It Doesn't Have to Be The Best--I Like It Anyway

Arguments over "this" versus "that" (restaurants, shows, artists, musicians . . . ) usually turn on points of quality. Participants will customarily take refuge in the argument, "This is good, and if you don't think it is good, it's because you don't get how good it is." I encountered a commenter on Amazon a few years ago, arguing that if people criticized a specific season of Dexter, it could only be because THOSE people like trite shows, like, you know, the ones on CBS.

The commenter's argument was rife with logical fallacies--false extreme, ad hominem, ad stupido.

However, the typical response to a commenter like this is to say, "No! I don't like trite shows, and I still thought this season was bad! I know what 'good' is!"

But the truth is, I love trite shows. So what?

Here are three more things I love, even though they frankly just aren't that good:

Hershey Bars

My mother, a true chocolate snob, can't stand Hershey Bars, and to be honest, I don't much care for Hershey's big Symphony Bars. But I quite like the simple, small, waxy Hershey Bars. I have no idea why. They are frankly not as good as Ghiradelli--or, I suppose, even Lindor (though I don't care for Lindor, which I consider far too cloyingly sweet). I think my preference for Hershey Bars may be rooted in nostalgia--it takes me back to my childhood. Ah, the days when chocolate bars were less than a $1!

Pre-Raphaelite Painters

John Everett Millais
Don't get me wrong--the Pre-Raphaelite painters were good in their own way (and Millais was one of the best). But aesthetically speaking, they're not even in the same ballpark as someone like Degas or Brueghel. Even at their best, I still prefer them at their worst--that is, I love the Victorian storytelling aspect of Pre-Raphaelites as opposed to any possible artistic merit anyone of them might have.

Edmund Leighton
When I went on study abroad in college, we visited the National Gallery to see, I believe, a Rembrandt exhibit. I was rightly impressed. Rembrandt is way up there with the best of the best. We then visited the Tate, where many Pre-Raphaelite paintings reside, and I was fascinated! So many stories!! Give me more!!

Star Trek Actors--All of Them

Star Trek actors range from startlingly gifted to workaday average to just bad. I don't care. I love them all.

One of Shatner's most harrowing
scenes in Search for Spock.
I must mention William Shatner at this point. I don't place him in the "just bad" category. In fact, I would place him on the left side of workaday average. And I have to admit, I don't really understand people's criticism of Shatner. I mean, I get the joke and laugh along with everyone else at Galaxy Quest (which actually focuses more on the top dog's personality than his acting). But that dialog . . . that suddenly stops . . . in the middle . . . for no reason . . . good grief, Robert Culp does it all the time on Columbo, and nobody made fun of him! (As far as I know.)


Joe said...

I don't understand the attraction to Ghiradelli or Lindor. Not a fan of Belgian or Swiss chocolate. I can take plain Hershey's in small doses, though prefer their dark chocolate (which isn't as bitter as a lot of dark chocolate.) I find See's to be among the best chocolate, though I do prefer chocolate with caramel; my current favorite is Baby Ruth bars, followed by Snickers. The small York bars are good.

That aside, I like your point. One of the oddest things I've experienced is how deeply person some people take their preferences. Years ago, the show Lost came up. I simply said that I liked the first season, but not the second. A coworker got livid. Later I made another negative comment about another show he liked. He took it very personally.

I also get irritated at the "you don't like it because you don't understand it" meme. It's all the more peculiar when, on Amazon, even most the people who like something concede the negative point, but that doesn't stop the binary defenders who seem to believe that you must like ALL of something. (This gets worse with popular stuff.)

Kate Woodbury said...

The Lost advocate must have found himself in more and more combative positions! Even true fans tell me their interest waned as the show continued.

If he'd just said, "Yeah, it's horribly tacky. I love it!" he would have been fine :)

The neat thing about this "it's bad but" approach is that the fan can then figure out what he or she likes about something. I dislike shows that make me watching (24), but I know other people like cliff-hangers because they've told me. This type of approach creates a more specific conversation about the elements of a thing than a blanket-type assertion (one must love even the bad dialog!). I've learned more about your chocolate tastes, Joe!

The other nice thing about exploring subjective taste is that it works in reverse. I think Picasso was a true master. I consider Guernica to be a work of art. I can honestly say that it is one of the greatest paintings I've ever seen.

Yet I have zero interest in hanging anything remotely Cubism-like in any place that I occupy for more than, say, 10 minutes. I can't connect (I feel like Cubism is always yelling at me, ARE YOU AVANT-GARDE ENOUGH YET?)

I try to remember this when people surround themselves with Precious Moments dolls--it's personal taste! It's all personal taste! They must have a reason!

Although I think the it-must-be-all-good-otherwise-you're-saying-it's-all-bad argument comes down to self-identity: "I've found something I can relate to." I consistently refuse to watch Cameron's Avatar with people who like it because I think the premise is so stupid, I can't see how I could possibly get through it without saying so. And people who love it REALLY love it; their love goes beyond the premise. And truth is, I have some movies/shows that I watch just because I love them; I wouldn't inflict them on anyone else (except my students--ha ha).