Random Ramblings is back, and it’s…tastier than ever?
Because the title’s- okay, sorry. Sorry everyone.
I’ve always found it really interesting how contentious discussions about media can often become. Doesn’t seem to matter if it’s books, films, video games, whatever- if you’ve got an opinion on something, chances are its going to become a heated point of division with somebody.
As often is the case with these kinds of things, I tend to put it down to being a difference in tastes, which is great. Its valuable to have different tastes; different tastes create diversity of thought and discussion, and can be enlightening. What’s not so great is when differences in taste become battle lines. More and more these days, taste being so contentious has seemed more and more baffling to me, considering that taste is highly indvidualized and very much subjective. So why does taste cause such anger sometimes?
Well, it comes down to someone’s “bests” and someone’s “favourites”
Now right off the bat, this seems like an overly pedantic stance to take on two words that are often used in a functionally identical way, but bear with me. You see, the difference is important because it’s the reason why someone might say that Citizen Kane is the best film ever made, while in same breath saying their favourite movie is Evil Dead 2. “Best” implies a level of objective authority. Its a statement word, the kind that is inevitably in the title of any hyperbolic opinion piece looking to be deliberately attention-grabbing and decisive in a manner intended to divide, same goes for the opposite word in “worst” (unrelated link here). My point being is that there are certain objective markers to be considered when anything is the “best” of something: in film, this would be in relation to technical aspects like camerawork, editing, lighting etc.- things that can arguably be done either well or poorly, with not much delineation for in-betweens.
But a “favourite” really doesn’t care for objective quality. It could care less if its not as technically proficient or mechanically strong as its “best” peers, because the things you personally enjoy, your tastes as it were, are only truly derived from things whose qualities fall on the subjective side of the scale, and those things really can’t be qualified as “good” or “bad”. There can certainly be arguments to be made about why something isn’t your favourite thing, but you really can never truly argue that something can’t be somebody else’s favourite. Good thing nobody does that, right?
He said, awash with obvious and grating sarcasm.
It’s an all-too common occurrence for to see people essentially trying to debate someone’s enjoyment of something, in the vein of “you don’t like this things for these subjective reasons based on my own tastes”, done with a painful lack of self-awareness. To demonstrate, here’s how these particular conflations of taste with objectivity typically begin:
Person 1: Man, I really didn’t like Suicide Squad.
Person 2: I disagree, I loved it.
The obvious problem with this brief hypothetical exchange is that it is fundamentally impossible to “disagree” with or argue someone’s taste, since that’s essentially a subjective experience. Now could you argue whether the film is well-made? Absolutely, there aspects of filmmaking that can be measured objectively as previously stated. Going off the example of Suicide Squad, I could argue that it’s terribly edited because scenes start and end with all the coherency of a drunk raver rolling on E, but that doesn’t really have any bearing on my enjoyment of the film or not. And really, this extends to any work in any medium. You can argue about whether something is well-made and executed till the cows come home, but you can never argue if someone liked it or not. I mean The Room is quite possibly the worst thing ever put to screen, and yet I unashamedly love it. I would even go as far as to call it one of my favourite movies. As I said, taste knows not the boundaries of quality- it only knows the desires of the heart.
My reason for even bothering to explain any of this is simply because I think this is why some people get so friggin’ mad about movies, or books, or games, or whatever- because instead of trying to understand where someone’s coming from one their experience being enjoyable/unenjoyable, these people are effectively arguing that someone’s own experiences are incorrect, which is just ridiculous.
I’ll leave you with this point to consider: next time somebody tells you they like/dislike something, try asking why instead of just telling them they’re wrong. Chances are the discussion that follows will be far more productive that way.