Friday, May 7, 2010

This Sucks

"Don't say stinks, darling. If absolutely necessary, smells. But only if absolutely necessary." - Margaret Lord, The Philadelphia Story

Have you noticed how, on the Interwebbies, if you’re not fond of a film or book or song that someone else loves, you are a “moron,” and if someone else hates something you love, that thing “sucks?” (I’m using the most polite versions of the terms one stumbles across). What ever happened to celebrating variances in taste? What ever happened to the art of the thoughtful critique?

When we’re younger, sure, things we like are universally “amazing” and things we don’t like “blow.” Not only that, but when I was younger, I was mocked mercilessly for enjoying anything that was too popular (with the exception of those certain cultural tent poles that everyone MUST love, like Star Wars or Monty Python), or too cheesy, without being ironically so. I therefore kept my bourgeois opinions to myself, and instead touted the brilliance of your Akira Kurosawas and David Foster Wallaces. Also, I didn’t dare say I was bored, turned off or unimpressed with anything that had reached culty cool status, like the movie Blue Velvet or the graphic novel Watchmen.

What set me free: The band U2. I don’t like the band U2. There’s something about the repetitive thrum of guitar in the background and Bono’s wailing voice that sets my teeth on edge. Nearly every person (okay: male person) of my generation likes-to-WORSHIPS U2. In my early 20s, whenever I would tentatively state that I disliked the band, I was more often than not told I was an idiot, that I didn’t understand, that I was wrong. Like most people in their early 20’s I took this hard, until I had an epiphany: I started telling people that I fully understand that, yes, U2 is a band for the ages, but, well, gosh, I just don’t like them personally, and then I would proceed to explain why I felt this way. You know: I strove for a little more eloquence than "your band blows." This tact confused young U2philes, angered them, and then eventually shut them up. Also, it’s completely honest. There are bands out there that are truly terrible, and U2 is not one of them.

Likewise, in my old age wisdom, I proudly (and in some cases, sheepishly), proclaim my right to take pleasure in things that are geeky, cheesy, flawed, or, heaven forefend, insanely popular. I enjoy me some John Denver. I adore the movie Joe Vs. the Volcano. The Harry Potter series ranks amongst my favorite things in the universe. Whew. There. That was liberating. Liking these things doesn't make me stupid or tacky or a Philistine (okay, maybe a little with the John Denver); I simply now allow myself to enjoy some stuff that the little intellectual hipster voices in my head have heretofore pooh-poohed.

Fill up my senses like a night in the forest, baby.

That’s not to say I don’t think there’s a place in the world, or on the Internet, for criticism. As much as we writers often hate or fear it, it’s an essential part of art. Without a critical observer, what is art? It’s a whole tree/forest thing, to be sure. I welcome critique, of my opinions, and yes, even my own creations. Without my writing group, the Scribblerati, my novel wouldn’t be coming along nearly as well as it is. Thank you, gentle critic friends.

It’s the personal attack aspect that gets me down, and the black-and-whiteness of it all. I read the first Twilight book, and I pretty much detested it, but I know plenty of intelligent, well-adjusted women who find the series to be a terrific fantasy escape. They don’t “suck” for liking the books, but folks on the Intertubes might tell them as much.

So, maybe this “you suck for liking, or for not liking that” attitude floating around out there is due to the fact that most people leaving comments on the Internet are young, or perhaps it’s worse than that, perhaps anonymity is the death of graciousness. Whichever: It just makes me appreciate the rare insightful, fleshed out and civil critique all the more.


Jon said...

If given the choice, I never choose Italian food. People can not process this. "But Spaghetti is good!" they plead. I tell them that I agree, but I just prefer something else, given the choice. This automatically translates into: "Oh, we can't go there, Jon hates Italian." And I'm like: "I don't hate it," but they don't understand that it's just, if someone were to say: Indian or Italian? I would answer Indian right away and not just because Indian food is freaking delicious either... which it is... Mmmmm... Naan.... aaaarrrrrgggggllll

Badbadger said...

Sometimes I wish I lived in an era when, after a meal, or even during a meal, intelligent individuals would have a thoughtful, wordful debate on the the varied qualities of certain concepts and philosophies. Perhaps over sherry and cigar.

Trouble is, we're a texting, emailing world now, where we can air our opinions behind the veil of safety provided by a little square photo the merely represents us. And even so, we can edit, delete, rearrange, rewrite BEFORE we post, send, cyber-barf, safe from the possible objection or grievance that might be aired during actual face-to-face conversation. Conversation, especially debate, requires one risk oneself in a dangerous zone - and the most successful are those that keep their wits about them in the heat of it all. In conversation, we take action, we willingly place ourselves in the line of fire, along with the breath, heat and eyesight of another living person. That's courageous.
I'm thinking how to write more about what I think, and find myself wishing I had someone here to talk with. Enough with this typing. Which brings to mind the beautiful irony of the fact of Qlaudia's blog about opinions, which strangely proves my point. But it wasn't necessarily the point I was trying to make. Which is ironic. Ah, the twirling conundrum. Sigh. Just f-ing press submit already.

Qlaudie said...

Awesome Dre, Jon. Thanks.