I don’t know if it’s the political climate, the mainstreaming of the internet or what but based on totally random anecdotal evidence there appears to be a distressing movement toward commenters labeling people they don’t agree with as being elistist or snobby, and getting mighty angry over it.
There have always been rich people and poor people with most of us falling somewhere in between. Then there are those who like keeping it real and those who view nice expensive things as status symbols. Some of the worst offenders in the latter group happen to be the poorest, which I’ve never understood but each to their own. I grew up blue collar (now kind of pink collar, you know, those low-paying lady-dominated fields that require advanced education: teachers, nurses, librarians, social workers. Depressingly, Wikipedia considers pink collar to be more like nannies, maids, waitresses, receptionists, hairdressers, flight attendants, and yep, librarians. Which one requires a master's degree?) a good majority of my clothing is from Target and Old Navy, I own no expensive gadgets (I do covet iPhones a bit but can’t justify the monthly bill) but I will spend money on high end restaurants and travel because I like them. Having high standards or expensive taste doesn’t necessarily make one a snob, though it certainly could. But watch out if you have high standards and have a sarcastic sense of humor—so un-American you may as well go hump the Taliban.
I was kind of baffled yesterday when I received a comment in regard to Carrabba’s, yes, Carrabba’s, “WOW…you might be the snobbiest restaurant reviewer ever. Congrats.” A. this person either doesn’t read much or at the least has never read a restaurant review without the phrases, “to die for” and “melts in your mouth” and B. thinks that all those unpretentious professional reviewers would eat at a Carrabba’s. I would hazard to guess that this individual Googling “tuscan tomato salad carrabba's” doesn’t live in NYC, but then that would be snobby. Picking on middle America makes no one look good as you’ll see in a minute.
Ok, I’m already veering off topic, which is why this is a blog post and not a polished essay. The other night I got sucked into watching a new show, Confessions of a Travel Writer. It followed a handful of writers on a press trip to Chile (Chile is way into self-promotion—even I got invited to a luncheon celebrating the flavors of the country not so long ago). This was fascinating because I always thought press trips made you “dirty” and that prestigious publications like the New York Times wouldn’t let you write for them if you’d ever accepted one, which means many travel writers with high profile clips are already wealthy and can afford to fly all over the world staying in luxurious accommodations (who’s the snob?), have a sweet rare deal where expenses are paid, or live in the regions they write about.
The host, Charles Runnette (who surprised me with NY Times bylines until I noticed he writes for the T Style Magazine not the travel section, two very different beasts) was funny, smartassy and kind of smarmy and world weary but ultimately likeable. He’s someone who’d be fun to hang out with, though you’d always suspect he was talking about you the second you left the room. All in good humor, though, not genuinely malicious.
Which is why I couldn’t believe the vitriolic comments generated from an interview with him on World Hum. I cannot link to them individually so I’ll choose highlights.
“i actually felt compelled to get on the travel channel website and complain about this show. this guy is such a pretentious, whiny jerk. seems like the other people who felt it necessary to comment agree. however, i can totally relate with him about the annoying girl taking too many pictures and mouthing off—she has got to go. anyway, let me guess—he is from either coast, some top 50 lib arts school, upper middle class childhood? what a waste of a great show idea.” –V
“You Travel to tell people to go some where not to be a class A jerk. This man show is one of the worst travel shows ever. He so about his two mags he writes for, witch is one on a crappy airline and the other one is what? Who cares! He’s not about traveling for the real man. The rich are not the only people that traveling these days. Write for real people not your 1% jack asses! We all travel now. Stop being a high class ass! It’s a big turn off. And so fare what he has shown me has turned me off! he can go to Haven and make me not want to go to it!” — Jeanne
Ooh, classism. Only the perky or salt of the earth should be on travel shows. More Samantha Brown and Rick Steves, please. Does a preference for mainstream grammar and spelling make one a snob, too?
“How did this guy get his own travel show? With a great, big, exciting world out there just waiting to be discovered, The Travel Channel picks some pretentious, unappreciative spoiled little girl. I love the concept of this show, but watching this guy for 5 mins ensured I will never watch this show again. BTW… hey Charles! It wasn’t an accident that you got the worst room out of the whole group :)” –TKO
One of many commenters calling Runnette a “girl” as an insult. Snobbery=bad, homophobia/sexism=good.
It’s also interesting that the commenters hold him up to Bourdain who they love. He too is a snarky, wealthy, East Coast liberal but one who plays everyman. My mom hates him because she thinks he’s arrogant. She also hates Rachel Ray, though. She kind of doesn’t like anyone now that I think about it; there’s no doubt where I got my personality.
Then we move to this week’s snobbery that’s hard to defend. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard about the Critical Shopper debacle of 2009?!
Cintra Wilson is a sharp, funny writer, very alt-mag ‘90s girl makes good (as opposed to Amy Sohn, the less said about the better). She also happens to think the new JCPenney is for fat people, which she is not at a size 2, thank you very much, and even the mannequins are obese (I’d actually like to see that).
“It took me a long time to find a size 2 among the racks. There are, however, abundant size 10’s, 12’s and 16’s. The dressing rooms are big, clean and well tended. I tried two fairly cute items: a modified domino-print swing dress with padded shoulders by American Living (a Ralph Lauren line created for Penney’s) and a long psychedelic muumuu of a style generally worn by Rachel Zoe. Each was around $80; each fit nicely and looked good. I didn’t buy either because I can do better for $80, but if I were a size 18, I’d have rejoiced.
My only question is what about those poor 14’s?
“It has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on. It’s like a headless wax museum devoted entirely to the cast of ‘Roseanne.’
She does temper her words further on but it’s too late. Damage is already done.
“This niche has been almost wholly neglected on our snobby, self-obsessed little island. New York boutiques tend to cater to the stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorph. But there are many more body types who vote with their hard-earned dollars, who appreciate a clean new space in Midtown to buy affordable clothes in hard-to-find sizes, as well as attentive service from attitude-free professionals.
As a size 12 diabetic I should probably be more offended. However, it’s the freaking style section, not Good Housekeeping. What do people expect from a paper who assumes their audience owns two homes and thinks male potbellies are a fashion statement? You can choose to read it or not and not everything is meant to be taken personally. Do I think all of America is mediocre because I believe Carrabba’s serves middling Italian food? Well, I’ll get back to you on that one…
My only cry of elitism is the New York Times not allowing comments for this column. All those blubbery fat fingers attached to pudgy limbs constricted by poly-blends must be dying to pound out retorts. You can read some outrage at New York, if you feel the urge.