It's time to introduce another member of the PolicyMic editorial team, culture editor and trends wizard Elena Sheppard. As part of our editors' blog, we'll be introducing each one of our awesome editors so you can get to know better the people behind the stories. Check out my interview with Chris Miles here. Feel free to ask her more questions in the comments below!
Jake Horowitz (JH): What's in your daily news diet? What sites, blogs, TV shows, movies, and magazines do you get inspiration from?
Elena Sheppard (ES): I have a pretty well-rounded news diet if I do say so myself. I'm an avid New York Times reader (the healthy portion of my news diet); I do read a lot of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker (I consider those to be my long leisurely lunch); Vulture, ArtInfo, and Flavorwire are favorites of mine (snacks); and for the junk food, I will confess to reading PerezHilton ... daily. There are also a bunch of industry websites I check out every day: THR and The Wrap for entertainment news, Shelf Awareness for books. Oh, and I'm into the blog Pop Culture Brain – it seems like that's run by one dude, and I honestly don't know how he covers so much single handedly.
As for movies and TV shows ... My favorite shows right now are those ahead-of-their-time 90s teen dramas like My So Called Life and Freaks and Geeks. I'm also a big interview show junkie: Charlie Rose is a must-watch, so is Inside the Actor's Studio. For movies, I love anything Hitchcock; all the Christopher Guest flicks; Terrence Malick blows my mind (but in a good way); Judd Apatow and his posse crack me up ... I'm forgetting a million things I'm sure.
JH: The stereotype about millennials is that we only care about superficial things like Kanye West’s newest relationship and Snooki’s latest baby drama, not about serious things like art, literature, long-form journalism, opera, etc. Do you think that’s accurate?
I don't think that's accurate. For one, pop culture is almost by definition determined by the youth population. I don't think it's surprising for some millennials to be interested in things like Snooki's baby and Kanye drama because these are the pop culture stories of our particular moment in time. The cast of pop culture characters is ever-changing, but it doesn't go away. I'm sure America's youth in the 1970's was just as interested in reading about Farrah Fawcett as America's youth today is in reading about, say, Taylor Swift.
I do think today's America consumes a form of pop that is more gossip-focused than it was in the past, but I don't fault our generation for that. I think that's been a transition underway since the 80s and early 90s when things like reality TV got going. (And most of us were kids then!) Also, unlike pop culture of the past, today's pop culture is broadcast through a global megaphone thanks to the internet. We're not waiting for issues of Teen Beat in the mail, or going to the record store to buy our favorite pop star's new LP. There's immediate access to pop in real time, and that's something very new in the grand scheme of things, and it definitely gives an unprecedented weight to these more trendy stories.
In terms of literature and art, my feeling is that art is something that crosses all generational boundaries. You can be 10 years old and be in love with the new David Mamet play, or 100 years old and be in love with the new David Mamet play. That's the beauty of art. I do think that technology sometimes distracts us (all of us, not just millennials) from appreciating art. You can't enjoy a play with your phone on vibrate in your pocket, or really get immersed in a new novel on your iPad if you get an email notification while reading. I think balancing technology and life is still something we're trying to figure out.
JH: When you think about the term “culture,” what does that mean for you? What types of subjects are you hoping to cover on the PolicyMic culture page?
Culture is a vast, vast term. To me it encompasses everything from that amazing new indie album, to last night's must see show, to the newest food fad, to lifestyle choices. My hope for PolicyMic's community is that it becomes a space that people our age want to go to to share their perspective on the art world and a space they know they can turn to read about issues and events that matter to our generation. I want this to be a platform for news and thoughtful discussion by millennials and for millennials on everything from literature and music, to visual arts, to pop culture and trends. Thanks to the awesome people who have been contributing ideas and stories to the community, I know we will meet all these goals and more. "To infinity and beyond," to quote a millennial classic.
JH: Be honest: Everyone has a trashy TV show that they watch every now and again. What’s yours?
My friends mock my TV show choices because I seemingly never got over that whole Dawson's Creek phase of life. I love those teen-targeted dramas ... Revenge, Pretty Little Liars. I should have written my thesis about the evolution of the teen girl on the boob tube. If it was conceived by the powers that be at the CW or ABC Family, I've probably watched it. In fact, I probably own the box set.
JH: What’s the most important thing you learned while living and traveling abroad to Thailand? What do you think your Thai friends learned most about America from you?
I lived in Thailand for two and a half years right after graduating from college ... and it was awesome. I think the single most important thing I learned while away is that I'm way more capable and independent than I thought I was. I left that experience thinking that no matter what happens, and no matter what bizarro situation I'm thrown into, I'll figure it out and make it work. If I can move to a country where I don't know anyone, don't speak the language, don't have an apartment, and be totally fine ... then everything else seems a little more manageable. I also learned that the smaller the pepper, the spicier the pepper. Don't be fooled. And no, that wasn't a euphemism.
And what did they learn from me? I hope I squashed a few stereotypes: Not all Americans are loud (or obese). I also hope I did my part to quell that pesky little rumor that Americans don't travel.
JH: Biggest celebrity crush?
How long do you have? Colin Firth, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Ryan Gosling (specifically in Crazy, Stupid, Love) ... the list goes on. Also my first crush ever was Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Love Marty McFly.
JH: True or false: PolicyMic’s culture section will soon be larger than our politics coverage.
True! You better believe it baby.
JH: When you're not PolicyMic'ing, where can people find you?
Hopefully in a place like this:
Sometimes driving around like this ...
But we live in New York, so my life very often looks like this:
JH: Last but not least, how can someone interested in culture write for you?!
They should send me an e-mail at email@example.com. Shoot me an e-mail and give me a sense of what you're interests are, and we can get to chatting. I'd love to hear from potential writers. Join the team!