Monday, 25 April 2016

30 Blogs of Night: Personal Taste

Day 25

It's 2012, and I'm sitting at a gaming table with friends. We aren't playing, just talking about media that's coming out. We talk about Prometheus, and I say I don't want to see it, that the trailer hasn't sold me on the film. One of my peers tells me I have to go and see it. Mentally I backtrack to something I'd heard China Mieville say at a signing only a couple of weeks before; that geeks are frightened that failing to support something will mean that nothing geeky will ever be made again, SF, Horror, and Fantasy will just sheer off into the outer darkness and we'll see nothing but rom coms and detective films for the rest of our lives.

This is the moment that I realise he's right, that geekdom can be small and petty as well as open and expansive, that for some reason I'm meant to suspend my ability to reason because 'ooh pretty'.

I feel as if I might as well burn my (nonexistent) geek card and move onto something else. The fact that now, years later Prometheus is a watchword for damn awful filmmaking and Science Fiction has not only survived but thrived makes me happy, but it made me far more wary about the experiences of fellow geeks.

I feel this way when the same friends tell me about Game of Thrones, telling me that 'nobody's nice', 'don't get attached to anyone', and 'they should call it Game of Porn'. From what they tell me, I know it isn't for me. The same friend berates me for not trying it out, despite having thoroughly sold me off it (because two of my criteria for liking something is that I must be able to like the protagonists* and that death is something significant, I'm totally fine with characters not dying randomly as a result. Also, as someone who doesn't like porn telling me that something should be 'Game of Porn', is just turning me off - literally).

Even when I eventually try the series out, fleeing the room at the end of the second episode because the fate of the dire wolf nearly makes me cry, and makes me angry, I am in the wrong and 'should just stick with it'. Needless to say, I ignore their advice.

Apparently I am in the wrong for not hopping on the next bandwagon and careering off in pursuit of the crowd. Again, it feels as if I'm meant to shut my brain off and not think for myself. It feels as if there's a bitter irony to that, after all in becoming a geek we step away from the mainstream (except that the two are becoming increasingly blurred). As I said yesterday, we look for the things we like, sorting through genres and franchises to find the ones that fit us. It seems so stupid that we then 'shame' fellow enthusiasts for not liking what we do.

A Facebook friend points out that t'was ever thus, that essentially we only ever see the tale end of the exciting things that are going on because that's when they break cover and get the spotlight; the same moment they start being flogged to death and exploited for all their worth. By the time we see the hot new thing, the people who founded it have moved on. It's all rather like the chorus of Lou Reed's 'Hangin' Round', "You're still doing things I gave up years ago'.

So far, so fickle, one might say, but I think that's how it works isn't it?

Of course, we're all behind the curve somewhere, be it in terms of music, books, or visual media. There's so much out there you can never hope to keep up. What galls though that if you're not into what's hot and try to suggest things you think other people might like, you get short shrift and your words fall on deaf ears. There's no point trying to be positive about the stuff you love because only the negative critique stuff gets noticed. This is frustrating, to say the least because it feels as if you can't even have a conversation; and it feels especially true in a world where if something doesn't exist on screen it doesn't seem to actually exist for many people. The idiot's lantern has become the barometer by which we measure the world, despite the fact that the cost of the medium means that it will always be on the back foot, reacting to trends not setting them.

We should treasure our individuality and our personal tastes, remembering that Sturgeon's Law always applies. Ninety percent of everything is crap, we just can't agree on what counts as good. I would urge you, always, to remember that and to cherish what you like. Don't be frightened to try out new things but don't feel you have to like them - use your head. You have an intellect for a reason and shouldn't be swayed by peer pressure (and I include your reaction to what I write, if I'm talking out of my bottom, you should tell me).

*If I want to be exposed to arseholes who never seem to get their comeuppance there's always the news to watch after all.