For a guy who shovels all sorts of information into his brain, hoping some of the better stuff will stick, I can occasionally be very particular about what I don’t want crossing my eyes and ears and somehow lodging itself in my long-term memory. I don’t need to see certain horror films, say, or grainy beheadings at the hands of monsters. Sometimes it’s to spare my sanity, others my stomach. Sometimes I just don’t think a certain piece of information deserves a place in my head.
Enter the Jonas Brothers.
I’m surprised how well I’ve done avoiding these kids. Most of it is unintentional, thankfully -– I’ve aged out of their target demographic. They’re not on the TV shows I watch, in the books I read, and seldom on the websites I flip through.
What started as a convenient litmus marker –- I can define myself by what I don’t know about the Jonas Brothers –- became an unexpected (and petty) source of pride. My accidental evasion of their self-promotion gave way to a puff-chested renunciation of them and their hype, as their hype symbolizes the Hype of Something You’re Supposed To Listen To If You’re Young and Want to Fit In. A smaller moral victory has yet to be recorded on this earth.
The clearest way for me to remain at a cool remove from all this, to ensure my place outside their kingdom, was merely to remain ignorant of their first names, specifically the third one’s name. I was sorry to think I picked up the name “Joe” at one point, and “Nick” at another, though I was content not to be sure of either. Not knowing the remaining name presented me with a paradox that a nerdy control freak and pop culture enthusiast like me is generally unfamiliar with: I was gleeful not to know this bit of trivia.
I didn’t think it would be hurtful or embarrassing not to know. However big the Jonases are now, they’re not the Beatles, whose whole was comparable to its individual parts, whose first names also crossed so many boundaries and really were world-famous. Neither would it be awkward for me not to know: I once had an engaging philosophy professor who, when the title popped up in class, didn’t know what The Matrix was. And this is not me being cute, all “What is the Matrix?” philosophy professor ha-ha-ha –- no, the movie had simply not entered her world in the two years since its release. I’m not judging, I’m only saying that the situation, when this came up, was awkward.
Now, I have also been known to shy away from similar cinematic information when it comes to trailers for movies that I’m sure I’m going to see: I didn’t need my appetite whetted for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was going to see that movie, no matter what. It was fated from before my conception. Our paths would eventually and necessarily cross. All that was yet to be revealed in this material world was the lucky theater that would get my money.
This avoidance of trailers is partly to do with the fact that nowadays the entire movie is given away– I’m not ruining it by saying Frost/Nixon hinges on five seconds of material – you know which ones – and being so informed by the advertising deflated in me more than half of the tension the rest of the movie took the time to build. That’s a particular kind of blissful ignorance. It’s certainly neurotic, but I’ll argue there’s a nobility there, too — a sign of respect to the filmmakers and a bump of the wrists to the marketers who sacrifice so much of the product for their own sake.
The ignorance is useful, then, but it naturally runs its course: I avoid the movie until I see it. I remain in the dark long enough for the waiting light to seem at its brightest.
My Jonas Brothers project is the dark side of that coin, ignorance first for the sake of ignorance, blossoming into other signs of a hardening heart. I’m getting crotchety. It is on this tiny soapbox that I make my stand, apparently on one foot–
Or, it was.
The streak is over. Ended two days ago. Entertainment Weekly. Turned right to it, actually. Big spread. Like the laughing dog in Duck Hunt, there, in big bold letters, was the third name, once relegated to the ether like the tenor that wasn’t Pavarotti or Domingo. Now this given name is branded on my hippocampus and elsewhere in my brain, perhaps near Larry’s other brother Darryl and the Santa Maria. I can’t bear to share it with you and risk paying this misery forward.
I don’t know. Maybe my curiosity won out. Maybe I did really want to know. Maybe I just didn’t want to expend energy in ignoring it further. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.