Thinking Candytopia and Other "Pop-Ups" Are Vapid Says More About You Than the Experience
From: Candytopia on Facebook
A "critic" who writes for the New York Times was recently paid to attend several (five?) Instagramable museums, factories and mansions. In her own words, "They nearly broke me."
And that made my heart break a little... for her.
I mean, how can you attend an event that looks like this:
And feel... broken?
I have five hypotheses:
1. Under-developed playfulness and leisure skills.
3. Acceptance issues.
5. You've either chosen to be unhappy... or not chosen to be happy.
And now, knowing full-well that much of what you see at such pop-ups is this:
I shall explore each hypothesis.
1. Under-developed playfulness and leisure skills.
As I wrote in Playfulness Isn't a Trait. It's a Skill. And If You're a Millennial, You Probably Never Learned to Play:
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "It is a happy talent to know how to play."
Think of it this way: it's really popular and useful to think about skills and relationships using a growth mindset, right?
Well, playfulness and leisure skills are the same way.
And if you find yourself feeling like a trip to the Ice Cream Museum is a "masochistic march through voids of meaning," that's an indicator that you could really, really benefit from thinking of playfulness as a skill -- and practicing it!
In this blog, I've given several suggestions, including:
I'm not a serious fine art person. Like, at all. Never really taken an art class, never really intend to. I don't even really know how to talk about art, beyond saying, "In my opinion, the best art is interactive."
By which I mean, one time, someone put a piano on the beach, and I loved it!
I also really like the piano in Seoul's Incheon International Airport (which also has regular performances, cultural centers where you can do Korean art, and free city tours during long layovers).
Also, one time I was at this artists' thing in Capitola, and I thought the landscapes in oil by Ganna Halvorsen were so good, I kind of teared up a little.
So, yeah. That's the extent of my art knowledge.
And it seems a lot of the criticism about pop-up "interactive" experiences is coming from people who do know a lot about art.
Perhaps they feel threatened or uncomfortable with the idea that their interests, once exclusive, are now accessible to the hoi polloi, undermining the smugness and superiority they can feel about their art consumption.
Or maybe the accessibility is forcing them to redouble their smugness. Oh! It's not "real art" because it doesn't challenge enough perspectives; because it's "low-brow" and "commercialized"; because it can't be truly "immersive" unless there is more richness and context and story.
Which... I think is silly. Different people like different things. It's no more expensive to go to a pop-up "experience" than it is to go to most art museums. No one's forcing you to go anywhere you don't want to go.
If you love touching the art, being in photos with the art, using your imagination and acting like a child while interacting with the art, then maybe this is the right kind of "art" experience for you.
Also worth noting: real artists design these pop-ups, and are very fairly compensated for their work. Can't we celebrate this as a good thing?
3. Acceptance issues.
A quick way to make sure you're unhappy, always, for the rest of your life, is to never accept things the way they are.
Instead, judge them. Feel disappointed. Wish they were something else.
But for those of us who would like to feel joyful and breathless (or at least satisfied) in their everyday lives... it's important to practice acceptance.
If you're going to go to Disneyland, you've got to accept that a large part of it is paying too much for lemonade and waiting in long lines, or you're going to be disappointed. And probably be too grumpy to notice the great lengths Disney goes to to keep lines moving quickly, and to be entertaining throughout your wait. Watch out for Hidden Mickeys! Look at the walls and ceilings -- they are all elaborately decorated with art and games to make the experience immersive. Not to mention the digital transformation of the park. Whether you're a child, a child at heart, an engineer, an artist, or a psychologist, this is something you could lose yourself in.)
(Plus, who are you even with? Someone you don't have an outrageously good time roughhousing with and talking to and debating issues and generating exciting ideas with?)
You can literally go to Toon Town. What do you have to complain about?
Every tiny detail has been thought of. The water fountains even make themed noises.
THE BARBERSHOP QUARTET TAKES REQUESTS!!!!!!
Were the lines long? Maybe? I don't really remember. Because I accepted it for what it was, and then had the most amazing time ever. The line will never be as fun as the ride... but it can come close!
Similarly, I always chuckle a little at tourists (and, by definition, if you travel, you are a tourist) who visit some world-famous attraction... then feel "let down" because of the crowds.
Like... you're visiting some world-famous attraction. What did you expect?
