Never Be Ashamed To Just Fucking Love Something

This last weekend my wife and I went to our first Phish concert in two years and our first concert since becoming parents. I hadn’t really listened to Phish much in the interim but the second the band came onstage everything came rushing back to me and I realized, at the core of my being a profound: I just fucking love Phish. I do.

This does not mean that I love every song, every jam, or every show, but on a fundamental level, I just fucking love Phish. They matter to me in a way little else across the pop culture spectrum does. And that is beautiful. And unexpected, because I came to Phish as a skeptical outsider who chose to immerse himself in the world of Phish for a book (You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me) about fandom centering on the seemingly antithetical but actually simpatico fanbases of Phish and Insane Clown Posse.

Writing that book and going broke and half-crazy researching it changed me on a fundamental level. It made me less judgmental, less set in my ways, and less invested in my own opinions. It opened me up to joy, to improvisation, to the wonder and joy of getting lost and finding your way home.

Loving Phish and Insane Clown Posse made me less of a critic and more of a fan, less of a reviewer and more an enthusiast. It made me less cynical and more open. It didn’t just change the way I viewed and processed art and entertainment: it changed the way that I saw the world.

Perhaps more than anything, Phish made me realize that you should never be ashamed to just fucking love something. It doesn’t matter what that thing might be. If Suicide Squad gives you paroxysms of pleasure, then fucking own that shit. If other people disagree with you, that’s okay. Not everyone has to agree that something is great for you to just fucking love it.

A quick caveat here: I should note that you should never be ashamed to just fucking love something as long the thing you just fucking love does not hurt anybody. So I would have a problem with someone just fucking loving Donald Trump as a politician because he is someone who has hurt people, continues to hurt people and will probably still be hurting people after he dies. But if Kid Rock or Nickelback are what give you joy, then God bless you. I’ve learned not to judge people for their obsessions.

A cultural consensus does not have to form that whatever you just fucking love is, indeed worthy of being fucking loved. It can just be your thing, or something you share with people who share your intense passions. Don’t let someone else’s criticism or cynicism keep you from experiencing the joy that is the real point of existence. If you see an article arguing, “Hey, you know that thing you fucking love? Well, it’s not that great, here’s why” fuck that noise. The online media will try its damnedest to convince you that you are foolish, or at the very least, irrational, to just fucking love what you love the way you just fucking love it. Don’t let them diminish your joy. In this world, you need to steal joy wherever you can.

To just fucking love something is a potent rebuke to the cynicism and judgment of contemporary society and particularly online culture, where the value of just about everything is constantly being evaluated and re-evaluated. Forget about concepts of “overrated” and “underrated.” The judgments of the outside world shouldn’t matter if you feel joy in your heart about what you just fucking love, whether it’s professional wrestling or My Favorite Murder or college basketball or The Avengers.

When I was a professional critic I used to joke that the purpose of my profession was to take the joy out of everything. The longer I practiced my trade, the less that felt like a joke and the more it felt like the truth. So these days I’m not a critic or a reviewer so much as I am an enthusiast, a fan, someone whose career revolves around trying to turn people onto the things that I love, whether they’re music, movies, books or podcasts.

When I wrote my memoir, The Big Rewind in 2009, one of the first reviews criticized it for having an excess of “fanboyish devotion.” It stung at the time but now I take a certain pride in loving the things that I love with a devotion that borders on pathological. In a world that can be bleak and despairing and full of Donald Trump it’s damn near essential to have something in your life that you love unconditionally and whole-heartedly, with your whole being.

Here is a short, wildly incomplete list of pop culture things I just fucking love.

Phish

Preston Sturges

The Lonely Island

Gary Stewart’s vibrato

DJ Premier

Quasimoto

DOOM

Albert Brooks

Phil Hartman

The Ramones

Magnetic Fields

Hal Ashby

Nirvana

David Bowie

Martin Scorsese

1970s American cinema

Insane Clown Posse

Merle Haggard

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

The Flop House

Earwolf

“Weird Al” Yankovic

Robert Evans

Jeff Bridges

Warren Oates

David Sedaris

Mental Illness Happy Hour

The Onion

Movies about movies

Maria Bamford

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

SCTV

late 80s Saturday Night Live

Johnny Cash

Back To The Future

The Raccoon That Wears People Clothes in Guardians Of The Galaxy

Wes Anderson

P.T Anderson

Elaine May

Sesame Street

The Simpsons

Andy Daly

Paul F. Tompkins

Pharcyde’s first two albums

Movie posters for 1990s Touchstone comedies

Jack Davis

The Beatles

If You’re Feeling Sinister

“Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered”

Loudon Wainwright

Warren Zevon

The Room

Life, Itself

Life, itself

What do you just fucking love?

Nathan Rabin is a pop culture writer, dad and the author of five books, most recently, 7 Days in Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and the Summer Everything Went Insane