Matters of Taste
When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?
Maybe I’m just ornery. Or perhaps it’s age. I parted company with Popular Opinion and Critical Acclaim years ago, and never looked back.
I’d thought about it in advance, of course. You don’t take these radical steps lightly. Guilt… loss of face… self-doubt… All these things had be considered and weighed. But in the end, I decided that both PO and CA were forcing me to deny my Inner Truth: the fact that at heart, I’m a lazy, vacuous, superficial and unregenerate Philistine.
Now that I’ve admitted it, I’m perfectly comfortable with this. I like my entertainment to be entertaining, which pretty much precludes all those things PO and CA kept insisting would be good for my character, expand my horizons and generally make me a better person. Too late too late, chaps. Your taste is not mine, and here’s why.
Critical Acclaim particularly is very keen on ‘worthy’. This falls into two categories: the soulfully beautiful where nothing happens for 800 pages, and the deep and meaningful, anguish-ridden saga where every word is dripping with subtext and inner dichotomy, only apparent to those who have suffered and bled in name of…well, subtext and inner dichotomy. I’ve done anguish. I’ve done anguish A LOT. And I can tell you now, subtext and inner dichotomy don’t come into it. It sucks, pure and simple, and I don’t need to meet it again in fiction, with the added burden of spurious analysis.
PO, on the other hand, is largely driven by the shock factor: gratuitous violence, exhaustive bed-hopping guaranteed to produce deadly bursts of emotional shrapnel, an over-abundance of sheer stupidity and if possible, a few hefty swipes at those things we hold most dear. In the collective gasp that follows, the fact that the writing is often equally shocking is overlooked in favour of a general scurry to appear broad-minded and ‘modern’.
It all makes me very tired.
As I said, I like my entertainment to be entertaining. Unless you live permanently in la-la land – which I don’t – there’s enough violence and emotional turmoil in the real world – in the news – in documentaries – without sucking up the fictional version.
Which isn’t to say I’ll only watch or read relentless fairy-floss in cosy slippers. My brain is still likes exercise. But don’t shove unalleviated despair or shock-for-shock’s-sake in my face, because I’m not interested. I intend to age as frivolously and irresponsibly as possible, and those things don’t cut it.