The Way We Talk About Pop Culture

When I was a teenager, I would’ve judged you for your pop culture predilections.

I would judge you based on what you liked or didn’t like.

If you liked a movie I thought was stupid, I thought you were probably stupid.

If you liked a book or TV show or whatever that I also liked, I assumed we could be friends.

I believed I held objectivity in my hand. My opinion felt like a glorious hammer and given half a chance I’d smack you with it to teach you a lesson about the failure of your personal tastes.

It was a jerky, self-righteous viewpoint. It was me squinting at you through my asshole, not through my eyes, and I think now — not then, sadly — I know where it was coming from.

I thought at the time if you didn’t like the things I liked, how the hell could you like me?

It came from a sad and uncertain place within — a place notorious to teenagers, I suspect. Those years I was plagued by a lack of self-esteem and a fundamental kind of anger over that perceived weakness, and what happens sometimes is we see a hole and we try to fill it. We fill it with distractions and we cram it with a papier-mâché version of ego that looks like confidence but is really just a shitty origami boulder, flimsy and hollow. It’s a stop-gap measure, a finger in the hole of a dam crack, a gym sock stuffed in a shotgun wound. It’s triage, in a way.

I figure we all have this in some measure — it’s not just teenagers, of course. We all get these holes, holes in how we feel, holes in how we perceive ourselves. And we patch them hastily, hurriedly, without much concern for what we’re shoving in there to fill those pits and fissures.

Point is, what happened then is when I found the things I loved — books and films and games and TV — I used them as standard-bearers in my army, I saw them as representations of me, extensions of myself. I bound myself up with them like a sailor lashing himself to the mast of a ship in a hard storm.

So, when you insulted those things, I felt like, you insulted me.

You didn’t like them, you didn’t like me.

And if you did like them — or could be made to see the error of your ways — then we were pals.

Like I said, bullshit.

But that’s part of the toxic thread that runs through pop and geek culture, I think. I don’t say that with any lack of love for geekery — I’m still a geek about a lot of things and I love to love things because hell, I think it’s cool as fuck to love stuff. We should celebrate the things we love! Nothing wrong with adoring the work of an author or a particular film or a modern classic television show (I’d argue this is a Renaissance of television right now).

It’s cool to like stuff.

Just the same, it’s really important to disentangle yourselves from that stuff.

And it’s important we look at the ways we talk about pop culture.

See, I understand that you have Very Strong Opinions about that Pop Culture Thumbtack stuck in the great big corkboard of our Geeky Heritage. Like I said: totally cool. You should! You should be encouraged to love the things that you love and to have reasons to love them. Hell, you don’t need reasons, either. You can just love something unabashedly, flopping and flipping around on it like a kid at a fucking Bouncy Castle. “I LOVE THIS AND I DON’T KNOW WHY,” you can say, a blissed-out look on your face. I adore your adoration. I love that love.

Embrace your bliss monkey.

You’re also allowed — encouraged, even! — to not like stuff. While I don’t know that “hating” something is valuable, at least in the sense that, say, That New TV Show is worth the hot irons of your internal furnace, but hey, you feel what you feel. Once again, unless you’re a paid critic, you’re allowed to dislike something without any rational or cogent reason presented. You can just be like, “Man, that show Homeland just, it just, gnaaaarghle vvvzzzzz ahhhhhh. You know?”  And then you flounce about and angrily eat a churro. CRUNCH CRUNCH FROWN.

Here’s the thing.

When it comes to pop culture —

Someone is going to dislike the things you dig.

Someone is going to adore the things you don’t.

And that has to be okay.

Is it worth discussing? Of course. We should engage in conversations about the stories that we shove in our media-hungry mouths! We should be free to talk about why we like things, or dislike things, or even better, why we liked some stuff and didn’t like other stuff and oh hey look a nuanced opinion. Engaging in thoughtful dissection of why something works for us or fails for us is really valuable! It helps us discover more things we like. It lends us a greater understanding of the things we consume beyond them being mere entertainment.

But here’s what it comes down to: when we talk about this stuff, we need to maaaaaaybe ease off the stick a little bit. Fandom can get a little intense, moving beyond passionate nerdery to codependent geekery. We feel so intimately toward some of this stuff you’d think we created it, or that we represent the creators in some big way. This is a time of big pop culture releases: the end of Breaking Bad, the start of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a brand new Stephen King. The way some folks talk about Joss Whedon suggests they’re part of a Whedonesque hive-mind, representative spore cultures of the Original Whedon Mother Patch.

