Top 5 Reasons ‘High Fidelity’ is Still Culturally Relevant

By  · Published on November 5th, 2014

Buena Vista Pictures

Some movies, no matter how old they are, never age a day. Their situations and themes remain as relevant now as when they were first released. Watching them today, they reflect and comment on our present in ways they couldn’t possibly have anticipated. Every month we’re going to pick a movie from the past that does just that, and explore what it has to say about the here and now.

There are creaky moments in High Fidelity. Any time you hear Rob (John Cusack) talk about making a mix tape, the movie groans with its pre-iPod era technology. And yet many of High Fidelity’s cultural sensibilities have become anything but antiquated.

From a vinyl resurgence to pop culture snobbery, much of the movie has only ripened with relevance since it was released 14 years ago.

1. The Listiclization of Everything

“Top 5 Musical Crimes Perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the 80s and 90s” may be one of the many lists the staff at Championship Vinyl cull together, but it could just as well be typical over-wordy BuzzFeed headline.

There was a time when Rob, Barry (Jack Black) and Dick’s (Todd Louiso) perpetual need to make everything into a list seemed to be a manifestation of a particular brand of pop culture, nerdy die hardness (that we movie buffs, of course, instantly recognized). Now, lists are mainstream and everywhere. And they’re about everything and anything. Not just pop culture, but the personal and day-to-day.

Rob and his gang would be would be Kings of Buzzfeed now.

2. The Ongoing Popularity of Vinyl

Cassette tapes shouldn’t be the only thing in High Fidelity that are obsolete to us in 2014. After all, Championship Vinyl is an entire store dedicated to records – a medium that’s been replaced multiple times over. Vinyl shouldn’t exist anymore, let alone the stores that sell it. And yet, since 2006, vinyl records have been experiencing a booming revival. Six million were sold in 2013, representing a 32% increase from 2012 with no sign of stopping.

Cities like Toronto (where I live) now have multiple vinyl-only stores. Stores that look exactly like High Fidelity’s Championship Vinyl. In 2000, who could have imagined that?

3. The Rise of DIY Creativity

EPs, like the one Rob helps put out for a pair of local juvenile delinquents, weren’t uncommon in the music world at the time of High Fidelity. But that kind of DIY-gumption has only become more pronounced. We saw it in the MySpace era. We see it even more now as aspiring musicians take to YouTube who can seize with their music thousands of subscribers that propel them to popular success.

We see it also among DIY-authors, who release something like 600,000 to 1,000,000 self-published books a year, and help the market find success – here and all over the world.

Rob and the Kinky Wizards would do very well these days.

4. Male Entitlement and Self-Involvement Lives On

Given the wave of misogyny manifesting itself in the celebrity nude photo leaks, GamerGate, the Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada, and more, it’s hard not to see High Fidelity’s Rob – fair or not – in a different light. His bitter fourth-wall breakers about his exes recall the petulant anger of Zoe Quinn’s blogging ex. His “What’s wrong with me?” whining sounds like it comes straight from the “Nice Guy” playbook.

Yes, Rob admits that he’s an asshole (though he winds up mansplaining it away a bit), and yes, much of his behavior is played for comedy or mild (at best) condemnation, but it’s still hard to not let his male entitlement rub you a little bit the wrong way in our current cultural climate.

Your Preferences Are Still Bullshit

“How can it be bullshit to state a preference?” Rob asks Barry after he insults a customer for their particular Stevie Wonder favorites. It’s a question, Rob would exasperatedly find himself asking a lot in 2014, amidst our Twitterworld and glut of thinkpieces. Whether someone is sneering that adults should be embarrassed to read YA or dismissing jazz in its entirety, the internet has only exponentialized the ability of the Barrys of the world to declare whatever you like, to be bullshit. Out of sincerity, or just for the clicks (see: Slate).