Thursday, May 3, 2012

Geekdom: No Place for Hate

I will be seeing The Avengers this weekend. Since my husband is Patrick it's not like I had a choice, but I think it will be enjoyable. With prepurchased tickets at one of those dinner-and-a-flick places, even reserved seating (yes, it's at thing), it's shaping up to be quite an ordeal event.

This movie has been a twinkle in the hubs's eye for a long time, and he loves his comics. Seriously: he's been emphatically punching the air at even the most subtle reference to the Avengers for the past five years. So I've gone online and schooled myself on the movie and the Marvel universe so I could conversate with him on this, his favorite thing ever. In my mind, supportive wifely investments such as these earn me a few loving jabs at his total nerdiness. During the most recent of these conversations (during which he was practically glowing with pleasure at my hard-won larnin', I might add) he ribbed me about liking the Twilight franchise in the same way.

My first instinct was to shut that down with a sharp denial, which I did. (I mean, does having read the books and seen the movies really constitute super-fandom? Another discussion for another time, perhaps). But that got me thinking. Why was I irked, almost offended by the insinuation? Tumblr (and by extension, Pinterest and Facebook) is filled with memes hating on Bella et al (specifically) and vampire lit (generally). If their prevelence is any indication, people devote a lot of time and energy to advertising their hatred.

It's a known fact that everything that has lovers has haters. With pop culture, it seems that the more popular something is (especially if it mainstreams), the more it will be reviled later. I still remember vividly the middle school dance at which the hapless DJ put on "I Saw the Sign"--a sure crowd pleaser two months ago--only to have the whole student body exit the cafeteria in disgust. In that moment, I felt a rush of excitement at displaying with my peers our disdain for this newly-has-been megahit. The thrill was at least equal, maybe superior, to my love of the song only a few months before.

But the love-to-hate rush is not limited to 8th graders. Just today I was on Amazon trying to figure out what's up with this book Fifty Shades of Gray, which is so popular Dr. Oz devoted his show to it...and it had at least as many one-star reviews as five. One poster of a particularly detailed and lengthy review claimed to "hate writing negative reviews," when clearly he enjoyed it immensely.

I call this the hater effect. For whatever reason, it feels so good to hate things that other [lesser?] people like. The HE is a negative emotion that's nearly universal; I mean, not even schadenfreude can claim to have founded a subculture (I'm looking at you, hipsters). The hipster backlash itself is an prime example of the HE; no one is more likely to scoff at hipsters than a hipster.

It seems like the more you like something (i.e. geek out about it) the more you open yourself to criticism. Another example: I was at a party once talking to my friend about another girl's outfit (nice things--we liked it!). But we had to kind of roll our eyes because this girl, when my friend called her up for a pre-party wardrobe consult, refused to divulge her party outfit. It was immediately obvious why at the party: the outfit was very similar to one famously worn by a celebrity. Thinking back, why she was too ashamed to admit liking the outfit enough to copy it is mysterious. After all, she was rockin' it just as hotly as the original celeb.  

Very little is sacred. The formula for escaping the HE is to either be cult enough to duck the main of mainstream (Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog) or to become a veritable masthead of our generation--(ahem, Harry Potter**). I even saw a Post Secret pridefully "confessing" that s/he refused to read, among other pop lit titles, The Hunger Games simply because they were popular. (Interesting to note: this same person admitted on the other side of the card that Harry Potter didn't count!). Recall that Post Secret is an anonymous art project where submitters confess secrets they have never been able to share with anyone else. It seems like the shame hit this submitter on multiple levels.

But why should we be ashamed of the things we like, just because other people--maybe a lot of other people--like them? Could not our distaste and vitriol be more usefully directed--say, at child molestors and people who talk in the theatre (ha! see how I did that)? Is it not braver, and maybe even more admirable, to cut the righteous indignation and baldly admit to liking something it's no longer "cool" to like? Although I still emphatically disavow that Twilight is something I'm "geeky" about (The Little Mermaid...OK, let's talk.), should it really be offensive to be accused of such? Would it have been commendable of me to tell Patrick that yes, in spite of lackluster writing and the fact that it's intended for teenagers, I rather enjoyed reading Twilight, thank you very much? Honestly, I said to my loving husband, I only wish I had written it. We'd be millionaires now.

Food for thought, dear reader.

**Although even HP has been maligned by some for supporting witchcraft and homosexuality, but those maligners have mostly been labeled crackpots and bigots.

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