And you’re not. You’re not him. You’re not his television show.

You’re not your favorite novel. Or that beloved movie. Or a game that just came out.

(Related: Gaming Community, We Have To Talk Again, a post about toxicity and bullshit objectivity when it comes to game reviews — in particular how folks reacted with intense bat-guano vitriol around a mostly positive review of GTAV, not an unabashedly positive review.)

We should be encouraged to discuss our pop culture feelings.

We should never, ever argue about them. Or insult folks. Or tell them how they should feel.

Everything you think and feel about that book, that show, that game, that cupcake, that sunset, that proctology exam — it’s subjective. Subjective as in, I am the subject of this sentence, and this is how I personally experienced something.

(Now, all that’s a little different if you’re a critic — I mean, a real, actual, professional critic. But if what you’re doing is just talking about stuff on Facebook, believe me when I tell you: that’s not criticism. Nor should you expect that everyone surrounding you on social media is capable of dissecting the moving parts of art or pop culture. Besides, criticism is very rarely about THIS WAS GOOD or THIS SUCKED BALLS, so let’s stop confusing what proper critical theory accomplishes with what a review does.)

Stop defending your choices. Defense implies you’re going to war for the pop culture property — as if Breaking Bad or Iron Man or the books of George R. R. Martin somehow need you as a knight for the realm. This isn’t a battle. No stakes on the table.

Stop defending. Start discussing.

Stop being so invested in your pop culture that it makes you upset when someone likes something you don’t, or when someone hates something you love. It’s not personal. Joss Whedon isn’t your child. Neil Gaiman isn’t your Mom. You’re not dating Harry Potter. (I KNOW YOU’RE NOT BECAUSE I AM YOU STAY AWAY FROM HIM *hiss*). Those with different pop culture opinions than you aren’t aliens. They’re damn sure not enemies. Instead of trying to Prove Your Point and Force Them To Agree, why not have a conversation about it? Try to learn about what makes them tick. Try to suss out how the mechanics of story — and world, and character, and so on and so forth — affect different people in different ways. Stop thinking it’s awful when people disagree with you, and start thinking that it’s interesting, instead.

Because it is! It is interesting when people don’t agree. Of course we don’t all have the same tastes — why would we want that? We don’t all need to be unified.

A hive-mind would just be sticky and weird.

A diverse storytelling and pop culture environment exists because of these varying, many-headed tastes. This is a feature, not a bug.

Be polite about it. Be cool about it. Be excited, engaged. Don’t be venomous. Don’t be an asshole. (Damn sure don’t be a venomous asshole, because ew.) Love what you love! Dislike what you dislike. Don’t insult. Talk about it in ways where you seek to become enlightened and aware instead of in ways that suggest the other person just took a shit in your soup.

It’s normal to feel intimately connected to our stories and to those who like the same things we do. Stories have power! They possess a potent gravity. Just don’t let it grow tribal. Don’t throw up walls because of it. That’s how the purity of geek culture gets dragged through the muck, and that sense of tribalism and cultishness is what spawns things like the Fake Geek Girl bullshit meme or threatening people over reviews.

Hell, it goes beyond just geek culture. A lot of the problems my Dad and I had when I was a teen and beyond came when I stopped partaking in the things he loved. He loved to hunt and as a teenager, I wasn’t all that into it. I loved computers and books and he didn’t touch or even understand either of those things. A wall separated us as a result — if he loved hunting and I didn’t, well, shit. He felt insulted. Just as I felt insulted that he didn’t understand computers or read books. Neither of us tried talking about it. We were just pissed. And it stayed that way for —

Well, too damn long, really.

By the time we started fixing it, starting finding a way to appreciate each other beyond our interests and stop being so angry all the time, he only had a few more years of life and now he’s gone and — what? Was it worth it? Shit, I know, that’s an extreme example (and someone out there is like WAY TO BRING THE MOOD DOWN, DEBBIE DOWNER), but it stands to follow that we gotta be a little less wrapped up in the things we like.

That guy likes beer. Another person likes wine. This lady likes cake, some dude likes pie. You like the paddle, I like the whip. Football, baseball, foozball, fuckball. We can’t let these preferences compete. We can’t let them be subtractive to our relationships.

Don’t we have enough real things to worry about?

