Some thoughts on taste

Once upon a time, I didn’t think very much of myself. If you can believe it, I used to think I was pretty stupid. I listened to the people around me, and if I didn’t agree with them, I thought I must be the one who was wrong. So, I tried to tailor my opinions to theirs.

Obviously, that’s an unhealthy way to live. It also resulted in me listening to some truly horrific music. (Not even going to lie, I used to listen to ICP.) I read books I didn’t like because, well, that’s what other people were reading. I watched tv shows and movies that were terrible and thought that I was to blame. I honestly thought that I didn’t like things because I wasn’t smart enough to like them. That my tastes were, somehow, inferior to those around me.

Fortunately, I’ve grown beyond that self-loathing mentality. I’ve realized a lot of things about my own personal taste as I’ve developed a sense of self-confidence that I lacked in my youth. And, since I’m turning 32 on Thursday, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned about personal taste in my 32 years.

You can recognize the quality of something, and still not like it.

I don’t like a lot of things that are widely popular. The Game of Thrones show, for instance, or This is Us. I’m not saying that these things are bad. From what I understand they’re both quality shows. I just don’t enjoy them. They don’t entertain me, though I can see the value in them. That’s fine. Just because I don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean it’s garbage. I’m happy to leave these good, quality things for the people who do value them.

You can recognize that something is complete trash, and still like it.

On the flip side of that, I do like some things that are total garbage. I’m never going to defend Mulan Rouge. Sorry, can’t do it. It’s a bright, colorful, fun, nonsensical story that by all rights should offend me as a writer. I don’t care. I watch the movie, listen to the soundtrack. Even now that I know what that French line means, I still sing it way out loud.

Sometimes trash is good. Sometimes it’s a release. I’ve also wondered in the past whether a deep-fried Oreo would really kill me. So, perspective.

Just because it’s classic, doesn’t mean it’s good.

I like lots of classic things. House on Haunted Hill, for one. The original movie is amazing, Vincent Price was a sex icon that gets no credit. I like a lot of classical music, like old 60’s and 70’s stuff. I like many classic books and movies. I like more classic tv shows than contemporary ones.

That being said, some classic work is bad. I’m sorry, it’s just bad. I’ve never yet read a Nathanial Hawthorn novel and thought, “Wow, I really enjoyed that.” Sorry, not even The Scarlett Letter.

Here’s the thing. I don’t hate these things because I’m not intellectually capable of grasping it. I don’t need to refine my pallet more. I just don’t care for the damn story. I don’t really care when it was written.

You should never apologize for it.

If I haven’t already pissed you off, this might be the one to do it. I don’t like A Wrinkle in Time or any of the books in that series. I have always hated it. In fact, that was the first book I remember forcing myself through even though I hated every single, awful, repugnant page of it. I hated the main character, hated the world she was forced into, hated every character she ran into along the way.

Every other woman in her early thirties just started hissing at me. And you know what, I’m cool with that. I’ve been having that damn book shoved down my throat by my whole generation, and I’m glad the movie bombed! I will not apologize for hating that book.

On the flip side of that coin, I’m sure that there are people out there who hate my favorite book, The Giver. I’m sure they’re sick to death of hearing about what a brilliant work it is. About how it brought a generation to the realization that freedom was worth anything, and everything. That maybe we need to do more than survive this world. Maybe you hate me right now, and you’re glad that my movie bombed. That’s okay. You shouldn’t have to apologize. We don’t have to agree. It would be nice if we were civil towards each other, but we don’t have to agree.

Your tastes will change as you get older.

This one was kind of a surprise. I guess that was kind of egotistical of me, even when I was so down on myself. I thought for sure that I was going to love slasher movies and Family Guy forever. That didn’t happen. I can’t stand Family Guy anymore (Seth McFarland is a purely ornamental man. Gorgeous but very little substance.) And I really can only tolerate so much in the gruesome horror genre anymore.

It’s okay for your tastes to change as you get older and change. It’s also okay for some things to never change. I will always love Animaniacs and Futurama. Also in The Simpsons. They’re all smarter than people give them credit for. And there’s no shame in being a 32-year-old who still watches cartoons.

Stories exist to be enjoyed

A story has one reason to exist, one driving purpose. That is to entertain. It may do many other things. It might teach you something, change your mind, drive you to tears. It might give you comfort and make you feel like you’re not alone in the world. A story might do any number of things. But it’s main job is to entertain. And if it fails to do that, then that failure belongs to the story. Not the reader.

Now, let’s keep all this in mind with your writing.

When you write a story, some people are going to love it. Some people are going to go nuts for it, and show it to all their friends. Some crazy people are going to make that story their favorite thing in the world.

And some people aren’t going to give a damn about your story. For some people, your story will not be their cup of tea. And that’s fine because everyone has different taste.

So don’t take it so hard.

 

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