The presence of other travelers shouldn't make your experience less enjoyable. How can you let other people -- strangers you don't even know! -- have so much control over you, your feelings, and your experience?
Just accept and appreciate it for what it is.
Or... think of it this way: I know for a fact that basketball is the best sport. But if I had to spend one night each playing soccer, badminton, sand volleyball, football, and squash, it woudn't "break" me.
Obviously, I'd rather be playing basketball (or rock climbing, or mountain biking, or surfing). But I can accept other sports for what they are and still have a blast playing (or trying to play) them.
4. Good ol' fashioned sexism.
I'm kind of over the whole, "Female interests are trivial, frivolous, and empty, but male interests are totally legit and valid" thing, aren't you?
Fashion is just as valid an interest as sports -- but you don't see critics running around bitching about Sportsball Halls of Fame.
Taking larger-than-life selfies is just as legit a pastime as obsessing over camera specs -- but no one says tech-obsessed dudes are "ruining their generation."
If women love putting on awesome clothes and makeup and being in awesome photos, more power to them. Clearly, they derive some kind of meaning and happiness from it. You can either be scornful and snooty about it, or not do it, or put yourself in their shoes and see what all the fuss is about.
(Yes, I realize that much of what I've just said relies on lazy stereotypes. But guess what? Stereotype accuracy is one of the largest effects in social psychology.)
I'm the first to admit: I used to be a judgy little asshole when it came to makeup. Then I decided to stop being so narrow-minded, and realized just how much skill and artistry can go into a "look." Now, all I can do is admire.
And it's way more fun to admire something than to judge it. Which leads us to:
5. You've either chosen to be unhappy... or NOT chosen to be happy.
Not to sound like one of those annoying hippie-dippie people on Facebook... but you can definitely choose to be happy. You can choose to be unhappy. Or you can NOT choose to be happy.
Like, you can walk into Candytopia with your preconceived notions of what a low-brow, commercialized, narcissistic activity this is...
Or you can choose to walk in with a fun, silly, imaginative mindset, and make it the best possible way to spend your Tuesday night.
Just like you can scornfully judge people who go to pumpkin farms and drink pumpkin spice lattes... or you can have an incredible time admiring the changing leaves, the seasonal decorations, the fun flavors you can only really enjoy this time of year. (See also: If You're Not Stoked About Pumpkin Spice Latte Season, I Feel Sorry For You.)
Or just like you can scornfully say that One Direction isn't worth your time -- they're just some teeny bopper pop band. Or, you can seize the opportunity to see them, decide it's going to be epic, and have more fun there than at any other concert you've ever been to.
Just like you can grumble about doing chores... or you can choose to be happy! Either by skipping them (it's not that awful living in a disgusting house -- wouldn't you rather have an epic weekend?), or by just deciding to make them fun. (I do it with audiobooks or by rocking out to my favorite music -- not by "staring at congealed food," which is the kind of "mindfulness" I think is stupid.)
I think I do an above-average job of deciding to be happy. But I'm not perfect -- and pretty much every time in the last month or so I've been annoyed about something, I remember telling myself, "I'm choosing to be annoyed. It doesn't have to be this way."
Sometimes, this causes me to change my attitude and just laugh it off. Sometimes, I choose to stay angry. Either way, I know exactly whose choice it is. (See also: Girls Don't Like Boys BECAUSE They're Jerks. They Like Them DESPITE Their Being Jerks.)
So, yeah. If I can have the time of my life in some random neighborhood playground...
... I'm sure you can find it in yourself to have fun at Disneyland, One Direction, or the dreaded Museum of Ice Cream.
8/13/2019 09:27:32 pm
You are insane, but at least you have the money to make it look like you know what you’re doing.
I'm curious how you came upon this post. It's not about poverty and abuse and parks full of junkies...
12/18/2019 02:33:09 pm
Eva, this is what makes you so much more impressive than organizations like Everyday Feminism. You didn't delete his comment, even though it got personal and relied on a hypothetical that was unrelated to the post. Instead, you addressed each of his points intelligent respectfully. Thank you!
8/13/2019 10:29:06 pm
No one speaks on behalf of all impoverished people. Coming from a very poor family, I was raised to see things through positive lenses. Now being only slightly above poverty, I see my privilege, acknowledge it, then move on and continue to choose happy.
>> "I see my privilege, acknowledge it, then move on and continue to choose happy."
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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