The government?

The climate?


Miley Cyrus’ sentient parasitic tongue?


*lurches toward you, mouth open*


  • Oh, yeah, all of this.

    Of late, I’ve been taken to task for not liking Iron Man 3, Spec Ops: The Line (and choosing to stop playing after a particularly disturbing and upsetting section of the game), and Agents of SHIELD’s pilot episode, as though I was committing a crime by judging a tv show by its pilot (despite the fact that, as an author, I know I have maybe one chapter in which to engage a potential reader and convince them to keep going, and I don’t see that tv shows are all that different an investment of my time).

    I often enjoy discussing different opinions with people, learning why they liked something I don’t, and listening to their own criticisms. But I’ve begun to avoid even trying now. Several times recently, I’ve posted an opinion on Facebook, and been jumped on. It makes you want to stop having conversations.

    • I know exactly what you mean

      There was NO way I was going to admit on Twitter or Facebook that I didn’t like Sleepy Hollow. Because of the way people were drooling over it, I knew I would be ripped to shreds for saying so.

      BTW, I liked Agents of SHIELD, and it doesn’t bother me a bit that you didn’t like it. Totally cool with it. 🙂

      And I ALWAYS judge a new show by the pilot episode. I have a finite amount of time to devote to weekly TV series. If you don’t get me after 1 hour, I’m moving on. If I’m wrong, I can always catch up on streaming down the road.

      • I’m the same, Debbie. With two babies and another on the way, plus my day-job and my writing, I have limited free time, and I want to make the most of it.

    • Well, thing about a TV show is that — from both the storytelling and the business behind making a show — they have to function as individual representations of the season. That is the explicit goal of a pilot: to represent the series going forward and to be the thing that hooks us or sinks us. We are under no obligation to keep watching a show. We can give up after 10 minutes, one hour, or one season.

      Now, that’s a little different if you’re a critic — though even there individual episodes are capably subject to criticism and review.

      It’s probably worth noting that despite what I just said about pilots being representative of the whole, it’s rarely true because of a really borked pilot system. The way TV shows are made is just goofy.

      But again: no obligation, no. Time is precious. We’re not lacking a whole lot of other really great options out there in terms of pop culture, so, I don’t much care to waste time on stuff that isn’t pushing my buttons because I know I can find something that will soon enough. (Hell, I give up on a book really early if I don’t like it. A few chapters in, I might bail.)

      • Yup. One person asked me how I’d feel if someone gave up on one of my books after just one chapter. Fact is, it’s almost happened, with a very close friend, too. Not everyone will like my books, and that’s cool, I know it’s part of the business and I’d never try and convince someone to keep reading my work if they weren’t enjoying it.

  • Thank you for this. I have never, ever understood the fandom wars. Don’t know why people can’t even stand something they dislike simply EXISTING in this word. If I don’t like a book series or TV show or movie franchise, I don’t read it or watch it. The end. It’s not a personal judgment against anyone who does like those things.

    • Debbie – I hear ya on that one. Fandom wars have always baffled me. People really care that passionately about something MADE UP that they will cyber-bully people?! Whoa. It’s a brave (and totally scary) new world, people. So thanks to Chuck for saying what most of us are thinking… but maybe too reluctant because the trolls might attack!
      In the end, our likes and dislikes are our own. I suppose in this age of over-sharing, however, if we’re going to tweet about how much we love/hate something, we’re asking for commentary on our opinions. That’s why I plan to largely keep mine to myself – unless discourse is what I’m looking for!

  • Thank you! I get Whovians jumping down my throat a lot when they realise I haven’t seen it, and never intend to. I’m sure it’s good, it’s just not my cuppa tea. I am all for replacing the ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ with “Don’t be an asshole”. I mean, what if someone’s a masochist? Then the ‘golden’ rule gets all awkward and uncomfortable.

    • I will suggest this: If you haven’t experienced something (whether that be Doctor Who or some comic book or regular book or movie or whatever), even if you’re pretty sure you won’t like it, it’s worth experiencing one instance of it. It may have layers or aspects that you didn’t realize were there. Once you’ve experienced it, you may not change your mind about it at all — but you’ll be better equipped to talk about it and be able to say more clearly what you don’t like about it. On the other hand, if you do change your mind, so much the better for what it adds to your life.

