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An erudite, tongue-in-cheek Jeff Foxworthy for the urbane, liberal-arts set, Christian Lander has turned his notorious “Stuff White People Like” blog into a legitimate media sensation and a best-selling book. The unsettlingly familiar idiosyncrasies he points out range from irony (No. 50) and Banksy (No. 129) to “knowing what's best for poor people” (No. 62).
Sure, the culture-stuff is funny enough by itself, but he hits cringingly close to home when he focuses in closer on the tropes, carving away all the pretension and expounding on just why white people like, say, expensive sandwiches and Mos Def.
And no, Little Rock, kickball hasn't escaped his scrutiny.
Christian chatted with us for a bit about the blog and white stuff at large.
How did the blog start?
It started in January 2008, just goofing around with a friend of mine on-line and he said he didn't trust any white person who didn't watch “The Wire.” And from there ? you know how these conversations go ? we asked “what are they doing instead of watching ‘The Wire?' ”
They're doing yoga, going to therapy, getting divorced … I thought “that's pretty funny; let's start a blog.” So I just started writing with the intent to make this little, fun side-project that'll make my friend Miles laugh and it just totally blew up from there.
And now you've been on the New York Times best-seller list and, even cooler, if you type in, simply, “stuff” in Google, your blog is the first thing that it suggests.
I'm more excited that when you type in “white people” in the box it says “I hate white people” first and “why are white people so annoying” second; then my blog popped up third, so I'm happy to bridge that gap.
To what do you attribute the success of the blog? White people being really into self-deprecation?
Well, let's not forget that number one is luck. But I think when people saw [the blog], they clicked on it, thinking “OK: golf, mayonnaise, I've seen this a million times before” and they clicked through and were like “no, no, no, no: this is all me!” and they sorta freaked out and found it kinda funny.
But the more likely answer is that someone was clicking through the site like “yep, yep, yep, yep; I know this asshole” and boom: they forward it on. They either think “this is really funny, this is a new perspective” or “I can't wait to send this to someone else to show them they're a stereotype despite their intentions.”
What's the next big white person thing?
Um, “growing your own food” is trending pretty hard. I spent $80 to grow two tomatoes last summer. They were terrible tomatoes, but I lied to myself and told myself they were delicious.
What about backlashes? Or backlashes against backlashes. White people love those.
Yeah, that's implied throughout all of it. There's a certain limit with things to come. More people start paying attention to something and then they go against it. It was like the whole backlash against bacon after everyone wanted to go vegetarian, then people started getting annoyed with vegetarians so they went as far the other way as possible.
So you're visiting Little Rock, home of one of the most beloved people by whites, Bill Clinton. Why do you think he's so adored by whites?
The story's great: small town guy, not much afforded to him, pulls himself up by the bootstraps, law school, governor, so forth. But also whites really like history and looking back on the past. But it's because whites always put a happy spin on things, so they get to forget about all the bad stuff he did. It's perfect. He existed back in the past.
Speaking of people adored by white folks, you were housemates with Win Butler from Arcade Fire, huh?
Yep. It's a major white trump card I keep in my back pocket when people try to step to my whiteness.
Christian Lander will speak at the Arkansas Literary Festival at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 10, in the Main Library's Darragh Center.
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