Monday, September 26, 2022

"Don't Like, Don't Read"

"Don't like, don't read" is a tag/disclaimer I've seen used a number of times on fanfiction sites. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to state that, but...I've seen the comments left on certain fics.

But I've been thinking about that tag lately beyond the context of fanfiction. Because it really applies to so much more.

I don't think you have to spend much time on the internet to see the fandoms getting stirred up, to see people tearing apart franchises they supposedly love, rage/hate watching things for the express purpose of trashing it publicly. I can't say I've never watched something I knew I wasn't going to like for the purpose of seeing how bad it was. I can only think of one time I did it purposely, but I did do it once. I can't say I've never publicly stated that I didn't like X for Y reasons. I did try to be dispassionate, but I did it, and now I question the wisdom of it.

Because if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. And you don't really need to talk other people into hating it either.

It's something I do struggle with. I'll admit to telling people the reasons I disliked Harry Potter or the Star Wars sequel trilogy in the hopes that they'll come around to my point of view. But really, what difference does it make to me if someone else likes something I consider to be poorly written? What difference does it make to other people if I do enjoy something that other people think is full of plot holes or clunky dialogue?

It doesn't.

There are plenty of things I've decided not to read or watch, or decided I didn't like for reasons pertaining to worldview, writing craft, and personal taste. But does it really do any good to argue with strangers on the internet about it? Not really.

I'm not saying to compromise your convictions. And I'm not saying not to talk about it to anyone either. If there's a good reason to have a civil, productive conversation with someone you actually know about it, by all means, do it. You might both come out of it with a new perspective, and pending the story, reasons, and audience, you might have a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel in a relevant, impactful, loving way. 

But if you're just yelling at people that they're stupid if they think X was a good movie, or that their kids are going to become devil worshippers if they let them read Y, then all you're really trying to do is pick a fight.

Let people have their preferences. And if you don't like it, you don't have to read/watch it.

There's another reason I think you don't really need to give any time or attention to movies and books that aren't very good. Think about this: How many mediocre movies have come out in the last decade that people are still talking about? Thought of any? I haven't. Because reality is, if the movie isn't very good, unless there's a big internet explosion over it, people tend to just forget about it. If no one cares, it usually ends there. If a movie bombs at the box office and does just as poorly in whatever the current equivalent of home video sales is, it's unlikely to get a sequel. If a TV show doesn't get good enough ratings for the advertisers, the network cancels it. If a book sells poorly, it goes out of print. 

On the other hand, rage views still count as views. Going to the movie to see how bad it is still results in a ticket sale. Buying a book and throwing it in the trash because you hated it that much is still a sale. And bad press is still press. You can't pay me to believe that no director has "leaked" something about a project known to trigger certain groups to get people talking about it and buying tickets to see if it's really what people say it is. It gets people talking, it gets people curious, it gets people watching. And that's all they really want. Because views/sales equal money, whatever the reason people are watching or buying.

Full disclosure: This post is largely prompted by the constant fighting in the Star Wars fandom and the months-long complaining over Rings of Power. And I don't think it's hard to figure out that I've liked some of what's come out of Disney Star Wars and some of it I haven't. And that I do like Lord of the Rings. But I've come to realize that not only do I not have to watch everything from franchises I like, I don't have to convince others that certain things are bad or not worth watching either. If they ask, sure, I'll say, but that doesn't mean I have to convince them of my point of view either.

I'm not watching Andor. I watched the trailer and it didn't excite me, so I decided not to bother. Is it good? I legitimately don't know. Will I change my mind later and decide to watch it after all? I also don't know. But it doesn't really matter. If you want to watch it, you can, and we don't have to try to convince each other that the other is wrong. And if you're not bothered that they pushed back Bad Batch season 2 from September 28 to January 4 the way I am, that's also okay. I can be disappointed and you can not care.

Same goes for Rings of Power. Is it good? I don't know, I've heard very mixed reviews. I'm not watching it myself because I don't care. Maybe I'll have to turn in my fantasy-lover card for admitting this, but I'm not what you would call a Tolkien fanatic. I love watching the Lord of the Rings movies and I prefer the extended edition to theatrical, I mostly enjoyed the books when I read them, and I think the music from the movies is amazing. But took me a year to read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings back when I was a young teen, and I only started reading it because my mom made me. She convinced me to read The Hobbit by telling me Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis, and had to literally make me read Fellowship of the Ring until they got to Moria. Also, I totally missed the fact that Frodo went into the west at the end because my sisters were watching Up in the same room where I was reading, and I didn't get very far in The Silmarillion before I quit—that was over a decade ago and while I've since acquired my own copy I've yet to feel compelled to pick it back up. This is as much to say, I don't really care enough to have an opinion on Rings of Power. You can watch it or not watch it, like it or not like it, and we really don't have to argue about it. If you think you won't like it, you really don't have to watch it, and you don't have to convince people your position is the better one either. 

So if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. If you get a little ways in and realize you don't care for it, you can stop and move on with your life. None of us really need to waste time and energy antagonizing each other over stories we do and don't like. It's not worth it, and it's only serving to add even more nastiness to an already sinful and fallen world. Let's not waste our limited time here on earth rage watching and picking fights about things that don't really matter. And above all,

"Be ye kind, one to another." —Ephesians 4:32a