  • A very wise friend of mine once told me that it was just not acceptable to just say ‘I don’t like so and so or such and such.’ (I seem to remember I was talking about her life partner at the time!) but that it was perfectly acceptable to say ‘ and so or such and such makes me feel….(add feeling here)’ This is irrefutable as you are only one who can tell others how you feel whereas to just say you don’t like the guy ‘cos he’s an asshole’ is not. I’ve since tried to take this on board! If you can also use the same methodology for things you like/love we’re getting into the realm of sensible discussion with no bloody noses. Now I’m feeling all Zen-like 😉

  • Just wanting to be clear here – clear AND consistent – When it comes to pop culture, we must not blow up, or scream, rather, how did you put it? ” Be polite about it. Be cool about it. Be excited, engaged. Don’t be venomous. Don’t be an asshole.”

    Got it. Yet, several days ago when you wrote about the Tea Party, they were the worst set of racist, sexist, (and a bunch of other ‘ists) that you had ever experienced in your life. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but the impression that i got was that you wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.

    I think I now understand that it’s more important to keep the peace in the gnat’s nano-attention span of the pop culture, than to have an ounce of understanding of someone else’s political view.

    • I think I’m allowed to be angry at sexism and racism, and I’m allowed to get mad at a political party whose interest is short-circuiting our nation’s economy and health care by throwing a pissy-diapered tantrum.

      We should all be mad about things that matter. About things that speak to our principles.

      Whether or not you liked the BREAKING BAD finale is not exactly on the same page as 800,000 people being out of work, or a party that wants to take rights away from women or that wants to help deny folks healthcare coverage in service to the bottom line.

      So, you know, maybe take that line of thinking elsewhere.

      • Unfortunately some people’s political views are exactly that–racism and sexism. So they’ll cry forever that you’re disrespecting their political views. Because you are. Sadly we live in an age where those views actually get airtime and enough followers to make them socially legit. Not for long though, hopefully. We no longer burn witches, so that’s encouraging, right?

          • Ah yes, the same “logic” that means it’s unfair to straight white men to suggest that there be more women, people of colour, or gay characters in books, movies, tv shows and games.

  • I’m gonna go crazy and say that if we don’t have the same politics, it doesn’t mean we have to hate each other. Maybe you had different experiences, or I have a different point of view based on some weird thing a teacher said 25 years ago that just sat down and took residence in my head. Maybe we all have some reason we feel the way they do that has nothing to do with being evil. I know. Crazy idea.

  • I think about this often, how vicious people have become in recent years. I’m not sure what to blame. Has society become more casual? Our interactions more casual? Due to email/texting/social media? You’d think this was a good thing, but maybe it brings out bad behavior. Maybe a barrier of formality kept our manners in check, kept our feelings safe.

    Or maybe, because it’s so much easier to communicate with each other due to email/texting/social media, we just hear more of it. We’re more exposed to the words of others. Many, many others. And people have always been this vicious. Now it’s just out in the open.

    Can we blame the anonymity of the internet? Would all those vile Youtube comments ever be uttered in person, in a group of listening people? In the grocery store? In a restaurant? People can be shamed on the internet, sure, but it’s not as powerful as being shamed in public, among real human bodies.

    Or maybe I’m just getting older, crabbier, and less tolerant. But the problem is, it’s not just the kids these days. It’s people my age with bad manners. It’s people who are older. End times must be here! I need to get to work on my underground bunker.

    • I think a lot of the viciousness has died back amongst most folks, and I think maybe geek culture has gotten healthier if only because it seems more self-aware, now, of some of what plagues it. But it’s still there and I’m still reminded of it (the inspiration for this post comes from something a friend said on FB about how he gets judged for liking Joss Whedon’s work — like, they’re not judging the work, they’re judging HIM for liking it). And then it occurred to me that this kind of co-dependency we have with our pop culture leads to some of the more toxic stuff you find — misogyny and sexism and all that stuff, waiting out there beyond the margins of rationality and empathy.

