On Fridays, the A.V. Club has a feature called “A.V. Club Q&A,” where all the various contributors answer a question on pop culture. Sometimes I don’t care about the question at all, but sometimes I find the question – and the answers – quite intriguing. On these occasions, I’ll sometimes post my own response. So this week’s question: art that “hits close to home.”

One of the things that always amuses me is how often these questions hit close to something I’d been ruminating on myself. Just a couple weeks ago, after reading this post on Jezebel, a friend and I were discussing Reality Bites, a movie that I was completely obsessed with after I graduated from college.

Like many people, I struggled in my immediate post-college phase. I worked two part-time jobs, I was exhausted all the time, and I had very little money and no health insurance. During this period, there was a regular rotation of movies that lived in my VCR. I’d watch them anytime I was in my room, whether for 5 minutes or an hour: Reality Bites, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Memphis Belle, and The Fast and the Furious.

I can’t really explain those last two, except to say that one is an escapist action film, and the other had a cast I was kind of bizarrely in love with. Of the five, though, Reality Bites was the one that really made me feel better about my life. I’d seen the movie when it first came out, and I’d always thought of it as a distinctly 90s movie (which it is). But for the first time, I really understood that it was less about the 90s and more about what happens when you leave the structured, safe confines of school and are unleashed on the real world (or it’s unleashed on you). I saw so much of myself in Winona Ryder’s character, Lelaina: the driven overachiever who ends up working a crap job and wondering what, exactly, you were working toward all those years. I can distinctly recall thinking back over my academic career, thinking about how I’d pushed myself to graduate with two majors in four years, to maintain a good GPA, and now all I had to show for it was a retail job and a mountain of debt. But Reality Bites helped me understand that this was normal, that many people didn’t graduate and head straight into their Wonderful Adult Lives, and that it was a phase. It would end. And, in fact, it did end. By October, I had one full-time job at a place I liked. I only worked five days a week, and I had health insurance. I had a plan for the future. I might not have ended the summer running off with my slacker/philosopher/musician boyfriend the way Lelaina does, but things were looking up nonetheless.

On a side note, one A.V. Club writer began his contribution by noting, “The first time I heard The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive, it felt like a kind of music I’d been hearing inside my head my whole life.” That is a beautiful sentence, and in many ways it explains my relationship to the music of the Drive-by Truckers. I didn’t have that specific reaction the first time I heard their music (which was, I believe, “18 Wheels of Love”), but it did catch my attention and make me want to find out more. And I kept on finding out more until I realized that “Zip City” was really a song about my high school years, or about anyone who grew up in a small town:

The end is what really sells it for me: “I got 350 heads on a 305 engine / I get ten miles to the gallon / I ain’t got no good intentions.” This is almost every guy I was friends with in high school.

Over the years, I’ve given their music a lot of thought. In many ways, it’s the kind of music I was waiting for: the best parts of country and rock, insightful, well-written, varied, musically deep and complex. It’s the music I’d hearing in my head all my life.

So what about you guys? What art do you identify – or over-identify – with?

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