How can I become cultured?
Culture is the combination of art and intellectual advancements that make up our civilization. Therefore, to be a functioning member of society, one must immerse oneself in the art, literature, and knowledge that the world has to offer. By doing so, one subsequently becomes a perpetuator of great culture and quite possibly a creator of new world culture.
But really—you just want to seem cooler to your friends and have something interesting to mention at a college interview, right?
Well, we all know that culture pretty much encompasses everything going on in society, right down to the very last Buzzfeed quiz. But being cultured means immersing yourself in the right kind of culture. The road to becoming cultured involves lots of reading, watching, and listening, but only to mind-opening, artsy, groundbreaking things that will expand your horizons.
Here are a few simple steps that, if followed diligently, will greatly increase your level of apparent awareness and give you something to talk about with that one kid you know who always wears a beret:
Read the right books.
You should start by reading the classics. Pick up some of those books at Barnes & Noble that are displayed at the front with the fancy embossed leather covers. And once you bring home a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, actually read them. And not like the time you totally read that thousand-page novel in English class.
Once you have read a whole shelf of classics, you can dip your toes into the realm of contemporary literature. One of the best ways to pick contemporary novels is to follow word-of-mouth trends—just make sure the words are not from the mouths of pre-pubescent children raving about the latest dystopian novel in which a girl has to make earth-shattering decisions that will affect the future of her society, such as choosing which boy she likes. Pick your books from lists in The New Yorker, or leaf through whatever that guy wearing the thin-rimmed glasses and plaid scarf is reading on his Kindle at Starbucks.
Also, be able to connect any given moment in your life to a Jack Kerouac novel. (Alternatively, carry any one of his books around in your back pocket at all times for reference.)
Watch the right films.
From this bullet point on, you will refer to all movies as “films.” Cultured people wouldn’t be caught dead seeing a movie; they see “films.” And they do so at a cinema, or better yet, at an art house theatre.
Once again, it’s good to watch the classics. If a movie is in black and white, watch it. In addition, if a film was shot in black and white significantly after color film became widespread and cheap, it is automatically art and should already be in your Netflix queue.
For contemporary films that aren’t in black and white, you should either watch the big Oscar winners or obscure indie films. In other words, the films you watch should either have the largest budget possible or the smallest. Anything in between is fit only for the rest of the masses.
A huge part of being cultured, in regard to film, is knowing the names and biographies of the people behind the films that you watch. Do your research beforehand! It’s good to have a favorite actor, but more importantly, to have a favorite director, writer, and cinematographer. The most cultured individual can list their favorite gaffers without hesitation.
Above all, don’t be that kid who says Garfield: Tale of Two Kitties is his favorite movie.
Go to the right theatre.
Theatre is simple. Only see plays, no musicals, and only watch them in black box theatres. Make sure there are no props, make sure there is no set, make sure that the entire cast is clad in black turtlenecks, and make sure that it is either entirely motionless dialogue or entirely interpretive dance.
Point your face at the right art.
Be that person who goes to MOMA and stares at the same white canvas with a single red dot for hours (it sounds boring, but you have to see it to appreciate it). Afterward, say something cryptic and/or profound and disappear into a cloud of smoke.
Once you have exposed yourself to all of this art, it is important to judge what you have seen. According to the WikiHow article on how to be cultured, a huge part of being cultured is being a critic. You must always evaluate the things you have been exposed to. Decide whether it is good or bad. Even if you are still learning how to be cultured, it is important to judge everything you see, even if you have no frame of reference. Once you have determined the quality, you should gush about it or publicly ridicule it (and shoehorn the word “derivative” in there). Critique the plot, characters, and setting, and don’t forget to mention the soundtrack, pacing, and lighting. Most importantly, only gush about the films, books, plays, and art that you have already confirmed to be critic-approved. There is nothing more embarrassing than liking something that is not in fact, a “good” piece of culture. However, it is perfectly acceptable for you to dislike what the cultured people have already deemed “brilliant.” Even if you don’t like Jean-Luc Godard, you are automatically cultured for knowing who he is. You get an added bonus for having an opinion on his work, and if you proclaim that you aren’t a fan of his brand of French New Wave cinema, then you are the most cultured of all.
If you have made it this far into the article, I’m sure you have realized that the journey to becoming cultured is long and arduous. But if you follow the steps I have laid out for you, I assure you that by the end of your very last nonce poem you will feel like the most hipster person you know, and you’ll have the best answer to that favorite movie question on college applications. By the end of your journey, you will emerge an unbelievably socially-sophisticated human being. Welcome to the club.