    • Kay,

      You’re exactly right. Being anonymous on the internet makes people unafraid to let loose. If you were to say or do something completely irrational and full of hatred in person, your friends and family would not put up with it for long. You would be ostricized. A good example to prove this point is in poker. I love playing poker. There is an element of luck, but there is so much nuance and strategy to it, it’s a very fun game. Problem is, I live the middle or Utah where I would have to drive hours to play a real live game. So when online poker came out, I jumped right on board. It didn’t take me long to realize that because it was online, people would take unrealistic risks on every hand. They would bet big while holding nothing. They would call every bet you made, whether they had anything or not, just in the hopes of catching you bluffing. They would go All-In on every hand just to see if they could catch lucky. It didn’t matter if it was a free table with play money, or a high stakes table where 100s of dollars were being won or lost on a single hand. There was always somebody playing in this insane, illogical manner. In a real life game, you rarely see this behavior. Occasionally, somebody would get a little free and loose and play like a donkey, but eventually they would lose their shirt and the difference is when they did this in real life, they had to live it out in front of living breathing people. They had to watch as somebody scooped up all their chips, several other sets of judging eyes watching. They’d have to get up from the table and take that walk of shame. Online, they only have to click a couple buttons and they’d have more chips and be at a new table, asshatery to continue embarassment free.

    • Oh yeah – YouTube has become like the Parallel Universe of Weird when it comes to comments!

      It never fails to baffle me when they put up, say, the latest Lady Gaga video and there is always – ALWAYS – at least one comment along the general theme of “Lady Gaga is completely talentless and every thing she’s ever done is SHIT and this latest one is even MORE shit than every other thing she’s done and anyone who likes it HAS SHIT FOR BRAINS…”

      Really? But you went to that site and watched it anyway then? Was the fact that it was done by someone who’s work you hate so much not a MASSIVE CHUFFIN’ CLUE that you’d probably hate that as well then? Or do you just like wasting your time forcing yourself to watch stuff you already know you’re unlikely to love? Seriously, if that’s their life then spare time is WASTED on them.

      I agree, it’s the anonymity of the ‘net that breeds this kind of bad manners. Being blocked/ignored just provides the rush of “Oooh, I wound that person up – go me, with my snarky rapier-wit!” At present there are minimal consequences to insulting complete strangers, because the technology doesn’t exist to facillitate a real-life punch in the face. Result: a new generation of Keyboard ‘Warriors.’

      Great post, Chuck!

  • October 3, 2013 at 10:53 AM // Reply

    Chuck, this post seems perfectly timed for me today. I’m reading a book for a group discussion tonight and have already heard a bunch of the other members didn’t enjoy it, though I have so far (Almost done). It really helps to keep in mind that the feeling of being joined to the things we love is a product of insecure minds (such as mine) and defending preferences just doesn’t make much sense. As always, thanks for the great blog.

    • Hey, I still get it sometimes — someone says they didn’t like something I really love, my first initial response is that twisting up in the gut. That teeth-gritted HEY NUH-UH YOU’RE WRONG AND HERE’S WHY, but that’s not a productive way to be nor should my opinion be anymore meaningful than theirs. So, in some senses, this post is (as many are here) about me as it is about anybody else.

      • October 3, 2013 at 11:19 AM // Reply

        That is both good to hear and one of those frustrating things: that this sort of thing doesn’t fade away. Oh well. Staying positive over here.

  • Geez, I made a terrible mistake and followed the link to the gaming ‘discussion’… *shudders*. Unfortunately some things cannot be unseen and now I’m feeling a bit traumatized. Toxic only just begins to describe it.

    Some people take themselves (and the games/books/tv shows etc. they like) too seriously. Maybe we should all get lessons in self-deprecation at one time or another, I bet social relations would be simpler, more relaxed… well, funnier anyway ;).
    Also: some people should realize that they don’t have to join a cult every time they fall in love with whatever they like.

  • Maybe I’m old school or just emotionally barren, but words like love and adoration don’t serve me well when talking about books or tv shows or other consumer products. I may feel that As Good As It Gets is a great movie, but I don’t “love” it. Similarly, The Middle by Jimmy Eat World still lifts my mood and makes me wanna dance, but I don’t “adore” the band or “love” the song.

    Which makes it easier to also not “hate” things that don’t appeal to me. And in turn, I don’t feel the need to disparage or dehumanize the people who *do* like those things.

    I get that “love” is a sort of shorthand for expressing our enjoyment of and admiration for a book or movie, but perhaps fanwars and flaming would be less vitriolic if we thought more carefully about the words we use. And maintained a sense of scale, reserving “love” for life partners and children, for example. Just a thought.

    • I’ve actually been thinking about this recently, in a similar context.

      I think love is a complicated word. What you’re saying absolutely makes sense and I agree to a point.

