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Bubblegum Machine

Confessions of a Pop-aholic

By Lisa M. Puskarcik, Crimson Staff Writer

As an advertising intern in Manhattan this summer, I couldn’t help but become intensely saturated by media. On a typical day, I would trek over to a dirty Union Square newsstand and buy as many popular magazines as I could carry, combing through them for competitive advertisements. After tearing out the ads for the higher-ups, I’d take the discarded leftovers of the magazines and add them to the huge supply of pop literature in my desk drawer. I’ve always loved magazines, but this was the beginning of a pop culture addiction that by no means ended when the workday was over.

On walks home I frequently detoured to my local Virgin Megastore, subconsciously lured by the red neon lights and DVD sales. While I didn’t always have money for dinner, I was sure to buy such necessities as Coldplay albums and “urban fiction” novels (The Devil Wears Prada being a particular summer favorite). Penned by career women in their 20s and 30s, urban fiction often had its own shelf in bookstores, which quickly became my first destination.

One day I ran to Barnes & Noble from work to catch urban fiction novelist Candace Bushnell, who also wrote the Sex in the City novel, discussing her latest work Trading Up—a book about a distressed Victoria’s Secret model searching for love in her Manolo Blahnik heels. Upon asking a clerk about The Nanny Diaries in an attempt to flaunt my knowledge about the genre, I was told that since the book was two years older, it had been relegated to the standard fiction department. Apparently urban fiction goes in and out of style as fast as designer couture.

My weeknights were spent in my spartan New York University dorm room enjoying the E! Entertainment Network, followed by MTV’s Real World Paris. Even the gym had 10 television sets all tuned into different channels targeted at me and people like me: E!, MTV, MTV2, VH1, Comedy Central, ESPN and the major networks. And if I wanted to watch How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Sweet Home Alabama, or The Hours, NYU’s own movie channels were a part of my standard-equipped dorm package (free cable movie channels, yes; air conditioning, no).

My roommates and I swapped Vogue for Elle, Cosmo for Glamour, and if we were feeling particularly smart and worldly, Newsweek for Time. Major events included spotting Meg Ryan and her son in a Duane Reed drugstore and hearing country singer Tim McGraw perform live on the Today show. I knew the date of every album release, television season, movie and video premiere. Ashton and Demi internet updates filled my downtime while I made the New York Post’s gossip column “Page Six” my home page. I even snuck out of a focus group at work to catch a glimpse of Diane Sawyer interviewing Ben and J-Lo. It was difficult to keep up with all the [stuff], and by the end of the summer I was at once pop addicted and exhausted.

I used the few weeks rest I had at home to cleanse and cure myself of my media saturation. I listened to Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd on Youngstown, Ohio’s Y-103 instead of Z-100’s Missy Elliott and Madonna. Sometimes after a few hours of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Trading Spaces and the Christina Aguilera’s E! True Hollywood Story, I even turned off the TV. But it was never long before I’d hear myself humming the oh-so scandalous lyrics of Elliott’s “Work It.”

Back at Harvard, I’m trying to achieve a pop-cultural balance of sorts. So far I’ve only gotten to read this month’s Cosmo (my roommate’s), InStyle (my subscription), Allure (stolen from the Quincy House Mail Center) and Marie Claire (at the MAC). I’ve only averaged about one DVD per week in addition to weekly room screenings of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and course websites have replaced pagesix.com on my favorite’s list.

I am like a kid in a candy store at Out of Town News (Italian Vogue and British Cosmopolitan!), but most literary purchases in recent days have come from across the street at the Coop.

I still carry with me some signs of an addict—coyly slipping a copy of Elle in with my groceries (it only says Shaw’s Star Market on the Visa bill, right?)—but with time and lack of cable I think I’ll be cured of my addiction. For now, however, it’s time to watch “Access Hollywood.”

—Crimson Arts columnist Lisa Puskarcik can be reached at puskarc@fas.harvard.edu.

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