Fandom question of the day

I am increasingly wondering why so many expressions of taste end up taking the form of snark or condescension to those who don’t share them. I see it all the time, and it doesn’t only go in one direction. It’s not just “high culture” fans looking down on “low culture” fans, it’s also “low culture” fans looking down on “high culture” fans.

I realize we’re probably seeing this right now because we’re thinking about questions that involve defining personal preferences (“I like,” “I can’t stand,” “I love to hate,” “things others hate that I love,” etc.) but stating my preferences doesn’t have to involve putting down someone else’s, even if those preferences are not shared.

As far as I go, I like all kinds of art — high art, low art, everything in between. The main thing is that whatever it is, it should occupy my attention. Ideally, its strengths should cover its weaknesses; i.e., I should be able to experience flow from the piece and not be interrupted by my critical faculties pointing out this or that problem. That can happen even with art that I think is not especially well executed, though — things on which I would put the label “not good.” Brain on Fire would be a good example of this. The film is not dramatically or artistically effective. However, there are things in it that caught my attention and when I can see it again, I will take the opportunity multiple times. Admittedly, things with greater intellectual or philosophical complexity occupy my attention more readily, but there are all kinds of elements in art that can grab my attention and which I can enjoy. Correspondingly, my first reaction to high art that I don’t enjoy isn’t usually that people who do enjoy it are snobs. They just see something compelling in it that I don’t.

I don’t like violence. It upsets and unsettles me and if I want to watch something violent, I need to concentrate so that I don’t get over-focused on my reaction to that element of the piece. In general, I don’t think it’s dangerous to watch violence, or socially harmful; although some people think those things, I typically disagree for all but the very most violent things, pieces that are only violent and not much else. But I recognize that other people might have good reasons for not wanting to see violence at all, just as I recognize there are some people who truly enjoy watching violence on screen, for whom it adds to the experience, or who think that there is some philosophically or aesthetic statement made via violence. I don’t think that either of their fan experiences are lessened because they have those attitudes. Indeed, someone who refuses to see something that they know they can’t watch might be improving their fan experience. That’s no skin off my nose. Not unless, of course, I assume my taste has to govern the definition of what is tasteful in general, or that all fans have to love exactly what I love in exactly the way I love it.

If a fellow fan likes or doesn’t like something that’s different from my taste, that doesn’t merit putting their fan status in scare quotes or telling them they’re missing out on something. When I say I love something, if I have to take a passing shot at those who aren’t interested in it or don’t enjoy it or even object to it, I’m not demonstrating the subtlety or sophistication or superiority of my taste — only my own insecurities.

~ by Servetus on May 13, 2017.

27 Responses to “Fandom question of the day”

  1. Oh, so well stated. I also don’t see the need to put someone else’s taste in art down. Be it film, literature, music, whatever. Even though I am certain I’ve probably done just that, not that I remember doing it. I’m good at speaking before I think, so…

    If one were to think about it, (which is what helped me understand this) we are all in different places in life experience. While someone might find something exciting, but I find it not so much, (for lack of a better wording) I’ve learned to accept that I may have moved passed that entertainment offering. Example: GI Joe just isn’t exciting for me to read, but putting those that do like it down, doesn’t make sense to do. Anyway, you stated it better, but I wanted to throw in my 2¢ in as well, even if I cannot articulate as well. 😈

    • I suppose that I’m suspicious to the idea that there’s some sort of shared or natural progression. (That’s typically the high cultural argument — if you knew about this or had a wider experience, you wouldn’t think this was so great.)

      • Except that not everyone is the same age, nor is everyone experiencing/learning the same things. Even people that share the same experience do not always agree on what that experience was. It is why I am trying not to be a jackass in the department of judging others for not appreciating what I appreciate film/art/etc. Besides, I am a judgemental jackass in so many other areas of my daily life. 😈

        • Right, but if you say “they have moved past,” you’re saying there’s a natural progression.

          • I mean it more that we don’t experience things the same way, we all don’t understand them the same way and we don’t all “move past” or progress the same. So no, I do not think there is a natural progression for everyone. Which is why I try (because I am horrible at being patient) to not be quick to judge someone stupid. Cause it is easier for me to do that and move on with my day. Not that I succeed at it, however I am trying to be a better person. 🙂 not certain I’m addressing this clearly, but I’m looking at it from my own inability to always consider another persons viewpoint based on their behaviour. Sadly, I so rarely consider another persons point of view. 🌸

            Can I also, selfishly, say that I consider the vast majority of people do not want to progress, learn anything much less improve. While I used to get annoyed with that, I pretty much accept, dismiss and move on. Those unwilling to understand that we will not all have the same “taste” in art, etc, but feel the need to trash something or someone else’s efforts, may also be unwilling to learn why they do that and try to improve their character. I don’t mean a fictional character, I mean our own character of behaviour. Whoa, sorry to go on like this.

            • well, I was an educator for more than two decades, so if most people don’t want to learn I’m pretty well washed up 🙂 I think desire to learn is highly context dependent, though — there are some things I am eager to learn and others I’m uninterested in or actively resistant to.

              • It might just be my view, when hearing people say they have no interest in reading. Which makes me think they also have no desire to improve themselves, intellectually at least. Then I think of the film, Idiocracy or Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451.