      We love people in a different way than we love non-people in that we can say “I love that person, but I don’t really like them” and that makes sense. Perhaps it makes some sense with pets, too, to a lesser degree.

      You can’t really say “I love pizza, but I don’t really like it.” Sure, you can have some ambivalence regarding pizza. You think it’s delicious, but you tend to cover it with things that aren’t good for you or eat too much and load up on more carbs than you should take in, however that doesn’t mean the same thing to me. The essential point of “loving” pizza is that one likes it very, very much.

      I don’t think that makes it an incorrect use exactly. My love of my mother can be distinguished as an emotional response from my love for my wife, and both can be distinguished from my love for my son, etc.

      And certain works of art fit in there in a way that I think “love” is as good a word as any we have available. With a work of art, I’m able to feel passion and affection that transcends merely liking it very much. It can involve me not only forgiving its flaws but cherishing them. I can spend the day thinking about it, considering it, feeling passionate about it.

      Yes, I can distinguish that passion from the feeling I feel for my wife, but I can’t distinguish it from the broader concept of “love”

      • I wouldn’t say it’s an incorrect use, but a problematic one, particularly when it becomes habitual and reflexive, replacing more careful, thoughtful, accurate (and therefore meaningful) language. Your example of “loving” a work of art would be more of the latter than the former, right? The same might apply to abstract concepts; I would say, for instance, that I’m passionate about freedom of speech.

        As a species, we are drawn to great passions. So it makes sense that we “love” the things that stir our emotions. But it strikes me as odd when someone has a weepy-squealy Bieber-fan reaction to, say, publication of the next Margaret Atwood book or which actor will play Christian Grey. And proceeds to gush about it. “I just looooove the MaddAddam triology! Atwood’s a magician, a genius! Waiting for the third book was like being drawn and quartered by snails! I thought I would DIE before it came out.” Bleh.

        Of course, overreaction works both ways. Seems that in some forums (rare enough here, thankfully), a person can’t give a reasoned critique of something without being called a “hater.” Yet critical thought–questioning, raising concerns and doubts, revealing flaws–is often a sign of how deeply a person cares about–loves–the thing s/he critiques. Such a useful tool for undoing garbage when quality matters and for making good things even better isn’t “hating” in my book.

        Must be why I don’t pay much attention to pop culture….

  • October 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM // Reply

    Defend loving every drop of Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Orange is the new Black…NEVER!!!! It should be TV defending 50 years (in my lifetime) of plastic crap we’ve been force-fed to endure. Bravo to great writing finally breaking through.

    Thanks for bringing it up Mr. W

    • I just started watching Breaking Bad the week or so before it ended. A few years ago Betsy Lerner blogged that she was addicted to it so I finally checked it out. I had to watch the marathons to catch up. I did that because the episode I watched was incredibly well written and amazing. I am thinking of getting copies of the scripts so I can study them.
      I don’t know about the other shows you mentioned because I didn’t watch them. I think Downton Abbey was probably good but I didn’t get around to watching it.

  • I have completely mixed feelings about this, but mostly because I’m hoping to spend my academic career studying pop culture. And I defend particular things because within academia, there’s this assumption that popular culture is not worth discussing – that it’s less than so-called high culture. It’s marginally different from what you’re talking about here, but not completely, because what you’re talking about comes down to likes and dislikes. And yes, we should respect that other people like and dislike things. But we should defend those likes and dislikes as legitimate, and defend the texts as legitimate, too.

  • Okay, who exactly didn’t like Breaking Bad or the final episode of Breaking Bad? I want names and IPs! I will leave a trail of scorched and salted earth as I hunt them down and destroy them. They’re wrong. They’re SO wrong they don’t deserve to breathe my oxygen.

    Aside from that, great post 🙂

  • A hive-mind would just be sticky and weird. But it’s nothing that some lube, a few damp washcloths, and maybe a few ice cubes wouldn’t fix.

    And just remember: always practice safe hive-mind, kids.

  • The thing in this case is that I _have_ experienced it through the many cons I’ve been to and the many Whovians I know. I know the characters, the plots, the villains, love interests and the in-jokes because the fandom has told me all of these. I know the deal with River Song and all the catch phrases. Don’t get me wrong, I’m open minded about new things, and usually try to experience things before I give my opinion on them. However, in this case I can tell that I wouldn’t enjoy the series.

    The equivalent would be to go to someone who has told you they aren’t interested in the Saw movies and try to tell them that they should experience it so they can tell you what they don’t like about it.

