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Why would I pay for a 'pop culture coach' to save me from watching Game of Thrones? I'd rather spend my money watching the show

The Independent logo The Independent 20/04/2019 Robyn Wilder
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You’re a busy person with important stuff to do. You don’t waste brain-space on inconsequential matters. That’s why an internet stylist chooses and curates your daily fashion-forward-business-casual wardrobe, and why instead of fannying around with cooking, you just drink a pint of chalky creatine three times a day.

One thing you definitely don’t have time for is entertainment.

So the next time you’re at a party (perhaps you’re networking, or trying to find a mate), and someone asks you about your favourite Game of Thrones theory, you may find yourself panicking.

Happy young couple relaxing and watching TV at home © Getty Happy young couple relaxing and watching TV at home However, you needn’t. Simply tap your earpiece to listen to the reassuring voice, and repeat the unfamiliar words it says to you:

“Tyrion Lannister is secretly a Targaryen.”

There. Now everyone thinks you’re a well-rounded human being, and not a walking empty shell of a sociopath.

It’s okay, I haven’t gone mad and started writing Black Mirror fanfiction. What’s happened is this: a new service has launched that matches people willing to rent out their opinions on sports, film, TV and music to people too busy to consume pop culture. “Pop culture coaches”, they’re called.

© Getty Game of Thrones can take over two days and 17 hours to catch up on,” says Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, the platform that launched the coaching service. “With so much media for us to consume, it can almost feel overwhelming to not only keep up with it all, but to be seen to have an opinion, there are only 24 hours in the day after all.

“We hope that this new service can help ease some of the anxieties associated with having to socialise and always needing to find something to talk about.”

Okay, I may have gone a little mad, but I this is patently ridiculous, isn’t it? And I say this as a time-poor working mother of two, who's seriously considering setting a 3am alarm so I actually can fit in a viewing of the new Game of Thrones season opener. I am against the idea of a “pop culture coach” for so many reasons.

1. Why would you be too busy for fun?

I am deeply suspicious of this service – and the Blinkist app, which promises to “give you the main takeaways” of over 3,000 books, as though memorising the bullet-point version for social gain is equal to, or better than, actually experiencing the thing itself.

Pop culture is a joy to consume; that’s why it’s popular. I mean, what are you doing that prevents you from transporting yourself into a different activity for a little while? Just rocking back and forth, sharpening your knives? I was going to add “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but that’s a pop culture reference, so I won’t.

Happy girlfriends women group drinking beer at brewery bar restaurant - Friendship concept with young female friends enjoying time and having genuine fun at cool vintage pub - Focus on left girl © Getty Happy girlfriends women group drinking beer at brewery bar restaurant - Friendship concept with young female friends enjoying time and having genuine fun at cool vintage pub - Focus on left girl

2. Faking opinions won’t solve “anxieties associated with having to socialise”

I have anxieties associated with having to socialise – social anxiety, it’s called – and I’ve learned the most foolproof way of sidestepping any social performance issues is engage people about their own interests. If, for example, you have never seen Queer Eye but are talking to a superfan, ask why they find it so appealing. Bam! You’re locked in a fascinating unfolding of the most emotive makeovers; how everyone thinks Jonathan Van Ness is the heart of the show, but it’s actually Bobby Berk – and you might just find your interest is piqued enough to watch it yourself.

3. You can't fool a fan

Fans know things – sometimes by heart, like episode titles and the dates and times to the second of momentous sports achievements. Do you really think you can waltz after a 30-minute chat with a Spurs fan and bluff your way through a conversation about the off-side rule? I mean, I’m not doing particularly well at it here, but then I don’t like football.

The likelihood of your lack of knowledge showing in a room full of armchair experts is relatively high – and I imagine knowing that would cause you even more anxiety, not less. And getting even one single detail wrong could derail your entire charade, at which point not only will everyone wonder what the hell you’re up to, you will also have made an enemy of every true fan in the room.

4. The whole thing is entirely unnecessary

Best friends drinking tea, eating cookies and talking at home © Getty Best friends drinking tea, eating cookies and talking at home According to Bark.com, a pop culture coaching session lasts about an hour, and you can book a bunch of them together. You know what else lasts an hour, and can be enjoyed back-to-back? Game of Thrones. Depending on how far you have to travel to your party or date, you could feasibly watch an episode and cherry-pick which online thinkpieces from which to steal your opinion on it. Isn’t that what most of us do anyway?

There, I’ve solved it for you. Thirty-five pounds to the usual address, please.

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