Stop Liking Things I Don't Like
Winter 2015’s Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! is an incredibly stupid show with an incredibly stupid premise and an incredibly stupid central joke. I liked it. And no, I don’t mean that in the ironically cathartic way I liked Brave Witches or something like that. No, I mean I actually genuinely liked the series. More than I really had a right to, in all honesty. Like I said, it is a very, very dumb show, and if the premise isn’t enough to get you laughing, then you’re going to have a hard time enjoying this as much as I did. But I kinda have a thing for absurdity and blatantly wacky humor when it comes to my shows (also you have to be a really cold bastard to say no to a pink koala bear), and…well, I was nearing the end of my Gin Tama shotgun at the time, so it was a decent series to fill in the hole.
However, if you went off to MAL to check this show out, you’d see its score hovering at around a 7.1 which, when you consider that most of the series I consider staples have a score of 8 or higher, translates out to a below average bordering on just plain bad rating. I bring this show up because, not only do I want to make the point that I can hold unpopular opinions of shows, I want to address an issue that I’ve really wanted to talk about after spending the overwhelming majority of my life dabbling in Internet culture and exploring all the strange, wonderful places it’s brought me.
One of the rules that I learned very early on, traipsing through GameFAQs forums in middle and high school, goes like this: Everyone has perfect taste, and if you hold an opinion contrary to or less favorable than someone else’s, that means you are wrong, because otherwise that means that their likes are imperfect, implying that they’re wrong, and that’s just crazy. I’ve been on the offending end there more than a few times. To give you a very infamous example from my gaming background, I find the two Okami games to be better than most of the Zelda games.
Yeah, I can hear the pitchforks being sharpened right now.
Of course, I’ve also had to put up with a number of people slagging off something I like, and I totally get why some people get upset when they have to hear direct criticism of something they enjoy. Dissenting opinions wouldn’t be called that if they agreed with the majority. And in many cases, yes, that usually involves taking a negative stance on something widely viewed as at least good.
Today, however, I’m more interested in the converse phenomenon. That is to say, I’ve also had incidents where detractors of something - anime, games, or otherwise - have gotten palpably upset with me with giving a positive review to something they didn’t like.
You read that correctly. People have gotten mad over me enjoying something they did not.
From the outset, this reaction makes no damn sense whatsoever. I mean, yeah, it just seems like an iteration on the ageless rule that I brought up a few paragraphs ago, but you’ll notice that the hypothesis here is the exact opposite of what I had previously. How do some people get this upset because I’m getting a more favorable experience out of something than they did? Frankly, I’m not sure if there even is a good answer to that question. But I brought it up, so I guess it’s only fair I try to answer it. And in order to do that, as much as I don’t want to, I’m putting on my philosophy gloves for this one as we try and pick apart exactly why this happens.
First, let me start with a fact that is so blindingly obvious you might not be able to read it. Nobody in the world likes the exact same things to the exact same degrees as anyone else. Yeah, what a shocking revelation, but sometimes I think that we take this variety for granted. Imagine a world where everyone’s tastes, preferences, and likes perfectly matched everyone else’s. Not only does that statement sound Orwellian in probably the most literal sense of the word, but it also sounds incredibly boring, doesn’t it? Differences in likes are the primary driving factor behind exploration and trying different things. And how do we know if something is necessarily good or bad if we haven’t yet experienced it ourselves?
Simple: we ask questions and get opinions. And after gathering a sufficient amount of information, we are then educated enough to form an opinion of our own and defend it. I personally don’t care how wrong I think someone is; if they have a well-informed and well-founded stance on an issue, then I’m all for them having it.
See, without differing opinions, there’s no way for debate and argument to happen, and without them we’re kinda back to square one. As strange and as out of context this next sentence is going to sound, I like arguing with people. I like seeing how others interpret an issue, and I also like seeing how they arrived at their conclusions. Maybe it’s just me, but hearing an idea that either doesn’t run parallel to or just outright contradicts mine is actually pretty damn refreshing. It’s a reminder that no two people think the same way, and if I didn’t entertain these opinions, jeesh, I’d probably be an incredibly dull and closed-minded bastard, wouldn’t I?
The other thing about differing opinions is that it inevitably gives rise to majority opinions; that is to say, ideas and thoughts about something that the majority of a community or population has. And when you’re part of the majority, it’s easy to feel superior in some sense. You’ve reached the same conclusion as many others before you have, hence giving you the feeling that you are right, and everybody loves being right. However, for every majority opinion, there’s no less than one minority opinion on the same topic (often more). And often, we don’t like to hear them, especially if we’re in the majority. It makes us question the issue more, and could potentially alter our views on the subject, removing us from said majority and making us not “right” anymore.
In Internet culture, where self-importance is a rampant quality among many users, the population is frequently just one: the user themselves. In this case, their opinion is the only one that matters to them, and therefore they hold all sway over the majority opinion therein.
It’s impossible for them not to be in the majority, because they are the majority. And that leads to superiority, the feeling of dominance associated with being part of a popular community. From there, should anyone challenge their opinion, the natural reaction is to degrade and undermine the new idea in whatever ways possible. It is, after all, inferior to the majority since the community does not agree with it. Why not take the opportunity to squelch it where it stands?
But now, let’s actually wrap this around to the question I asked eons ago: why would anyone actively go out of their way to zealously shoot down an unpopular yet approving opinion on a topic, especially when it comes to entertainment? It’s because it challenges the majority, overall mood and impressions be damned. New ideas and opinions are inherently mysterious and frequently scary things, and many people tend to have aversions from them as a direct result.
It’s understandable, sure, but again I just don’t get how it makes any sense. I mean, back up with me for a minute out of the philosophy bubble and let’s look at this practically.
You’re upset that I enjoyed something more than you did.
Why the hell do I care?
No, seriously. Why should I care? If I’m enjoying my magical boys anime and then you kick in my door fervently calling me names and ranting on how much you despise the show, then what’s stopping me from ignoring you and going back to doing the things I like? You might say I’m contradicting myself, since I’m on the record as saying I like a good argument, and sure, I guess you caught me there. But at the same time, I also reserve the right to determine whether or not an argument counts as a “good” one, and I’m not going to waste my time debating something with someone who’s clearly not going to see the merits of my opinion because they are so busy spewing vitriol and blindly defending theirs.
And finally, to those of you who actually do go out of your way to breathe fire at others who are trying to enjoy the things you don’t, sit down and think about yourself for a second. How insecure and childish do you have to be to think that shouting at those people, who are actively trying to enjoy their time alive, is going to be productive? There have to be better ways for you to spend your time, at least one, surely! And yet you decide to spend that time not only ranting at random people, but also ranting at random people who are having a good time at really no expense to you?
I mean, I’ve spent over fifteen hundred words trying to unravel the thought process here and I don’t think I’m any closer to figuring it out. Do you not like something that I do? Great! Then explain it to me in an organized, coherent, and intelligent way, so that we can actually debate it. Don’t do…whatever the hell you’ve been doing, because I’m not going to bother entertaining you when I could be off doing something else.
New sources of information and contrary opinions are how we explore new things and have new experiences. This cannot happen, however, if we go out of our way to squelch other ideas and continue living on like they do not exist. If you meet someone enjoying something that you either don’t know about, or do know about and don’t enjoy personally, try asking questions instead. What do they like about it? How does it compare to something similar that you like?
These questions broaden our horizons when it comes to our cultural intake, and when we take off the blinders to see different people enjoying different things, we’re left with a pretty refreshing view.
Next time: Finals week, but right after, another awesome movie.