So, the New York Times Magazine has this thing called The One-Page Magazine which runs a feature called “The Meh List: Not Hot, Not Not, Just Meh.” (“Meh”, Wikipedia tells us for those of us without teenagers in our lives, is “an interjection used as an expression of indifference or boredom.”) Today’s list:
- Unsalted trail mix
- “ . . . is in talks with Yahoo”
- CNN ratings jokes
- Dandelion greens
- Montessori schools (emphasis added)
Oh boy, are they going to get some letters! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You can see the kind of thing it is: started in 2011, it’s meant to be a weekly hit list of the bland—snarky, cheeky, and pitched to the in-crowd. Previous “Meh-listers” include Brita filters, the Seattle Mariners, and recently—and controversially!—pizza. Here’s a “visual encyclopedia” of 126 entries if you want to get the sense. Of course the list itself has made the list: did you think you were the first person to think of that?
But what does it mean to make the list? For its creator, Adam Sternbergh, the list was meant
to celebrate all those things in life that exist at the top of the fat middle of the bell curve of taste: neither adored nor reviled, but, simply, meh.
Elsewhere in the magazine, it’s been described as: boring, mediocre, just not interesting – over, good, but rarely great; fine, but seldom bad, all that is beneath our regard, a corrective to hype, excitement or outrage over things that are ultimately unimportant, unworthy of being discussed. Really, the list’s tagline says it best: neither hot nor not.
Now I know there’s nothing to be gained by getting all worked up about how we are so not meh!, but still: How could they get us so wrong? Montessori is rarely boring, occasionally mediocre, always interesting. It’s good, often great, and sometimes quite bad. “Beneath our regard,” “ultimately unimportant,” and “unworthy of being discusses are unbelievably condescending to childhood, but whatever. And Montessori is definitely hot.
But that’s not really the point—the point is that they got us at all. If only Montessori were as widespread and uncontroversial as Sierra Mist, elliptical machines, and pizza! To be mocked as irrelevant by the style-setters of the New York Times Magazine is to have arrived in the cultural consciousness in a way no amount of advertising can ever acheive. It might not be too much to say we’ve started to go viral.