Two white people walk into a bar, a badly lit Culver City saloon called the Backstage whose interior design could be summed up as one pool table, a no-frills photo booth and some scattered neon. Blondie and the Rolling Stones belt out of the stereo, $3 Newcastle comes on tap and sticky laminated menus offer up garlic fries, chili cheese fries and buffalo wings. In other words, welcome to No. 148 of 150 things white people like: dive bars.
"If you want to say I was planning that far ahead, that's great," said Christian Lander, resident white person behind the ridiculously popular blog Stuff White People Like, a snarky bit of grass-roots anthropology that recently transmuted into a rumored $300,000 book deal. "But I just like this place. I like the darkness. I don't like overpaying for drinks. I'm not a very picky bar patron."
Now "Stuff White People Like" the book has arrived, and if it is a joke -- and really, it's filled with bons mots such as "For those of you who don't know, a dive bar is a place with cheap drinks and minimal decoration that was formerly frequented by those who dislike white people" -- then the joke's on Lander.
Wearing jeans and a faded navy UC Berkeley T-shirt (No. 84), procured from Goodwill (No. 49), thin, black angular frames (No. 140), and sporting red hair (No. 97) and a closely trimmed beard (No. 95), Lander sidled up to the Backstage on his bike -- that is cycle, not motor, a.k.a. No. 61. Though it must be said that, born and raised in Canada, Lander at no point during our early evening together threatened to move back there (No. 75).
"It's me making fun of myself the whole way through," Lander said of the blog turned book. "That's why my picture's up there all the time. I'm not implying I'm above any of this. I like all the stuff in the book."
"Some people actually write saying they're not sure if it's funny or not. Some people like that comment, 'I'm not sure if this is a joke or not.' Every time I'm like, 'Really? You really can't tell? Good luck with life.' " Lander said.
The blog caught on
The million and a half hits his blog has generated are taken as a sign of extreme popularity -- a fact not long overlooked by New York literary agents. "It all came through the site," Lander said. "I took a bunch of meetings and ended up signing with William Morris. Once I had the agent, they took care of everything else." Now overseas rights of the book are already selling, with at least a Dutch version in the works. "I'm super-excited to see the cover," Lander said. "I'm picturing stuff spelled s-t-o-o-f with umlauts and stuff." Lander was likewise pleased when Kanye West's blog linked to StuffWhitePeopleLike.com. Not so much, though, when he got a shout-out from the white supremacist at Stormfront.org.
Though not a raging conservative ("I'm Canadian. How right-wing can I get?") and clearly not a rabid liberal, Lander is not devoid of political leanings. "I was a little nervous because post No. 8 was Barack Obama, and this was before he won the nomination, when the book was getting done. I was like, 'Please, please, please let him win. Please let him win. Keep this book relevant. Keep this book relevant,'" he said.
Birthing White People
Lander and his wife, Jess, settled down in Los Angeles two years ago, after meeting in graduate school -- where Lander was, perhaps a bit pretentiously, angling for a doctorate in film -- then dropping out together. At the time, he had pipe dreams of making it big as a comedy writer; until recently he worked as a copywriter at an interactive ad agency. White People was born here over an IM chat about "The Wire" (No. 85) between Lander and fellow Canadian Myles Valentin. (Valentin also contributed such thoughts as Asian girls and consequently earned himself rights to all the blog's ad revenue, Lander says.)
Despite all the hilarity, though, Lander says there are a couple of serious points he'd like to make. After growing up in Toronto's Chinatown, going to school at Montreal's McGill University and slogging through half a doctorate in Indiana, Lander found himself put off by reverse provincialism.
"There's so much elite snobbery on the East Coast about the Midwest, the idea everyone there is exactly the same and are all Republicans or idiots or easily tricked," he said. "I went out there and it's not the case at all. It drove me nuts, people dismissing whole swaths of the country. Aside from the fact that there are hilarious, amazing people there."