    I’m not saying that Who is a bad TV show. For so many people to abso-fucking-lutely love it, it must be great. I’m just saying I’m not interested, and like Chuck said above, we need to accept when people don’t like the stuff we love.

  • October 3, 2013 at 5:19 PM // Reply

    I get you, and I agree with you, but I think there is another reason as well, which is that the things we love are also subject to the whims of the fans. More than ever with the ability to get near instant feedback via the internet. I understand that many people (myself not included) don’t care for the new Star Trek film. They get irritated at those who do for a lot of reasons, certainly, but I do think a big one is that… if people like the new Trek film, the next one will be like it as well. From my end, I hated the new Spider Man film, and I learned today that Amazing Spider-Man 3 is being written now. I don’t mind the fact that there’s going to be more Amazing Spider-Man as much as the fact that I would really like to have a Spider-Man film I actually like… and that’s probably not going to happen.

    It’s still not an excuse, really. And I’m glad for people who do like Amazing Spider-Man, because they’re likely in for two more that they like, and they’ll have fun. (I had the joy of getting to see it in a theater that was empty but for me and my girlfriend, allowing us to heckle it without disturbing anyone, so I can’t say I didn’t have fun watching it.) But I can certainly understand people wanting to protect the things they love so that they retain the standard of quality they expect. I think that’s why, the longer a fandom goes on, the more divided it gets. Star Trek is pretty split on the new films, Doctor Who seems to be split over if Moffat is awesome or awful. Everyone has something different they like about the early installments, and for them, that’s the “real” heart of the show, or what it’s “supposed” to be like. As time goes on, inevitably the media will drift away from what many think it should be, leading to rifts.

  • I think a certain amount of this behavior is also a failure to accept you don’t like something. There are things I don’t like. I can tell you why I don’t like them. And, I can tell you there isn’t really thing wrong with these things, but for the certain reasons I don’t like them. I can accept I don’t like something even though it may be well written, interesting, and full of depth. Me liking or not liking it is not indicative of its quality.

    One of things that annoys me the amount of anger at people who have been successful. Such as Stephanie Meyer, I don’t like her books, and I don’t care for writing style. But, I don’t see how that warrants me to make personal attacks upon her, and anyone who reads her books. I can accept that some of my friends enjoy her books, and I don’t. They aren’t wrong, and I’m not right. It’s only a difference of opinion.

        • For me, the only real downside to the whole Twilight phenomenon is the small wave of fame that swept the otherwise sleepy town of Forks, WA, which makes a pleasant base from which to explore the west side of the Olympic peninsula. Prices went up when the locals imagined the fan tsunami about to come ashore. This too shall pass.

  • I can’t think of a single pop culture preference that drives me to fan-rage. Maybe that’s because I’m not cool enough to keep up with the pop culture; I have but so much moral outrage to spare.

    However, the *results* of fan-rage will get me every once in awhile. For example poor, victimized I’M RICH, Miley on the VMAs. Everyone hated on her and Robin Thicke, with nary a concern for the real victim– the INNOCENT BEARS.

    If poor Miley wants to rub on Beetlejuice’s crotch, so what? Now, the slut shaming in the mom-blogging world that followed made my head explode. Why? Because now we’ve taken the actions of just Miley and pasted them on every girl with short shorts. That shit is not okay.

    Still whenever some new post pooped up about Miley’s rapid fall from the purity of Hannah Montana, the break up between her and that kid (the hubs and I spent a laugh-filled evening catching up on music videos. Oy) all I could think was, “But, Syria?”

    Oh– and the reason why I can agree with peace, love and vegan chicken grease with regard to pop culture and not politics is (should be?) really easy to understand.

    Miley doesn’t forcibly twerk her way into my house; like all vampiric assassinations of my brain cells, I have to invite her in. The government representatives, with their pesky law passing, don’t wait for an invitation– I have no choice about when they show up, or for how long they stay. Hell, in NC they laughed and parked a motorcycle in my uterus.

    Miley, or GTA, or Game of Thrones, or Dr. Who– not real and the power they hold over you is *given with your permission*. Congress? Very real, and the power they wield can be taken without my permission (see that NSA? Y’all suck).

    The comparison of respect for pop culture preferences to that of a need to tolerate politically-supported-bigotry defies common sense.

