Committed: Guilty Pleasures
I was surprised today when an outspoken friend expressed embarrassment about liking something. I suppose I’m so used to people openly lambasting the comic books, movies and TV shows which they don’t like, that I didn’t know that they felt inhibited to share their positive opinions. Personally I like all kinds of ridiculous things and I’m used to people laughing at me for it (if you read this column you’re probably used to me agreeing that comic books or movies are flawed and still finding a way to enjoy them). I hope that you feel comfortable to come out and share your joy, no matter how ridiculous or dorky it might feel… after all, there was a time when everything comic book-related was deemed embarrassing and we were all in this together.
For most of my life no one I knew liked comic books and so I didn’t talk about them. People I respected told me they were stupid and that my enjoyment of them showed immaturity. Superheroes weren’t popular then, but I still wanted to read about them, I couldn’t help myself. When no one I knew wanted to read an indie comic about punk rock lesbians and art students (even if they were punk rock lesbians and art students) I still adored Love & Rockets. It wasn’t much of a choice, I could do the thing I loved doing, or I could bow to popular pressure and drop it. All I dropped was talking about it. I stopped buying people copies of comic books I thought I could use to trick them into admitting that comic books could be great (like Violent Cases, Asterios Polyp, or Persepolis) and learned to keep my obsession to myself.
Gradually over time, comic books have somehow became acceptable (to a debatable extent) and everyone has an opinion about the latest superhero movie or science fiction show. The most cynical critics talk about the money the genre can make, even if they belittle the medium. Basically, people have stopped making fun of us and started asking us about them, and it seems like everyone has read at least one comic book and no one is hiding those reading habits.
However true this widespread acceptance of comic books is, within our ranks we’re still a tough group to please. These things we love are so personal to us that it’s easy to forget that we don’t have the last word. Even logically flawed or thematically weird adaptations can be enjoyable, I often find myself agreeing with a friend’s furious rantings about the latest crime of adaptation only to say “but I still liked it”. I will agree that things like Man of Steel, The Sentry, Prometheus, Sleepy Hollow, and Constantine have flaws. A lot of friends make the immediate assumption that I not only don’t enjoy these things but I hate them and am as affronted and infuriated by it as they are. People have explained to me, at length, all of the problems and while I agree, my conclusion is still that I still had a good time and even really like parts.
The big difference is my conclusion; despite any problems I’m often still able to enjoy watching and reading, and I other people’s opinions don’t impact that enjoyment. Luckily there is rarely a point where people finish an angry tirade by asking my opinion since they assume that I’m on board. Once a friend did push for me to express agreement, but all I could do was shrug and say; “Sorry, I enjoyed it despite all of those things.” I felt bad for them, it was awkward, I couldn’t share the anger. My concern now is that expressing my own opinions (negative or positive) doesn’t effect other people’s enjoyment of their chosen media…
Sometimes the general consensus can seem so unanimous that we can become inhibited in expressing our positive feelings. I’m not to saying I lost friends over this or anything extreme like that, but it has taught me to handle my own negative responses differently. Now I try not to assume that my own review is shared by the person I’m talking to, (even if the subject at hand has been universally slammed). Most importantly, when everyone likes something but I don’t, I try to get them to tell me why and what they liked about it, because it is actually interesting and fun to hear even if we don’t agree. We rarely change each other’s minds but there is more space for enjoyable discussion, it has led to some great recommendations and I get a lot out of hearing what made them happy.