly become cool.

This could possibly be another instance where I was a trendsetter. Just a man ahead of my time. But my eyes were opened that day. That’s when I realized that I really didn’t understand the fleeting nature of pop culture. And I didn’t really care to try.

Instead of trying to up my coolness factor, I chose to enter a pop cultural bubble. It’s probably better described as crawling under a pop cultural rock – especially when it came to music. I think I was the only person in high school at the time with a DC Talk/Metallica/Simon and Garfunkel mixtape that I’d play over and over and over again.

Last night, the American Music Awards reminded me how I’m still living under some type of cultural rock. It was Miley Cyrus who opened my eyes to this fact. Don’t get me wrong. I actually appreciate the song, Wrecking Ball. It kind of wrecks me sometimes (see what I did there?). But that performance.

Oh that performance.

With the lip syncing kitty cat who was so moved with the songs that tears started flowing. Like a faucet. And Miley crying because she’s wrecked. It was so….


I didn’t get the juxtaposition of heartbroken Miley with oh-so-precious and cute-as-a-button kitty cat that makes you go “Awwww” because it’s just so stinkin’ adorable. And then when that kitty cat winks and sticks out its tongue? It melts your heart. Because kittens.

Miley Cyrus and the crying kitty cat singing Wrecking Ball
image via Disney Dreaming

But I have been told that Miley’s performance at the AMAs proves several things. She won the night. And the Internet. And even life itself. So it has become clear to me that I still don’t really understand pop culture. Maybe this makes me an old fuddy-duddy. That’s OK. I’ve probably been an old fuddy-duddy for the last 20+ years. I think I’m pretty OK with that.

Now excuse me while I go re-create my epic mixtape on Spotify.

And get off my lawn.

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Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

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