lesismore9o9, May 7, 2009 (view all comments by lesismore9o9)
I have used the expression “God I’m white” many times over my life, typically whenever I try to dance, jokingly rap or act as if I know what I am talking about in an urban setting. Beyond the obvious pigmentation reason for saying so, it tends to be a useful expression for a lack of poise in social settings and a taste for things that lack risk, implying a mainstream quality that goes along with being pale.
But while I always knew I was white, I never realized just how white until taking a good look at Stuff White People Like. Started by Christian Lander in January of 2008, the site is an ethnographic satire of the light-skinned, pointing out how “shockingly predictable” they are in their love of organic food and living by the water. Lander has now made the rare leap from blog to print, producing a book of the same name and good-natured sardonic focus.
“Stuff White People Like” is exactly what it says on the cover: a guide to the preferences of left-leaning semi-affluent to affluent Caucasians of the type usually classified as yuppies or hipsters. There are 150 entries on this group’s various interests in dining, hobbies and social situations, written in an academic tone that “teaches” the reader why they like the things they do and the best way to communicate with them in a social setting.
The idea holding the book together is that while white people are loudly opposed to the mainstream and like to feel they are unique, most of them tend to like the same things for the same shallow reasons. They read The New Yorker because it makes them sound informed, support recycling because it “saves the planet” with no effort on their part and threaten to move to Canada the first time things get rough. Lander lists these and more, offering up everything trendy and poking fun in perfectly deadpan tone.
So is this a book worth owning? Well, that depends on two criteria, the first being if you think the joke is funny. I personally do, but that could be because I was able to count 83 of the listed items as things I like and Lander’s description is uncomfortably close to the truth about why I like them. It’s certainly a joke that depends on the maxim “it’s funny because it’s true,” so if you have these preferences or know people who do it’s easy to appreciate.
(Personal acknowledgment: Being a resident of Portland, Oregon, it was hard not to be amused by its place on the list and its entirely appropriate classification as “a ‘Lord of the Flies’ scenario … whereby a homogenous group of people is left in an area with no one to keep them in check … but there is a strong likelihood that the city will have mass riots and murder when the local grocery store co-op runs out of organic salmon.”)
The concept has earned criticism for being racist – mostly in indignant comments posted to the blog – but not a single one of the entries qualifies as such. It’s void of malicious intent or smears, guilty only of bursting the bubble of smugness white people have in thinking they are better for enjoying these things. It does caution against associating with the “wrong kind” of white person, but the difference is based on such trivial things (Dane Cook and faux vintage shirts) it can’t be taken as offensive.
The second criteria of owning the book is if you are willing to pay for something where much of the content is already free online. The first half of the book is printed verbatim from the blog entries, discussing the more traditional interests of coffee and marijuana and home renovations. It doesn’t hurt in terms of content (considering how amusing the original entries were), but does have a degree of repetition.
To his credit, Lander does include a considerable amount of new content beyond entries, making use of the book format to include charts and tables for how white people make decisions. There is a timeline of gentrification from indie coffee shop to Whole Foods, a blueprint for dinner party autobiographies and how to name children based on whether or not you studied abroad. Particularly clever are checklists on the bookshelves/DVD racks/iPod playlists of white people, as well as appropriate comments to make them feel assured in their choice of edgy yet socially acceptable media.
If you meet these criteria, then “Stuff White People Like” is worth your time – it’s a fine ribbing at a group that could use some mockery, and has the benefit of also being very cleverly written. At the very least it will be a perfect set piece on your coffee table during your dinner party, where over microbrews and cheese you can enjoy your willingness to laugh at yourself prior to a Wes Anderson film viewing.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
Freya_221, August 23, 2008 (view all comments by Freya_221)
Hm ... This may be awfully white of me, but -- what are we doing when we laugh at this stuff? If the ethnicity at issue was any group other than 'white' , would it still seem like a friendly joke?
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (16 of 40 readers found this comment helpful)
Mariah, August 5, 2008 (view all comments by Mariah)
Well I obviously don't know enough white people. I don't have TV, but think I've only met one other person who doesn't. I would LOVE to meet more folks that don't 'do' TV!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (13 of 38 readers found this comment helpful)
kaahumanu, July 25, 2008 (view all comments by kaahumanu)
This is a very funny, fast read. At the end of the book, is a test you can take to see how white you are. I'm white (but I only scored 30% white), just not the right kind of white. If you like outdoor activities, expensive sandwiches, $800 strollers, study abroad, living near water, etc, you are the right kind of white.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (11 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)
Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Random House Trade -
by Ann E.,
Have you ever wondered what white people are all about? From modern furniture to Oscar parties to self-deprecating humor, hardwood floors, irony, and knowing what's best for poor people, the white race is finally demystified thanks to Christian Lander's handy field guide, based on his popular blog of the same name. Stuff White People Like will make you laugh and it'll make you cry and it'll have you pondering how you ever got by without it, much like the films of Michel Gondry or Wes Anderson — just ask a white person.
by Ann E.
