I, Middlebrow


I subscribe to a lot of magazines, but if there are three that exemplify where my everyday, pop culture base of gravity sets, The Week, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly fit the bill.

The Week offers a handy roundup of national and international news, short reviews of movies, TV shows, and books, financial advice, and the like — a little bit of everything, drawn from a wide variety of news sources. On matters of political, public policy, and social significance, it attempts to present a span of viewpoints and perspectives.

Sports Illustrated is exactly that, a weekly combination of sports features and photography. Even with the deluge of online sports fan sites, SI — one of the pioneers in sports journalism — still informs and entertains.

Entertainment Weekly also holds its own against competing online coverage of movies, television, books, and music. More than any other source, it tips me off on the best stuff to watch on the small screen.

I, Middlebrow

I could list all of my subscriptions in an attempt to sound more intellectual, politically engaged, and worldly, but if I’m being honest with myself, I must acknowledge that I am very much a middlebrow kinda guy.  Maybe high middlebrow or low middlebrow at times, but definitely hovering around the center.

What is middlebrow? Freedictionary.com calls it “(o)ne who is somewhat cultured, with conventional tastes and interests; one who is neither highbrow nor lowbrow.”

By and large, that’s me.

Perhaps I’m simply a product of my times and upbringing. I grew up with the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Columbia Record and Tape Club. The emerging geek side of me read the World Book Encyclopedia. I listened to AM pop music stations before going over to the exotic world of FM. As a kid, going out for dinner usually meant pizza or a burger. Ordering in meant carryout from the local Chinese place. A birthday might mean a trip to the amusement park.

Moving to New York for law school and living there for 12 years definitely lifted my cultural horizons. Broadway shows, the music of the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Sinatra, that kind of thing. My appetite became more eclectic, especially with different Asian cuisines. But even these explorations, now very much a part of my personal culture, were more of a Manhattan brand of middlebrow than a jump into high society.

As for today, I’ll opt for a good PBS mystery series, reruns of the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” or a good World War II movie over the latest hot foreign film. For leisure reading, I’ll usually choose a good suspense novel or history book over classic literature. And during recent years, many of my summer vacations have been spent going on storm chase tours in search of bad weather.

Good with it

I’m not averse to trying new things and expanding my worldview. But when it comes to my personal culture — the stuff that brings me enjoyment and entertainment — my default point lands near the middle.

That said, don’t let my culture define yours. The process of sorting out and embracing that personal culture is, I believe, a key to living a satisfying life. On this point, to each your own. Whether it’s watching World Wide Wrestling or going to an art gallery opening, enjoy.


One response

  1. Great note about “Manhattan brand of middlebrow.” Middlebrow certainly has lots of variations, because of geography, generational differences, and lots more, but like you, I think it gets a bad rap 🙂

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