Academic Alan McKee is an unapologetic fan of pop culture, listing Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and gay porn as favourite interests.
But McKee, associate professor in film and television at Queensland University of Technology, is annoyed: many of his colleagues dismiss popular culture as an intellectual irrelevance.
I’m an academic and I get pissed off with academics, McKee says.
People who are connoisseurs of some popular culture put a lot of intellectual effort into knowing about it and understanding it.
I’ve got a wonderful friend down in Sydney who knows the length of every single remix of every single Kylie Minogue track down to the second.
I wanted to write a book that would break down that false binary between popular culture and high culture.
The result is Beautiful Things In Popular Culture, edited by McKee and featuring 13 essays by cultural commentators. The book has definite camp appeal as it examines everything from Kylie to cult television series Xena: Warrior Princess, and the website cruisingforsex.com.
Certainly, through the concept of camp, gay men have always had a strong connection with trashy popular culture, McKee says.
And a lot of gay men in the university system have a healthy disrespect that means they don’t take the art stuff so seriously. A lot of us are a bit more bitchy and funny.
But Beautiful Things In Popular Culture also has a serious message, as the author of the chapter on cruisingforsex.com, sociologist Mark McLelland, points out.
He believes authorities should celebrate public cruising spaces for their ability to unite people from all walks of life.
There should be legitimately recognised spaces [for public sex], McLelland says.
To legislate against them and get rid of them completely -¦ is to seriously impoverish an aspect of an urban culture.
McKee hopes the book reaches intelligent people -“ which may or may not be people with a university education.
By reading the book you do get a sense of how colourful and exciting and jumbled the world is.
Beautiful Things In Popular Culture is published by Blackwell Publishing. Alan McKee will launch the book with writer Emma Tom at the Colombian, 117 Oxford St, on 31 October from 7pm. RSVP on firstname.lastname@example.org.