Have you ever wondered what white people are all about? From modern furniture to Oscar parties to self-deprecating humor, hardwood floors, irony, and knowing what's best for poor people, the white race is finally demystified thanks to Christian Lander's handy field guide, based on his popular blog of the same name. Stuff White People Like will make you laugh and it'll make you cry and it'll have you pondering how you ever got by without it, much like the films of Michel Gondry or Wes Anderson just ask a white person.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"From the blog sensation of the same name comes a collection of brief, funny, occasionally biting profiles of things supposedly beloved by upper-middle class white people. Lifted from the Web and dressed up with a few quizzes and flowcharts, Lander's material should provoke minor controversy, mostly as to whether the concept is reflexively funny or covertly racist; there's an exclusive aura to entries on modern art, documentary films and indie rock, intimating that most of what's considered high culture is based in white people's idiosyncrasies. Much of the humor, though, is pure silliness, poking fun at white people's preferred eating habits (Whole Foods, premium juice, expensive sandwiches and 'cleanses'), family lives ('Having Two Last Names,' 'Hating Their Parents,' divorce) and causes (vegetarianism, recycling, 'Knowing What's Best for Poor People,' 'Making You Feel Bad for Not Going Outside'). The book flirts briefly with political satire, such as the hilariously succinct entry on Barack Obama, but the stuff Lander likes most are easy targets; as funny as some of the entries may be in a covertly forwarded email, most fall curiously flat on the page." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by New York Post,
"Sure to bring a knowing smile to those of the Caucasian persuasion, and those whose best friends may be white....Stuff white [people] might like? This book."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Filled with bons mots....A snarky bit of grass-roots anthropology."
"The author of Stuff White People Like skewers the sacred cows of lefty Caucasian culture, from the Prius to David Sedaris....It's like an extended 'you might be a redneck if' joke recast for a more upscale set."
by The New York Daily News,
"A handy reference guide with which you can check just how white you are. Hint: If you like only documentaries and think your child is gifted, you glow in the dark, buddy."
The Preppy Handbook meets PostSecret, in this cultural manifesto for a new generation. Lander and his blog stuffwhitepeoplelike.com have already been profiled by NPR and The Los Angeles Times, adding to the success of the Internet phenomenon.
They love nothing better than sipping free-trade gourmet coffee, leafing through the Sunday New York Times, and listening to David Sedaris on NPR (ideally all at the same time). Apple products, indie music, food co-ops, and vintage T-shirts make them weak in the knees.
They believe theyre unique, yet somehow theyre all exactly the same, talking about how they “get” Sarah Silvermans “subversive” comedy and Wes Andersons “droll” films. Theyre also down with diversity and up on all the best microbrews, breakfast spots, foreign cinema, and authentic sushi. Theyre organic, ironic, and do not own TVs.
You know who they are: Theyre white people. And theyre here, and youre gonna have to deal. Fortunately, heres a book that investigates, explains, and offers advice for finding social success with the Caucasian persuasion. So kick back on your IKEA couch and lose yourself in the ultimate guide to the unbearable whiteness of being.
Praise for STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE:
“The best of a hilarious Web site: an uncannily accurate catalog of dead-on predilections. The Criterion Collection of classic films? Haircuts with bangs? Expensive fruit juice? ‘Blonde on Blonde on the iPod? The author knows who reads The New Yorker and who wears plaid.”
-Janet Maslins summer picks, CBS.com
“The author of "Stuff White People Like" skewers the sacred cows of lefty Caucasian culture, from the Prius to David Sedaris. . . . It gently mocks the habits and pretensions of urbane, educated, left-leaning whites, skewering their passion for Barack Obama and public transportation (as long as it's not a bus), their idle threats to move to Canada, and joy in playing children's games as adults. Kickball, anyone?”
“A handy reference guide with which you can check just how white you are. Hint: If you like only documentaries and think your child is gifted, you glow in the dark, buddy.”
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.