If you like “Arrested Development,” (#38), “Asian Girls” (#11), “Expensive Sandwiches” (#63) or “Knowing What’s Best For Poor People,” (#62) then you will like Christian Lander. The acclaimed blogger and New York Times bestselling author of “Stuff White People Like” spoke in Lecture Hall 14 Wednesday night about his sudden rise to fame and the current state of racism.
Christian Lander began with the rags-to-riches story of his blog, “Stuff White People Like.” It all started with a WordPress blog with 150 hits per day, mostly from web searches for “fair trade organic coffee,” but the site gained serious traction when he sent it to a few friends. Within days the site became so popular that his web provider thought it was a porn site.
“Stuff White People Like” is a series of short essays that chronicle the preferences of Caucasians — more specifically, upper-middle-class liberals. Written with a distanced, anthropological style, its matter-of-factness and insightful details are consistently funny. With entries like “Having Two Last Names” (#22), “The Idea of Soccer” (#80) and “Bottles of Water” (#76), your reaction will be either “How did this guy figure me out?” or “I know this asshole.”
In six months, Christian Lander went from unknown blogger to bestselling author. It’s still hard for him to believe.
“I was given everything that I could have dreamed of from that site,” Lander said.
The book has gained world-wide success, having been translated into dozens of languages. The Japanese title translates to “A Guide to the American White.” The cover for the Dutch edition is just a mirror.
Lander loves “White People” spinoffs such as “Stuff Asian People Like” and “Stuff Educated Black People Like” because they celebrate difference. The racist white-supremacist comments online in reaction to his posts weren’t at all his intention. He does admit, however, that there is some stuff in white history that’s been difficult.
“For a while we couldn’t get potatoes,” he said.
Despite the blog’s popularity, publishers were hesitant to turn his idea — which he describes as “a blog with pictures of white people” — into a book. Internet-to-print success is not uncommon, with “Shit My Dad Says” and “Feminist Ryan Gosling” having successfully made the transition, but it was unprecedented back in 2008. The book was an instant success, becoming an NYTimes bestseller in just two weeks.
While Lander’s books may not apply to all white people, his success stems in part from the book’s relatability. Writers that make fun of white people, specifically liberals, are hard to find.
“‘White’ and ‘upper-middle-class’ are interchangeable terms,” he said.
Riana Moriello, a junior double-majoring in psychology and anthropology, worked within the Student Association to bring Christian to Binghamton.
“He’s very funny,” she said. “Everyone can learn something from him and I think he appeals to people of all races and ethnicities.”
Christian is still concerned about the state of racism — he plans to write a memoir that examines whether his success is a result of hard work or sheer ethnicity. The notion that people “don’t see race” is “bullshit” according to him. “Having Black Friends” (#14) is one entry that bothers Christian the most.
“We’ve turned minorities into Pokemon,” he said.
The hipsters described in Christian’s book often reject popular things on face. He asks liberals to “just listen” when other perspectives and cultures are being presented to them because everything successful connects with people.
Susie Rosenberg, a junior double-majoring in English and philosophy, has been a fan of “Stuff White People Like” since its early days as a blog.
“I think we can all learn a lot from what Lander is trying to tell us — that race truly is something that differentiates people, but acknowledging those differences is by no means a bad thing,” Susie said.
Lander hopes the book “will ultimately be ‘Stuff Douchebags Like.’” Entries such as “Knowing What’s Best For Poor People” (#62) are frustrating for him sometimes because he sees some of it in his past self.
“I believed that for so long,” Lander said. “My worst nightmare is to be around people who are exactly like me.”
Ryan Vaughan, an English professor at Binghamton University, includes “Stuff White People Like” in the syllabus for his class “Humor Across the Media.” He uses it to discuss racial humor, and how unusual it is for white people to be the target.
“I’m so happy he’s forcing people to buy my book,” Lander said.
After writing his 2010 sequel, “Whiter Shades of Pale,” he wrote for “Good Vibes,” an animated show on MTV created in 2011 by David Gordon Green. Now he’s working on another MTV production, “Underemployed,” a drama airing on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. For those shows, he sticks to the same principles he used when writing “Stuff White People Like.”
“For comedy to really work, you need to have an element of truth,” he said.