                It isn’t if these anti-intellectual people would read something other than what we offer, they say they do not read anything, ever. I can’t imagine it, but the cues they display, allow me to see they, (here is where my harsh judgment rears it’s ugly head) have limited vocabulary, limited ability to communicate and have purposely chosen to be that way. They see no value in reading anything. Again, it may only be my perceptions of hearing these comments year after year that makes me think the way I do. It is sad to hear so many people say; they don’t want to read anything; or they never read anything; or they proudly announce, they have not read anything since they finished school. Worse, when they say; “don’t want to learn nuffin’.” No shame in their purposeful ignorance. It is frightening. Since we mostly sell things to read in my shop, it is common to hear disparaging remarks like that when someone who does not like reading finds themselves here. It does not matter to them that we mostly sell pleasure reading. It is reading.

                I dislike when people celebrate anti-intellectualism but that is more common now than it has ever been. I keep trying to encourage reading for fun as my way to rebel against it. Then again, as my industry shrinks before my very eyes month after month, I suspect I will be washed up long before you as an educator would ever be. 🙂

                • I prefer to read to every other method of assimilating new information, myself, but reading is not the only way to learn things. I agree that a general refusal to read is an unfortunate decision on an individual’s part. And anti-intellectualism (and suspicion of experts) is rife at the moment (although nothing new — it has a long history in the US; there’s a great book, now somewhat dated, about this by Richard Hofstadter if you’re interested — I am not sure it is worse now than it was in the 1920s, for instance). However, simply reading things doesn’t equate to learning; if I simply read the same types of things over and over again then I’m not necessarily learning new things, although I might be.

                  I think educators are under pretty severe attack at the moment; Arizona just passed a law that basically removes all requirement for teacher certification, for instance. In large parts of Florida you can get a teaching job in a “high need” area without a completed BA. In Miami there are school secretaries teaching Spanish who don’t speak the language …

  2. I think part of the issue depends on the mood and the maturity level of those involved in whatever conversation is taking place. If someone happens to be in a foul or unsettled mood that day, they may react more harshly and critically of another. Also, if they’re younger and/or haven’t learned tolerance, that’ll cause an issue with snarky replies. Some days I think we all may have an issue with our brain to mouth filter and reply without thinking. I fully admit I have these days, and when I notice I’m being bitchy, I have to force myself to shut up and just move along. At my age (46) the last thing I want to do is piss someone off and start crap. I don’t think this issue can be applied to art but also shipping. I think that’s where people get incredibly touchy. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on the subject. On a side note… I really enjoy your blog. I may not always agree with what you say but you do say everything in a very eloquent manner. Great Job. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words! And thanks too for the comment and welcome. It’s a good point about shipping, too, although I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote this.

      I think we have all said things we regret from time to time, and I also think that the current political atmosphere is legitimating things that we might not like if we thought bout them a little more.

      • I totally agree! The political climate is effed up in a sick way. At least France has their head on right. Now if we here in America can get rid of our current schmuck, England can get the Brexit situation straightened out, and the murdering of Chechen gays can be stopped, I think we’d all breathe a lot easier.

        • It’s troubling that as long as have leadership that prefers resorting to rant than actually make an attempt to negotiate, it’s going to be hard to address the things that divide us. I hope it can all be resolved. There are so many things I’m worried about.

  3. Very well said. I, personally, am finding it really interesting to read all the different likes/dislikes, perspectives, and interpretations as people answer the RA Challenge questions. For me, it raises ideas that help me to go back and look at my own opinions in a new light, with the benefit of others’ experiences.

  4. “Leben und leben lassen”
    Wie viel ärmer wäre die Welt, wenn alle die gleichen Vorlieben hätten. Gegenseitige Wertschätzung macht den Austausch von Ideen und Meinungen einfacher. Manches, was interessant wäre, wird womöglich nicht gesagt oder gezeigt, weil man die harsche Reaktion der anderen fürchtet. Ich halte mich lieber dort auf, wo einen gelassene Atmosphäre herrscht – also hier 😉

    • Thanks. I have thought frequently lately that “live and let live” is not really possible anymore. I hope I am wrong.

  5. Oh yikes, has that been happening? (Am I guilty of it? I hope not!) I haven’t noticed it yet with this RA challenge that’s going around on the blogs now. Yes, I really hope fans can remain respectful of other fans’ tastes! I for one love seeing the diversity.

  6. Hi Servetus! First time poster here. I just love art that makes me feel good (Boy George singing “Crying Game”, Pavarotti singing “Ave Maria”, Van Gogh “Sunflowers” etc.)

    My hope for the next year (birthday yesterday) is that I will work on being more tolerant. Even of those who are not tolerant of me.

    Oh, I also love a picture of Richard Armitage with a cat. That makes me feel good!

    • Thanks for the comment and welcome, and happy birthday belatedly!

      Tolerating those who can’t tolerate us is truly difficult!

      re: art — I can subscribe to that if “feeling good” also includes “being moved” in general.
      re: Armitage with cats — those pictures always make me laugh 🙂

  7. I have no answer for this.

    I know at times I can be wretchedly snarky, but typically, it has to do with my mood and at times, if I feel I’ve been attacked. Or not. But for the most part, I’m a ‘each his own’ kinda girl.

  8. Hear, hear. I yearn for a day when an opinion on art or politics is the beginning of inquisitive discourse.

  9. S’il n’y avait qu’une façon correcte pour s’exprimer de manière adéquat, intelligible, respectueuse de tout, ce serait ennuyeux!
    Je prône la diversité, le droit à l’erreur (de compréhension, de sens, de grammaire), le droit à l’inconvenance et surtout le droit à la spontanéité. Bien sûr dans le respect de la liberté de tous: de la personne à qui , sur qui on répond et du sujet débattu.
    A bas les limitations idiotes, indigne de nos démocraties

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