There’s been something bubbling beneath the surface of the media in their reaction to popular entertainment over the past few months. And as of last night (June 5), it officially bubbled over with a piece on Slate about how adults should stop reading YA fiction.
The piece itself was even more harshly worded than that, and of course tied to the release of “The Fault In Our Stars” in movie theaters. It was a piece meant to get a reaction by slagging off a popular form of entertainment, and it got one, from both fans and fellow writers alike:
Looking forward to @Slate's article: Adults should be embarrassed to have been children, to eat PB&J, to sing in the shower, or to smile.
— Joe Hill (@joe_hill) June 5, 2014
To anyone indignant that Fault in Our Stars is "manipulative": Yes. Popular entertainment generally seeks to have an effect on its audience.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) June 5, 2014
Here’s the thing, though: it isn’t just YA readers who are getting fan-shamed this week. I’ve also seen an incredible amount of derogatory tweets towards fans of “Star Wars” for getting overly excited about a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon, or sets from Tatooine.
And I’m here to say in response: people should be allowed to love whatever the f**k they want to love.
Far too much of the world is taken up with negativity and vitriol, and I’m not exempting fan culture in that, either. Most of the world knows the “angry nerd” as a much more public figure than the “happy nerd,” and that’s for a reason. Fans will get upset about anything at the drop of a hat.
Don’t like the costume or casting for a superhero movie? You know there’s going to be posts about that.
Pissed off “The Giver” isn’t in black and white? There’s a forum for that, too.
And not only will there be articles, angry postings and tweets about all of those subjects, there will be the requisite responses lamenting how everyone responds with anger to every little bit of news.
So why are media professionals also getting upset when people actually like a thing? Shouldn’t they be happy that people are finally supporting something?
The answer there is that we are a culture that thrives on negativity and conflict. It isn’t enough to have an opinion, it only counts to have the right opinion.
As a microcosm of this that we can all relate to, think about what happens when you exit a movie with a group of friends. You’ve just seen the same film, and it’s possible you may all have the same opinion on it. So you form The Circle. And in The Circle, some people may have hated the movie, some people may have loved it; but in order to placate your friends, you reach a median of understanding on the quality of that film.
That opinion, more than the one you exited the theater with, is the one that informs your understanding of that movie for the days and weeks to come.
Now let’s think of the world as a global version of The Circle, and every “issue” as its own movie. The grand scale of number of people means every little argument has to stand out all the more, and we all need to shout that much louder to get our opinion heard. The idea that we’ll never be able to move all people in the world over to our side of The Circle only pushes us further to our own side of the “issue” (be it superhero costumes, “Star Wars” sets, YA novels, or whatever).
The sheer grand scale of the Global Circle leads to a spiraling insanity that causes articles like the one on Slate: you need to take a bold, overstated, reactionary opinion just to get yourself heard.
The problem comes when you either don’t present both sides of the argument in a fair light, or use that platform to publically shame people. Want to know why that is?
Because when it comes to popular entertainment, there is no right opinion.
By telling people they can’t like what makes them happy, you are being a bully, plain and simple. You are forcing your opinion, not your fact — no matter how many sales figures you put in your article — on other people. That’s bullying, and it’s wrong.
Here’s the deal, and I know I’m a special case because I spend all day reading articles about all of this, and have to read certain things for my job. But.
Recently, I read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, and loved it. It took me all of two hours to read. Does that make it less valid a form of entertainment, or establish that it has less to say than the collected works of adult writer Gillian Flynn, which I read over the course of two weeks and also loved? Nope.
In the movies realm, I’ve seen two Chris Evans movies this year, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and “Snowpiercer.” One is a blockbuster superhero movie, the other a Korean production based on a French graphic novel, and will only play in art houses. Is the latter more valid than the former because it has more complicated ideas about humanity and won’t be seen by as many people? Hell no. I liked them both, and they stimulated different areas of my brain in different ways.
On TV, I’ve been binge watching the very trashy “Scandal,” and also the biting satire of HBO’s “Veep.” Both are set in Washington, and about power players playing for power. Can you guess if one is a more valid form of entertainment than the other?
The point is, all of the above make me very happy. I like them. I enjoy them for vastly different reasons. And no one should, or will take that feeling of happiness away from me.
The only thing someone should feel bad about is making someone else feel bad about liking something. It doesn’t take anything away from you if someone likes something you don’t like. If anything, it makes the things you like that they don’t like more special, more exclusive. Revel in that, not in excluding readers and watchers from the few moments of happiness they can snag in their lives.
To put it more simply: read whatever the f**k you want to read. Watch whatever the f**k you want to watch.
And if you don’t like it? Make your own g**damn art, and prove everyone “wrong.”
“The Fault In Our Stars” is in theaters today. It’s based on a book, which is in book stores. You should check them out and form your own opinion, regardless of whatever age you are.