Jill at Feministe wrote a great piece about the inanity of “trend” journalism as practice by the New York Times. These are, basically, those stories that take anecdotes and small (or non-existent) pieces of evidence to make cultural generalizations (many of them seeming to boil down to how hard it is for women to find husbands because of X possibly-non-existent trend).

There are many angles from which to attack this methodology,* which is hardly limited to The New York Times. Maybe we just like to think that a “serious” newspaper should know better?) Anyway, Jill takes the position that, “Clearly, most of their contributors are just writing about their own friends in small-ish New York media circles that revolve around the Upper West Side, the Village and Brownstone Brooklyn,” then asks “What stupid, insular things do you observe within your social group that should grace the pages of the New York Times?”

When I tweeted this link, my Twitter pal Christine, joked about being a trend-story cliche due to her cat ownership. Christine happens to run a blog devoted to Daredevil comics),I replied: “Women who blog about Daredevil: Are they sublimating their desire to have children and then become nuns and abandon them?”*

This is silly, of course, but it’s also interesting to think about. Because the things is, if you look at us close enough, we’re all unique. But as you start peeling away levels of generality, we look more and more alike. This is what makes those Area Man stories on The Onion: they’re based on taking behavior patterns that are actually very very common and treating them as though they are the properties of unique individuals. Turn those jokes on their heads, and you realize why trend stories are so inane. Finding the right balance between the general and the specific is essential to all kinds of writing. Often, it’s the line between stories that are insightful and those that are merely ridiculous.

But that’s not the important thing here. The important thing is: If you were a trend, what trend would you be? I’ll start, pre-emptively, with myself: “Women who are always going on about how they like twangy Southern rock AND superhero comics AND Shakespeare’s history plays: what are they trying to prove?”

*This could have been a much longer post except I had to fit it in between watching the DVR’ed Vampire Diaries and heading out to my book club holiday party. So just trust me that I could go on about stupid trend journalism for a very long time. Read this article by pop-culture goddess Linda Holmes for just one example.

** For those who aren’t Daredevil fans, yes, this is an actual thing that happened in the comics.

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