22nd November 2009
After being denied the chance to speak at Oxford on the grounds that his post about Asian girls was too offensive, (he claims), Lander spoke at LSE about how in six months he went from creating a blog as a joke between him and his friend, to New York Times bestselling author with a Hollywood agent.
Dressed in the inevitable cardigan, ironic t-shirt and Woody Allen-esque glasses, Lander proclaimed that the mirror was his best source of inspiration.
He says that the Right in America has failed to adequately satirise left-leaning, environmentally minded, educated Americans, so he took the task into his own hands. The whole thing started between Lander and his Philipino friend Miles - “racist against white people and Asians” – who wondered what white people were doing if not watching US sitcom The Wire. Yoga, therapy and divorce? It’s “blog time” thought Lander. A month later his site was registering 400,000 hits a day and he had been interviewed by the LA Times.
Soon after, Hollywood agents came knocking, but quite the Hollywood anti-hero, he was not greeted with waves of Lander fever just yet. After weaving through the Hummers and Maseratis on his fixed gear bike to the entrances of LA talent agency fortresses – “riding a bike in LA is equivalent to driving a UFO in the UK” – he was met by receptionists who directed him to the deliveries entrance before asking his name, and security guards shouting “Hey asshole, bike off the floor”.
His moment of glory finally came, when having been condescendingly dismissed by three tall actor types with perfect beards – Lander claims his beard “is the source of the majority of his power” and is constantly comparing his to others’ – he was shown upstairs before they were. He had risen to the top. “In LA the amount of time you wait in an office is directly proportional to how important you are”.
In September 2009 Lander was invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. What’s more, he was asked to appear alongside Jerry O’Connell, “one of the finest actors in American cinema” and “hero to fat kids all around”. Before the show, Lander sat in his dressing room, full of trepidation, wondering whether to go and knock on O’Connell’s door. He, after all, was a fat kid himself, and could not wait to meet his childhood hero. Lo and behold, it was to Lander’s door that O’Connell came knocking, gushing and falling about laughing about farmers markets. Despite the chemistry between them, and meeting O’Connell’s parents, Lander decided to decline an invitation for he and his wife to dine with O’Connell and his actress wife, Rebecca Romijn. He feared a headline in OK Magazine along the lines of “Jerry and Rebecca in a couples edition of the Make a Wish Foundation”.
Lander claims there is “a new level of competition between white people”, but rather than money or power, it is a competition of culture and taste. Keeping up with the Jones’s is no longer about having a tidier lawn and a more expensive car, but about the music on your iPod, the books on your shelves, the size of carbon footprint and how much food you have cit out of your diet. White people would rather have their medicine cabinets examined rather than their bookshelves. After all, “you can go to rehab for Vikadin, but you can’t go to rehab for reading Danielle Steele”.
Following the publication of his book in Japan, Lander is full of hope that Stuff White People Like will become a textbook on white behaviour. Indeed his book, far from being a tired repetitive collection of wisecracks about how white people like “golf and mayonnaise”, should be taken as a set of tips, a travel guide of sorts, on “how to exploit white people by using one’s ethnic status”. Being gay, black or ideally both, will serve you well if you decide to befriend a white person. Any number of services can be obtained from them in exchange for increasing their public image of tolerance and open-mindedness by bringing them to a “Baptist Church or barbecue restaurant in a neighbourhood they are scared of”, for example.
A possible extra entry for his book: Stuff White People Like? How about Stuff White People Like. What better way to show off your tolerant disposition and superior ability to self-satirise than to keep a copy of Lander’s book on your responsibly felled wooden book shelf, alongside the copy of ‘Benefits of a Whole Grain Diet’ of course.
This report is by Louise McGough
Christian Lander was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He earned his degree in English from McGill University, his Masters in Film from the University of Arizona, and half of a PhD from Indiana University. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jess.
In an article for The Guardian, Lander recounts his meteorical rise through the blogosphere - click here to read.
Click here for Charlie Beckett's blog entry on the event and here for a podcast of the event.