Unpopular tastes

I’ve said before that I tend not to like things that are popular (e.g. movies, music, TV shows, topics of interest, etc.). I reflect a lot on the minor disadvantages associated with such unpopular tastes.

To give an example, the popularly preferred social network is Facebook. What if you happen to hate Facebook, and instead prefer Google+? Either you join a network that’s missing most of your friends, or you just put up with a network you dislike. Many people think this problem could be solved if either Facebook changes or people leave. While this might help, the problem could never be eliminated, since there will always be someone dissatisfied with the most popular social network.

When it comes to social networks, many people want one that has their friends on it. But what about books? Do you particularly care whether you can find friends who like the same books? If you really like Ulysses, does it matter to you that few other people understand?

Why yes it does matter, at least to some people. There are plenty of people who find that the most rewarding aspect of Harry Potter is the fandom, and such a fandom simply isn’t possible for less popular books. I also note that a lot of nerd culture appears to be built upon mutual love of sci-fi/fantasy. If you just don’t like sci-fi/fantasy, that can be a huge disconnect.

There are solutions to this problem! If you like an obscure book, and want to talk about it with friends, you can find other people with similar interests, and make friends. This used to be very difficult, but the internet has made it relatively easy. Now your tastes can run free, unbound from the popular!

Of course, it still depends on how obscure the book is. Suppose you can find a fandom, but it’s so small that it’s only on Facebook, a social network that you hate. Or suppose that you can find one community, but it’s too sexist or racist for you to enjoy. Then you’re SOL.

The same things are true of movies, TV shows, and video games, but there’s an additional factor: money. A single individual can write an amazing book, but if you want to make an amazing movie you have to hire other people to help. In general, the money will not flow unless someone with money believes that the movie will be popular enough to pay it off. So if you like a particular kind of movie that hardly anyone else does, you either find some low-budget indie films, or you simply do without.

I’d like to note some parallels with feminist media criticism. When feminists complain about the lack of women in movies, other people defend the movies by saying that female protagonists simply aren’t as popular. That isn’t a defense at all, but an admission that there’s a problem, accompanied by an argument why the problem is difficult. Yes, the problem is difficult, that’s the point of complaining about it.

It’s extremely common for people to complain about popular tastes in media, or to express a wish that everyone else would try out their favorite thing. Much of this is in good fun–the competition between Star Wars and Star Trek is amusing despite the fact that I like neither. But sometimes I wish people would admit what they’re really afraid of. Are you afraid of losing social connections? Are you afraid that people will stop producing media that you enjoy? Whatever it is, let’s talk about it.


  1. StevoR says

    But sometimes I wish people would admit what they’re really afraid of. Are you afraid of losing social connections? Are you afraid that people will stop producing media that you enjoy?

    Yes and yes and how long have you got?

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Are you afraid that people will stop producing media that you enjoy?

    No, I’m afraid they’ll start producing media I enjoy. I’m still working through centuries of music and decades of books and cinema. If really gripping stuff starts pouring out, I’ll have to quit smoking and drinking to have a chance of keeping up.

  3. Emily (luvtheheaven) says

    When someone watches a TV show I love and they hate my favorite character, my ability to connect with the person is harmed. Especially if I find it out before I know enough other things about the person. My taste in fiction defines me in a really huge way and it basically feels like that person doesn’t like ME in many cases. If someone isn’t interested in television shows in general, and that’s why they don’t love the things I love, that’s one thing and I can probably set that aside and still form a deep friendship with the person. However if someone is interested in TV, and yet they just are interested in DIFFERENT tv, and actively disinterested in some of my favorites, that’s where the problem starts to form for me personally. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but… I don’t know.

    I care much less about if someone has a different taste in music than me because I don’t invest my sense of self in music in the same way. I’m much more open to changing my mind about music, open to music being just subjective, open to the idea that what I like is hated by plenty of people who I otherwise get along with.

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