6 Injustices Suffered by People Who Hate Popular Things
There have been a lot of arguments about who the most oppressed group in America is. I would argue that it is people who don't like popular movies and TV shows. Unlike other oppressed groups, these people may not suffer any violence, or be locked in a vicious cycle of poverty, or be denied jobs and housing. But sometimes people make fun of them. Which, if you think about it, is just as bad.
As proof of how hard it is to convince people that haters are alright, here is a bunch of Limp Bizkit fans trying to do just that as part of the band's "Hate Campaign" from back in the day:
With support from family and friends, I feel like I finally have the courage to come out as a person who doesn't like Game of Thrones and other beloved pop culture items. Before you fire your virtual tear gas at me, which you should know is just as bad as, if not worse than, the literal tear gas fired on other oppressed groups, I want you to give me a chance to plead for understanding.
Here are the indignities I suffer every day and refuse to be silent about any longer.
People Think You Are Pretending to Hate Things so You Can Be Different
The first thing anybody does when you say you don't like The Matrix is roll their eyes. "Oh great," they think, "Some kind of hipster. You're going to name some obscure sci-fi movie or book that 'did it first,' and look down on anyone who hasn't heard of it, all while twirling an unlit pipe in your fingers."
I can't argue that those people aren't out there, but my dislike of The Matrix has nothing to do with being special or feeling smarter than everybody. I hate it because it spends what feels like three hours of its 136-minute runtime (take that, math!) explaining what you'd think is a pretty simple concept. Morpheus is using Alice in Wonderland metaphors and walking Neo through all these different virtual environments while talking, talking, talking like this concept is so hard to grasp that you need to come at it from all these different angles.
"Actually, the real world you lived in was a virtual reality simulation. If you know that world is fake, and really really believe it, you can do anything you want and be a wizard." There. Now you can skip to the part where you can do magic instead of running out of time and doing only like one magic thing.
Have the people living in the Matrix not heard of virtual reality? Did the machines kill their William Gibsons and the guy who invented the Virtual Boy headset before they could blow the lid off this thing? Fine, just say the real world is a "shared dream." Seems like they should know what dreams are. And MORPHEUS STOP LOOKING AT ME AFTER YOU EXPLAIN EVERYTHING AND ASKING ME IF I GET IT OR IF I NEED YOU GO SLOWER.
Bottom line, I feel like the movie is personally, directly talking down to me, as an individual, and I want to fight it, mano a mano. Before now, I've barely even brought this up to any other people, because I don't care about impressing them with my edginess or whatever. This is between me and that damn movie.
You want to go, Matrix? LET'S GO. I'm ready any time.
People Think You Are Looking for Arguments
A lot of you are going to disagree with my assessment of The Matrix, and you probably have some good rebuttals or explanations or whatever for why the exposition was fitting for the plot, or that it was about Neo's character having a hard time adjusting to a new reality and not the audience being stupid. That's great, and I strongly encourage you to share those points with another Matrix fan.
It's not that I think your points will be wrong, I just hate conflict. Sometimes it can't be avoided, and for that very reason, I want to save my energy for arguing a friend out of a scam, or trying to convince someone not to be racist, or, you know, something that matters.
If you like The Matrix, that's cool. I've got no beef with you. Some of my best friends are Matrix fans! Life's too short to spend hours trying to convince other people that their favorite movie was bad and they shouldn't have liked it.
Though it's obviously all coming out here, when I'm in discussions with people, face-to-face or online, I actually try really hard to avoid bringing it up if I don't like something they really like. If my co-workers are talking Game of Thrones, I'll just listen and say, "Oh," same as if they were telling me about their aunt's surgery. If they ask me point blank what I think about it, I'll just say, "Haven't really gotten a chance to watch much, sorry."
If you mention you don't like something in the midst of people that are known fans, everyone's first impression is that you are looking for a fight. They think you are trying to troll or provoke them -- get some kind of reaction -- or evangelize them into realizing their favorite thing is stupid.
But like the manager in every movie holdup scene, I just don't want any trouble. Sure, I think it's weird that some of my friends like Firefly, but if they can forgive me for constantly forgetting their birthdays, I think I can let that go.
Still, sometimes it's tough to just bite your tongue and keep silent, like a migrant worker who can't complain about dangerous levels of pesticide exposure because their employer will deport them, except worse than that.
People Think It's a Political Thing
The other reason some people make a big stink about a popular TV show or movie is to draw attention to a cause. People were fussing about Girls not having enough minorities or something, and I think there's some gripes about Game of Thrones being misogynistic.
This is sometimes legit, I think. If something popular actually is racist or misogynistic, maybe that is a good opportunity to draw attention to racism or misogyny or what have you. Unfortunately, I can't really point you to a good example where the criticism was deserved, because I don't care enough to pay attention to these things.
I'm a really apathetic person, so I can't be bothered to protest or hashtag or write my congressperson about anything. Occasionally, I write a column if something makes my eyes roll too much and I need to relieve the pressure, but that's about it.
Unfortunately, if I happen to hate a show that turns out to have a big political protest against it of some kind, everybody's going to lump me in with the protesters. If I say on some forum that I don't want to watch Girls, somebody is going to pop up and tell me why it isn't racist, or why it isn't misogynistic, or why it isn't whatever the complaint is. I don't care about any of that.
