the nature of cliché.

i hate the word “cliché.”

i have been thinking a lot the past couple of months about what constitutes a cliché, and what makes people use that word. i keep thinking back to a post i read on a friend-of-a-friend’s blog a couple months ago in which this person talked about driving through the country (or something of the like) while listening to death cab for cutie, which the person readily characterized as “such a fucking cliché.” i guess reading that was the catalyst for all my recent ruminations on cliches.

i have to wonder what makes listening to death cab for cutie while driving through the country (or something of the like) is considered a cliché. because other people listen to death cab for cutie? because people who perceive themselves as hip listen to death cab for cutie? because people intentionally take scenic drives and consciously choose music by death cab for cutie to compliment the aesthetic beauty of country land? it seems to me that, in this context, the use of the word “cliché” is used to create distance between oneself and what one considers lesser (as for what “lesser” means, your guess is as good as mine) so as to elevate oneself to a position of elevated moral character or intellect or what have you, depending on the situation.

i always pay close attention to people who use the word “cliché” to see if they themselves fit into the mold of a recognized cliché. because, honestly, just about everything can be perceived as a cliché: stay-at-home moms are a cliché, but so are workaholic moms; athletic, abercrombie & fitch-wearing bros (or chads, as i like to call them) are a cliché, but so are awkward, fake-glasses-and-skinny-jeans-wearing boys; extremely intelligent people are a cliché, but so are extremely stupid people; listening to popular music is a cliché, but so is listening to obscure indie music.

image courtesy of one good thing

it seems like the word “cliché” is often used to denote something that is over-saturated or over-used. i guess in that sense, death cab for cutie is a cliché; they get a lot of air play. but in their defense, and in defense of everything that has been called a cliché, i will share one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite writers, chuck klosterman: “important things are inevitably cliché, but nobody wants to admit that.” now, admittedly, chuck klosterman is not really an expert on anything other than pop culture (and even that is debatable) but i’ve always felt that this statement rings true. i think it’s really humbling, because it admits that everything is a cliché but proposes that this is the case because of the human-assigned value that we place on things. death cab for cutie writes good songs that resonate with people, which means that a lot of people place importance on their music, which means they are a cliché. in that context, being a cliché doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

and yet, it’s so easy to classify something that isn’t important to us personally as a cliché. i hate to admit that wanting to be a stay-at-home mom is a cliché because it’s something that i think is important in the context of my life, and i don’t want to be relegated to the one-dimensional category of “cliché.” that’s why i think it’s an ugly word: it denies people of their unique personhood and belittles the things that they care about.

what’s your opinion on the nature of clichés?


One response to “the nature of cliché.

  1. I cannot help myself, in spite of how odd my next action will be: what would you say if a perfect stranger came up to you and said, “Your writing reminds me on terrifying levels of myself, lets be friends”?

    (p.s. I’m the perfect stranger)

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