Beverly Godfrey column: My kind of problems
I like that “First World problems” has become such a popular phrase. It refers, of course, to things that can be seen as problems only by people who enjoy wealth and prosperity.
Even though its use is satirical, the joke serves as a good reminder of the blessings we have in America and the difficult lives other people in the world face. I can’t say it’s an issue I would have recognized as a child, like when my bell-bottom pants got stuck in my bike chain. Did I ever feel grateful in those moments for nice clothing and my own bike? No. But I think the “First World problems” joke can teach kids — and all of us — a little perspective.
Comedic singer “Weird Al” Yankovic raised the profile of the phrase last week. His video for “First World Problems” was posted online on Monday, part of a weeklong series of videos that helped push his new album, “Mandatory Fun,” into the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s charts. Unlike many of his songs, it’s not a parody of another song, just its own weird, funny thing.
I didn’t expect I’d relate to it as much as I did. Yankovic’s videos usually feature him being his sorta-self, but he plays a different character in this video, a blond-wigged, spoiled man with lots of nice things and not enough appreciation.
Yet some of the character’s so-called problems are things that have happened to me, too.
Have you ever bought too much food to fit into your fridge? I’ve never taken a moment to be thankful for the abundance of food when that happens because I’m too busy being annoyed. “We need to have frozen pizzas for dinner tonight because I bought too many.” Ever said something like that?
Another problem is when Weird Al’s character forgets which car he drove to the mall. I’ve done that, too — take my husband’s car somewhere, forget that I did and get worried that someone might have stolen my car — as if. Fifteen-year-old minivans aren’t high on the list of thefts, I would hazard a guess.
Another thing I’ve done: Buy something I don’t need to qualify for free shipping on Amazon. I haven’t taken it as far as in the video, where he opens the box and takes out a live dog, but there might have been a stuffed animal toy in there sometime when I was close enough to the free shipping price.
Of course, one could argue that’s just being practical, buying something for six dollars instead of paying for shipping. It still smacks of over-indulgence and consumerism, though, having to navigate a problem like that.
There’s another video online called “First World Problems Read by Third World People,” which walks a line between funny and sad. a man standing outside a small, primitive home reading the line, “I hate it when my house is so big, I need two wireless routers.” It’s such a ridiculous complaint — even the man in the video gets the joke.
As I wrote this, I wanted to rewatch the videos I’m referencing, but the Internet was too slow on my computer. It actually was going to be a problem, so I tried my husband’s computer, and that worked just fine.
That’s what I call a First World problem solved.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.