When someone puts the soundtrack to Rent on, I am back in early college. Though I understand that it is not a pristine or unproblematic musical — that some people loathe the genre as a whole — I don’t care. I have considered my friendship less with people who felt it was their duty to tell me how wrong I was for having an attachment to a piece of media they do not. It is not simply that they do not understand, but that they do not want me to understand.
Media can tie me back to moments in my life that are beyond precious. This media is not objectively good, though it isn’t bad. It is part of that zeitgeist and I wouldn’t trade it for something that is going to pass muster with some elitist’s catalog.
In my adolescence, I dealt with too many people who chose to show how cool they were by pointing out how out of touch I was by dint of what I enjoyed. Rather than joyfully sharing the media older siblings had just imparted upon them, it was all about how inexperienced I was for having never before read Tom Robbins or listened to Leonard Cohen, as though these friends were born sophisticates of the right pop culture rather than innocents who made blessed discoveries, never the first or the last. They tainted my initial enthusiasm by making my exposure a low level form of bullying. Daring to listen critically, deciding if and what I liked about their new favorite toy, was a crime that only further demonstrated my philistinism.
Worse are the people with their snouts in the air because they don’t watch television, read things published this century, or whatever ignorance they believe distinguishes them from the common riff-raff. Much media is crap because much of everything is, but that doesn’t excuse writing it all off because of an arrogant conviction that you know what it is all about.
The people who want to shame you for enjoying something they don’t are zombies. They want to rip a chunk out of you so that you will resemble them. Enjoying something is not a character flaw, but sneering at someone for being happy absolutely is. I say this as a reformed zombie, one who learned a cursed behavior through imitation and repent it fully now.
These people sound like the elitists in centuries past certain the novel would end Western society. Media consumption of which you do not approve is not some lethal bugbear you need to publicly decry to demonstrate how erudite you believe yourself to be. One can mindfully enjoy something you will not let yourself experience.
This is not to say that there are not genres I don’t enjoy. Those exist by the hundreds. I don’t, however, feel the need to define myself by a negative or sneer at those who get something out of them. I believe every genre can be done well, even if I don’t expect I will enjoy it. I don’t often listen to rap and I think swaths of it are bad, but I can appreciate when someone does it well, usually by subverting the genre’s worst tropes.
We outgrow media all the time. I will never be able to read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles with the same eyes I once did, but I wouldn’t disparage someone else finding worth in them. I would love to someday know that my books were something that belonged in the moment of someone’s early twenties, or even that they were the thing someone gives a smirk to and says they outgrew. Let my creation be important enough to be outgrown and left fondly in their inexorable past. What greater honor can I hope for than being one facet of a cherished memory?
Let your enthusiasm to share something be your guide, rather than your avarice for social capital at the expense of people who put up with you. You are not a better person for knowing something and you absolutely are a worse one for putting ignorance at the cornerstone of your personality.
Don’t be a snob when the other option is openly sharing something you purport to love (unless you are only pretending to care about it because you think it is the sort of media you believe will impress strangers; it is unlikely you do nothing but read Infinite Jest while listening to baroque klezmer music). Life is much too short to live in pretense, positive every eye in the room is focused on your media consumption. Enjoy yourself and let others follow suit.
Originally posted at Xenex.