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A Pop Culture Shock After the Trip of a Lifetime

    • 1166 posts
    October 7, 2019 2:41 AM EDT
    I can’t remember what country I was flying over, or even what month it
    was, just that the “Mamma Mia!” sequel, “Here We Go Again,” was playing
    on the back of the airplane seat in front of me and I was sobbing like I
    had never sobbed before.To get more culture shock news, you can visit shine news official website.



    One survey shows that even 41 percent of men will tear up at 10,000
    feet. It has to do with the air pressure, dehydration, the stress of
    being herded like cattle, and the bloody marys we down to get through it
    all. I’d certainly done my fair share of crying on planes, as The New
    York Times’s first 52 Places Traveler, charged with the incredible and
    often body-punishing task of reporting on all those destinations while
    traveling solo around the world for a year.



    This was a different kind of cry, though. It was a movie cry, induced by
    that magical alchemy of Abba songs and a plotline that reminded me of
    my own quite alive, free-spirited mother whom I hadn’t seen in months
    and missed very much. Pop culture tends to reflect us back onto
    ourselves, and crammed into my tiny economy-class corner of that plane,
    watching two generations of actresses sing about finding inner strength
    while abroad, it may have been the first time I felt truly homesick. I
    missed my friends and my family, sure, but I also missed this, the
    cleansing power of getting swept up in the emotion of something I was
    watching or hearing — much to the discomfort of my seatmates.



    Before 52 Places, I had spent more than a decade as a culture writer for
    New York magazine. Of all the things I was leaving to embark on this
    experience of a lifetime — my loved ones, my job, my apartment — pop
    culture felt like the one link to home I could carry around in my pocket
    and rely on to keep me company when everyone I knew was asleep in a
    different time zone. Then as the trip went on, I got busy, the
    relationship grew distant. This essential pillar of my life began to
    crumble.

    MOVIES ARE MY COMFORT FOOD, and have been since I was 8 and my parents
    gave me my first memorable Christmas gift: a VHS tape of “Singin’ in the
    Rain,” which I watched on repeat for the next five years. As an
    isolated teenager in New Mexico, all I had to do was drive half an hour
    to the abundance of movie theaters around Santa Fe to visit other
    countries and lives. And as an adult, pop culture wasn’t something I
    consumed casually. I breathed it, partly because my job required it and
    partly because I loved being in the know. TV shows I’d missed the night
    before, I’d stream on Hulu over breakfast. Podcasts got me through my
    morning subway commute. Daytimes, I’d be reporting on something I’d
    seen. Evening brought more movie-viewing and conversations with friends
    about the entertainment-industry tissue that connected us all.



    In lieu of that, I had an iPad, iPod and iPhone prepped with enough
    downloads to get me through 2020. What if I found myself on consecutive
    five-hour flights with nothing to entertain me? How else would I make my
    way through a hundred dinners alone in unfamiliar cities?



    I was armoring myself with the familiar, in my native language — movies,
    music, TV shows, books — to ward off my fears of everything new and
    scary. After an exhausting day of speaking Spanish in Costa Rica, I
    could unwind with an episode of “Orange Is the New Black.” Stuck in the
    limbo of a logistical snag? That was just the right amount of time to
    indulge in a rom-com on Netflix, or text with my friends back home about
    that rom-com on Netflix.



    Then, on the first plane ride of my trip, from New York to New Orleans, I
    was too nervous and excited to look at my iPad. More plane and train
    and bus and car rides went by, and the iPad stayed in the bag, as I
    slept, or worked, or watched incredible scenery. Soon it became dead
    weight, an annoyance that only left my bag at airport security checks. I
    barely noticed when I forgot it in a Denver hotel room; then, five
    months in, I left it at a friend’s house in Los Angeles and never missed
    it.



    That worry of being bored never came up again. Culture was all around
    me. I went to more museums that I had in five years. (Astrup Fearnley
    Museet in Oslo and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver were highlights).
    I never heard Ariana Grande’s song thanking her exes, but I can say
    definitively that “Despacito” was the most popular song on the planet in
    2018. There are talented street musicians everywhere from Belgrade,
    Serbia, to La Paz, Bolivia, who can play it ably on everything from
    accordions to trumpets.

    It wasn’t until old friends started tweeting out their Top 10 lists for
    the year that I realized I’d seen only six movies, all on planes or
    Netflix: “Mamma Mia 2,” “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” “Set It Up,”
    that one where the Rock goes “Die Hard” on a skyscraper, and two Netflix
    Christmas movies.



    They’d been delightful, but the real treat came this January on the
    plane back from Taiwan to the United States at the end of my 52 Places
    trip, when “Crazy Rich Asians” popped up on my seatback screen. It was
    just over six months since it came out and I squealed with excitement to
    the nice Chinese girl sitting next to me. She didn’t speak much
    English, but she nodded, smiling, and turned on a Chinese-language soap
    opera for herself.



    For months, I’d been devouring Twitter threads and think pieces about
    the impact of “Crazy Rich Asians.” I’d followed along as three Korean
    friends from New York magazine tweeted about seeing it together, and
    weeping, for the third time. Over the years I’d written about the lack
    of realistic Asian representation in American pop culture because I’d
    felt it, too. A history teacher saying “ching-chong-chong” and slanting
    his eyes while teaching my class about China in middle school. Asian men
    like my dad being used as the butt of sexual jokes.



    So much of coming home after a profound experience like a long trip,
    especially one taken alone, is reckoning with how much you’ve changed
    and how much everything you left behind has stayed the same. But while I
    was gone, Hollywood had changed.



    I watched the penultimate scene three times: Hollywood’s new star, Henry
    Golding, rushes onto an airplane to get back the girl (a radiant
    Constance Wu), in a clichéd moment straight out of a dozen rom-coms. It
    didn’t feel clichéd or over the top. I’d just come from two months of
    tasting the richness of Asian cultures in India, Bhutan, Japan, China,
    South Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, and that scene felt right,
    like it had a place in the world I’d been fortunate enough to see over
    the last year. And then I watched the whole movie over again.