When I read, I will read anything from trashy pulp novels to works of great literature with equal enjoyment. When I watch movies, I’m just as likely to watch mindless entertainment like “Jackass” as I will watch something intellectually engaging like “Inception.” Television ranges from historical drama to zany sitcoms, while my phone has everything from pop music to hardcore rap on it. A lot of times, people will introduce me to new stuff, which is awesome even if I’m not a fan of it.
Once in a while, someone will tell me that they’re surprised that I don’t like something or that I do like something. I’m never sure how to respond to that. Some of it is, I’m sure, the fallacy that “I like you and I like/hate this thing, ergo you should like/hate this thing.” Sometimes it seems to be more personal, as if me liking or not liking something is a personal insult to someone. Usually, though, I try to deflect it with some variation of “everyone has their own tastes,” and try to change the conversation.
But lately I’ve been thinking about this as many of my coworkers and friends have been recommending stuff to me, and some people have been pointing me to cool things as a result of my Tour de Holmes. I don’t have a single bucket of things I like and another one of things I don’t. There are things that I really like but will never watch or read again. There are things that I’m not sure I enjoy but I’ll watch or read over and over again. There are things that I enjoy because it deals with some parts of my brain, and not others. Things that I really, really enjoy engage me in multiple ways, but that doesn’t invalidate or diminish other things I like. I think this is why I get frustrated with the five-star system of ratings. On the surface, something I rate as three stars would appear to be inferior to something I rate as five stars.1 But I might go to the three-star book over the five-star one if I’m in a particular mood, because it more fully scratches a particular itch.
Maybe it’s because I don’t buy into the idea of “guilty” pleasures – I like what I like, and I don’t feel the need to be ashamed by them. Maybe I’m wired differently, and look for connections between disparate media. Or maybe I just have no taste, and don’t have enough sense to hide the fact that I think “Jackass” is funny while writing a critical analysis of Victorian literature.
But odds are pretty good that I like something you do, even if I don’t like something else you love.
- There’s another problem of two or three stars having hardly any meaning, but that’s a separate thing. ↩