I remember being a youngin, around 11 years old, when I was first confronted by some jerk in my 6th-grade class for liking something I liked.
In this particular case, it was LEGOs. I was still very much a creative weirdo at the time, and LEGOs, as childish as they were starting to seem at that age, gave me an outlet for that impulse.
It came as a shock to me that anyone could possibly disapprove of this harmless pastime.
I guess word had gotten around that myself and some of my close buddies still received the free mail-order LEGO catalogs on a monthly basis, which actually had more to do with how hard it was to get taken off the mailing list than anything else.
Regardless, in that moment I learned that the thing I liked has been deemed severely uncool by some external force, and now it threatened to tarnish what little social standing I had, right as I was heading into middle school.
So I bailed and I bailed hard. That meant removing built LEGO sets from my room, passing them onto younger siblings, none of whom really cared about them as much as I had.
About a year later, the whole family’s supply of miscellaneous LEGOs was being gifted to charity in a huge blue plastic tub.
I didn’t realize back then that I was actually losing much more than several hundred colored plastic bricks.
It took me a lot longer after that to realize that everyone, absolutely everyone, is an outsider in one way or another.
It can be thanks to your very identity, your heritage, or just about anything else. But since LNGFRM is a media blog, we’re going to focus on how preferences in movies, shows, hobbies, and pop culture icons can now cause rifts as deep and as personal as the national political divide.
We’ve now reached a strange plateau where liking or disliking the most recent Star Wars flick can be grounds for ending a friendship, or for being slammed with so much anger and so many counterpoint arguments you want to move to the mountains and ditch the internet connection altogether.
I’m here to confirm your suspicion that that kind of irrational anger and righteous indignation sews the seeds of its own destruction and that you probably shouldn’t move to the mountains just yet. At least not until things really go south.
A Community of Naysayers
Contemporary society has a talent for dismissing certain feelings and affections. That could be an article of its own, but in the context of media and entertainment, it means that people tend to automatically dismiss things they don’t already like.
And it seems the more someone dedicates time to loving, I dunno, video games for example, the more likely they are to get defensive when their favorite games, consoles, etc. are challenged in any way.
All of a sudden we’ve got this unofficial hierarchy based around gut reactions and an invented sense of superiority.
This makes for an unlimited supply of toxic conversations, fights being fought when there don’t need to be any at all in the first place.
You Have a History
You like the things you like for many different reasons, including a bunch you might not even be aware of. Could be nostalgia, or a feeling of comfort or security.
In the end, if you find meaning in something, it has value. Doesn’t mean that anyone else will. But the fact that it means something to you, even just you, makes it valuable.
And yes, while this means the things you like are worth defending, it also means there’s no reason to attack someone else for liking anything at all.
The Big Asterisk
LNGFRM loves media criticism as much as anyone, believe you me, but every review on the planet comes with an unspoken asterisk: this is the opinion of a human being, a source of subjective thought, who is, in turn, discussing a work of art, which is itself highly subjective.
In other words, the lesson here is a two-parter:
1 – Like what you like.
2 – Let everyone else like what they like.
It seems simple enough, but we forget quickly.
We’re Not Goalies
The great Kyle Kinane May have put it best, so I’ll go ahead and paraphrase him here. We’re not here to be goalies. We’re not here to stop someone from doing something that gives them joy. Instead, our job is to assist or get out of the way.
Only playing well-reviewed AAA games doesn’t make you better than anyone else.
Liking corny DC movies doesn’t make you a weirdo.
Quietly jamming to old Spice Girls tracks is nothing to be ashamed of.
Don’t erase yourself or others with forceful media shaming.
The end is always near, so just keep living your best life, and most importantly, like what you like.