Airpods: the new pop culture war

This one’s about pop culture feuds. Scratch that. This one’s about pop culture wars. In the 60s, it was the Beatles vs. the Stones. In the 80s, Lakers vs. Celtics. The 90s had one with the most tragic ending, Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac Shakur. There were other feuds during this time, but those were schoolyard scuffles. These were the Big Ones – the feuds that spilled over from recess and got you dirty looks in the lunch line. These were epic cultural boxing matches, half of America at each side of the ring raising the middle finger and yelling obscenities at the other. These wars transcended the medium they took place in, representing the epitome of American culture. It wasn’t just Beatles vs. Stones. It wasn’t just Lakers vs. Celtics. It was Good vs. Evil. Strong vs. Smart. Ugly vs. Beautiful. The Unstoppable Force vs. The Immovable Object.

2019 marks the beginning of the end of our current cultural arm-wrestling match.

(Quick note before we get into it, I’m not writing about political feuds. If I was, I doubt they’d publish what I’d say in a college newspaper).

This is about a pop culture war. More specifically, it’s about the pop culture war we’re in now: Android vs. Apple.

In the high-octane era of the 80s, basketball was the perfect representation of America. In the experimental and groundbreaking 60s, rock musicians were the contenders. Android vs. Apple is the perfect fight for the postmodern age, two corporations trying to put themselves into the hand of every single person on Earth. I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly a fair fight. If I was talking about this war in a global context, it wouldn’t be a fair fight on Apple’s side, as Android sells many more models than Apple globally. However, in the context of college-aged Americans, Apple has a very distinct cool advantage over Android. There’s no real reason for this other than Apple has a great marketing team and has a marginally better camera and display graphics, but the effect can be felt throughout the ethos. If you’re an Android owner like me, go up to any of your friends and ask them if they’d switch to Android. They’ll laugh. If you’re an owner of an Apple, you’re laughing right now. It’s this loyalty to the tribe that turns feuds into wars.

Unlike actual wars, pop culture wars are often influenced by really minute moments or objects. For example, we don’t usually debate the specifications of phone processors or which company steals and then sells the least consumer data. We talk about iMessage. Why do blue bubbles have so much more social currency than green bubbles? This isn’t to make it seem like I’m above it. I just don’t understand it. I have an Android now, but when I had an iPhone, there was something about those green texts that just felt… ugly. If the colors of iPhone text bubbles could talk, iMessage blue would be elegant and sweet, like a character from Pride and Prejudice, and green would be your little cousin who doesn’t know he’s always shouting and is blissfully unaware of the line of snot running down his cheek. I’m genuinely impressed that Apple socialized me into hating the color green. If Apple could convince me that the color green was bad, surely they’re savvy enough to win this war.

Then, inexplicably, the tide shifted. Only this time, it didn’t seem to be going in Apple’s favor.

What marked this shift? AirPods.

Maybe ending isn’t the right word, but AirPods are surely a sign of a splintering in the pop culture war. To most Android users, AirPods are just another strange thing Apple did, like when they got rid of the headphone jack. The most outspoken critics, the ones on the frontline of the resistance to the wireless ivory earpods are the AirPod-less Apple users. The AirPod struggle is a class one in the Appleverse. It isn’t that AirPod owners are the bourgeoisie. It’s that AirPod owners know they’re bourgeoise.

This self-awareness destroys the cool aesthetic that Apple marketing executives have carefully created since Steve Jobs created the company. iPhones are cool, and it’s cool to be cool, but it isn’t cool to try to be cool, and that’s what AirPods represent.

So how do AirPods factor into Android vs. Apple? Because it isn’t Apple vs. Android anymore, it’s AirPod Apple vs. AirPodless Apple, with Android eating a box of popcorn on the sideline, watching the feud unfold. When one of the sides is fighting itself, the war can’t represent everything in America anymore.

That being said, there isn’t any real end to this war. Maybe it’s better to say that there’s no real winner. That’s what makes pop culture wars great. They burn brightly and then fade into obscurity, replaced by a new fascination, two new contenders in the ring. Until two new contenders come, let’s just enjoy the rhythm of the drums of this war, because we sure know AirPod users can’t hear them.


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