  • Nowadays, there are so many ways to consume different aspects of pop culture, even within a given mode (like, say, being “in” to SF and F) that there’s no way any one person can keep up with all of it. I’ve always been a bit out of the loop, as I tend to get into my own ruts (if that’s the right word) in terms of what I like. Even back in my long-ago high school days, I missed a lot (and there was a lot less pop culture to miss back then). I read a lot, and consume TV and movies a lot less. I used to play computer games, but don’t do so as much now that I’m writing.

    So things, even within SF and F geekdom, tend to sneak up on me (I discovered Firefly well after it was cancelled and a friend recommended it, so we rented the series from Netflix). Even with regards to fantasy writers, I’m constantly discovering things I don’t know about but should. My days of looking down on people for liking the wrong kind of music, or fiction, or movies (or not caring about the right kind) or whatever are long gone. But I do remember what it felt like to be 17 and to think that someone liking the same music I did was the basis for a meaningful relationship.

  • Yes! Love this! Also, I would like to add that one does not need to watch TV to be considered a sane and not-completely-nerdy person. Count me as part of Team Internet, because I watch exactly zero TV shows. I know, I am glad everybody has time to watch every single episode of a seemingly endless televised narrative, but I do not wish to participate. I do, however, have time to read every single page of the internet and obsessively follow blogs (like this one <3). Reading is good for you, right?

    Thanks for the great post, as usual. You said it better than I could.

  • I sometimes have contact with a 40 something man-boy. He disparages people’s views of pop culture if they do not agree with his. That teenaged mindset is hard to tolerate, especially in adults. I try to ignore him.

  • This post, especially regarding how different interests drove you and your father apart, really struck a chord with me. For my dad and me the dealbreaker was baseball (and sports in general, which I don’t personally have much interest in). Thank you for sharing that! I hope you don’t mind that I reposted it on my blog with due credit to you…I hope that my meager but wonderful band of followers starts following you as well.

  • I witnessed a Twitter argument yesterday about something — ah, very — much like this, which also triggered the phenomenon in me. It was between two people whose work I enjoy and whose opinions I respect, but neither of whom I know in person.

    I had to actively remind myself that this was not my problem, had nothing to do with me, and didn’t invalidate my respect for either of them, much less invalidating my enjoyment of their creations.

  • Couldn’t agree more Chuck.

    Who has time for that hate? I have so many things that I could do that I love, I won’t waste my time worrying about what other people might like or dislike.

    I don’t despise the Star Wars prequels. Sure, they could be better in some areas, but there were a lot of parts I enjoyed too.

    And the father part… Yeah, you’re right.

  • Loved it. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the teen confidence thing. A lot of people self actualise by what they do and what they like. Take these things away and they don’t know who they are. That’s a bit of a wobbly and scary place to be and they will see any criticism as a threat.

    I suppose it’s hot wired into us to be passionate about something. It’s probably some primal urge that helped us stay alive when we were cave people – to believe in something to strive for or something to keep us going and if there’s no life or death issue, no tribe next door, no dinosaurs, no invading aliens… then perhaps we replace that important shit with trivial stuff. Perhaps that’s our problem.

    Who knows…?



  • Everything someone says “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature,” I think of Invader zim. “It’s not stupid, it’s ADVANCED!”

    Speaking of obscure geek things…

  • While I mostly agree there is some problematic things in some works of pop-culture that people WILL ignore because they enjoy said work. These things are a real problem with society, representation and how people are represented. It’s great that you love whatever work you love but its certainly not ok that you don’t recognize the problematic elements in it and if you’re going to defend those elements you’re part of a bigger problem and should be told so. Hopefully with polite language but I’ve never actually bought into tone arguments. So when I get into a heated argument about pop-culture it’s rarely on the actual quality of the work but rather how is represents human beings (it’s the reason I literally can’t stand Patrick Rothfuss) and I will take it personally because said author, and by extension the fan, decided it was ok use my culture however they saw fit (usually grotesquely wrong-headed) and loved it without reason. Even though it’s contributing to long standing and highly damaging cultural practices. Honestly if you’re going to love that you better have a very good reason and if not you’re basically saying that your need to be entertained is above my need (or which ever group of people) to have my culture portrayed as people and not some exotic setting that can be cherry-picked by outsiders that (you) know nothing (Jon Snow) about and actually have every insulting ideas about it.

    I’ve tried to be as vague as possible as not upset anyone but I probably did anyways. Sorry.

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