I don't want to watch it because all the reviews, interviews, and promotions make it sound like it's boring. It looks like a bunch of in-jokes for self-centered city people and the people that know them. This is the impression given by their own PR and their own words. I'm a working mom -- I'm not made of free time. You want me to give your show a chance? Try to make it sound less like 30 minutes of jerking off.
It sucks when people just automatically assume your problem with a show is about some kind of activism. It's like being a law-abiding black person walking down the street and watching white people cross to the other side because they assume you're up to no good, except much more offensive.
You Have Nobody To Talk To About the Thing
Sure, there are plenty of people you could argue with about a movie or show or book or whatever, but I've already gone over how I feel about arguing about trivial things. And if you're talking to someone with an opposite opinion about the movie, there's not much to talk about outside of whether the thing was good or bad.
"But there's plenty we could talk about," you might think, "like the character development of, I don't know, Jaime Lannister or something." Sure, we both have things to say about it, but you'd be mentioning things that you think work or don't work in the development of a strong or potentially strong character, and I'd be talking about how the shitty choices in the development of a shit character contribute to the overall shittiness of the show. Never mind the conflict, I don't think it would technically even be the same conversation.
Also, a lot of people, you know, stop watching something when they realize they don't like it, so we don't even really have the knowledge to have a useful discussion with fans who have kept up.
"But if you only talk to people who agree with you, it would just be an echo chamber," you might think, "where you and your fellow non-fans pat each other's backs for not liking the bad show." I think of an echo chamber as a place where people would talk about why the thing is bad, reinforcing the rightness of their own conclusions. What I'd like to do is find people that accept the show is bad, so we don't have to discuss why, and can just have nice little discussions based on that premise.
We could complain about not being able to get away from the advertising! We could each share what moment the show lost us. We could talk about which other shows we think tackle the concept better, or what changes this show could make to be watchable. If we know some background about the directors and writers and the show's development, maybe we could come up with theories why the show turned out like it did (terrible).
But it's hard to find these people. Anyone who is really vocal about disliking a popular movie or TV show is almost always a hipster or a troll, just trying to get attention and stir things up. They don't have anything new or interesting to say, they just rephrase different ways of saying that something sucks.
Anyone who's worth talking to is probably quiet and burying it, just like I usually do (this column excepted). This is exactly like the problems gay people have finding other gay people in gay-hostile communities and cultures around the world without exposing themselves to ridicule or violence, except my situation is clearly worse.
People Think You Misunderstand Something Really Obvious
Society apparently made a rule when I wasn't paying attention, one which says that if someone annoys you intentionally, you have to accept it. That's the only explanation I can think of for why people think, "but that character is supposed to be boring/self-centered" is a convincing argument for you to give a story another chance. I don't care if Holden Caulfield is supposed to be annoying or not. Either way, I have to read his narration. If you do a version where you make your point about his self-absorption without me having to listen to him whine through the whole book, I'll give it a shot.
Whether someone accomplished what they were trying to accomplish and whether I want to watch it are two separate things. If you set out to make a soap that will make your genitals feel like they are on fire, and it does make people's genitals burn, then I understand your work is successful and you have not made a mistake, and I expect those who enjoy genital pain to like it. But I don't like my unmentionables seared, so I will not use it.
Same applies to any story about bleakness, hopelessness, or ennui that uses slow pacing and depressing atmosphere to hammer the point home. Masterful use of storytelling tools to convey your message. Not going to watch it.
Or when you complain about a dumb popcorn movie like The Expendables, someone always has to explain that it's supposed to be dumb fun, and what were you expecting, Sense and Sensibility? Yes. I was expecting Sense and Sensibility. I was confused and upset when The Expendables turned out to be an action movie. That must be the problem.
Getting talked down to like this is pretty much the same as a rape victim being told to be more careful next time, except worse.
You Can't Avoid It
Probably the worst thing about hating something popular is that it's popular, therefore most people you know will probably like it, therefore you're going to have to see it, or hear about it.
When I was in college, I had three awesome roommates. The only problem was that they liked Friends and ER, and went downstairs to a friend's apartment every week to watch (we didn't have a TV). I was an awkward person with a strong fear of being left out (FOBLO?) and made myself go with them a few times, but eventually I couldn't stand it anymore, and stayed upstairs and developed a terrible Internet gaming addiction instead.
The lesson here is that hating popular things forces you to choose between gritting your teeth and watching them with your friends or becoming isolated from your friends and creating an unhealthy online persona that you can't let go of for years. No, there's no middle ground.
Sure, you can choose your friends carefully, but you'll never find someone who likes everything you like. One day your best, most trusted friend in the whole world will come to you and say, "Oh my God, Frozen was amazing, come see it again with me," and it will be like your whole world is crashing down around you. Up is down. Black is white. Everything you thought was solid was only a dream. You're like Keanu Reeves having his eyes opened to reality in that terrible movie. Bram Stoker's Dracula.
But you know what? That's friendship. You just suck it up and go. Because some things in life are more important than avoiding crappy movies. It's a sacrifice you have to make, like when a single mom works two jobs to raise her kids and give them a better chance at life than she ever got, except more noble.
Anyway, when I first started writing this column, I was pretty charged up about making sure everyone knew what a crushing yet overlooked burden it was to be a person who hated popular things, but after having written all this, I suddenly feel like it's not as big a deal as I thought it was, and that there might be greater injustices elsewhere. Couldn't put my finger on any specific ones, just a weird feeling they're somewhere out there.
Well, if you can't name something, it might as well not exist, I always say. Write your congressperson about making laws to protect people who don't like popular things.
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