Love What You Love

Phoenix Fan Fusion Attendees, by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia CommonsPZ Myers recently ran a post about generations, or rather on how the generational differences cited are largely marketing babble and not terribly true to life. I don’t disagree with this post in any real particular; after all, insofar as generational cohorts exist at all as we know them, they’re an emergent property of World War II – the Baby Boom being the huge birth rate spike following the war, and other generations being largely defined in relation to them. But while the generations themselves are not terribly real, the zeitgeists they are associated with (despite also having more than a little of marketing machinery in them) are.

Because time inevitably keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future, I am now an old. I’m from the messy area on the charts where various pundits and pontificators don’t necessarily agree what grand generation I should be sorted into, Gen X or Millennial. One of the main defining characteristics of Generation X, described as early as in the book that popularized the term, is a jadedness and world-weariness (formerly) in excess of their years; this is the generation whence came grunge music and ‘Empire Records’ and Kevin Smith’s movies, and also the popular notion of ironically loving things. It’s the generation of believing the world is such a bleak place that anything wholesome is perforce naïve. Millennials, conversely, re-popularized unironic joy, and loving a Thing because it’s the Thing not because it makes some kind of insightful (or worse ironic) comment.

This is, in a nutshell, why I reject Generation X and align myself firmly with the Millennials: because feeling like you have to not love things is complete and utter bullshit. The world is bleak. Hell, I’m inclined to think it’s ending (for us, because of us). That’s not a reason to deny joy, that’s a reason to chase it!

I object to the notion of “guilty pleasure”, something you are embarrassed to like. Screw that, like the thing. Like it, and if you like it enough, talk about it, join a community for it, dress up as it, do it. Geekery has gone mainstream, and one of the big drivers of that is the cultural ascendance of unabashed love for hobbies or media or games or what-have-you. And me, I was a geek from birth, long before it was cool.

This isn’t about nerd things, though (convention-goer image notwithstanding). It’s about joy. It’s about letting anything in the world that can bring you pleasure and lift you up be the thing that brings you pleasure and lifts you up, no matter if that thing is Star Wars or My Little Pony or blacksmithing or photography or professional cricket or writing silly poems or anything**. It’s about knowing this is not only okay but desirable: it is the furniture in your mind that sparks joy!

Most of this, other than to the most jaded of readers, is not likely to controversial. There’s another part to it, though: it doesn’t work if you hate, too.

It barely matters what. Hate the new Star Wars? Hate them brown people over there? Not dislike, mind you; hate. Hate is not simply contempt or disdain; hate is love inverted, obsessive and occupying the same parts of one’s brain. If you are busy hating something, there’s not really much time or space in there for love. You wind up gravitating to groups that share your hatred and bond over it, which creates more of an obsession, and hate is not a connection that forms a long or strong bond. It’s a distraction, a constant interference in trying to do other things. It can feel validating sometimes (seductive, the Dark Side is), but it is ultimately hollow.

If you let yourself become full of hate, you will inevitably become bitter and twisted, more and more obsessed, and… ultimately… alone.

So… don’t do that. Seek joy. Seek love. Seek anything that fills the cracks in your life and buoys it up; all the better if it helps you build connections with people. Some folks feel subconsciously like they need permission to do that, like it’s somehow wrong. Consider this post permission granted.

Find what you love. Do what you love! And above all love what you love!

* … though there are efforts to slap structures over the gap. I particularly appreciate the Oregon Trail Generation and refuse to tolerate the ridiculously awkward construction “Xennial“.

** to be clear, anything that doesn’t hurt other people. “An it harm none, do what ye will


  1. says

    I so agree. I’m nominally Gen X myself, but I don’t love *anything* ironically. History, fashion, “geek” culture, I’m noted for my enthusiasms and positive attitude. Life is too short to hate or be cynical.

  2. lochaber says

    huh. I kinda associated that “ironic liking” thing more with hipsters, then millenials, but now that I think of it, I probably thought most hipsters were millenials, but not enough to define millenials by whatever nonsense hipsters were up to.

    I also feel a fair bit of similarity with millenials, but mostly because I went back to school late, and graduated right as the recession was kicking in, which I think is what some people say is a pretty definitive thing for the millenials.

    I agree with you on the idea of “guilty pleasures” I don’t think everything someone likes has to be deep and meaningful and what not. I think maybe this is getting replaced by “problematic likes” with some people? like they like something that can have some damaging stereotypes or tropes or something, but they recognize that aspect of it?

  3. says

    @2 larpar

    I’m really twice as old as I am!

    @3 lochaber

    Well… maybe actively ironic liking is a bit more recent. It’s the jaded-as-hell reacting to everything with ‘meh’ or a brief cynical chuckle that was the zeitgeist of so much of the 90s… until it reached its logical conclusion made of black leather and blue LEDs where everyone was a nihilist or a vampire or both…

  4. John Morales says

    Hm. I submit that there’s a frisson to those activities that would otherwise not exist without that “guilt”.

  5. springa73 says

    I’m officially Gen X, and I might have picked up a little of the cynicism, but I’m glad that I never picked up the idea that it was wrong to really love to do something. There are so many ways to feel negative, people need joy in their lives to help balance that out.

    One other thing that seems unfortunate about the “Gen X” mentality of cynicism about everything is that I get the impression that it led to an attitude of disengagement from political issues. Sure, there is plenty to be cynical about in politics, but as I grew up I got the impression that most of my peers adopted the view that all politics was not only corrupt but also that it was something to be ignored as much as possible, something that was irrelevant to their lives. People my age who were politically engaged were regarded as weird and “uncool”, at least in my limited experience. To a certain extent, I also came to share these attitudes. Unfortunately, I think that this cynicism was widespread enough that it probably contributed to the rise of our current problems by leaving the field open to people on the far right who were politically engaged – too many people who could and should have spoken and acted against them remained apathetic and disengaged. It seems to me that younger generations are at least somewhat more politically engaged overall than mine, because the huge problems in our society are hitting them harder and threaten to get worse in the future. This is a very good trend, but it would have been better if it had started earlier.

  6. says

    @5 John Morales

    Depending on the person, you have a point there.

    I’m really arguing more for not allowing oneself to be put off something by real shame, by internal or external “cringe culture”. I am very much on the “Let people enjoy things” side of that ‘argument’.

  7. Jazzlet says

    A lot of guilty pleasures are guilty because mainstream culture does not approvve of them, say reading romance which is assumed to be just for women and to be frivolous, not like reading serious novels which will elevate your mind. Nevermind the fact that women buy far more books than men and by percentage buy at least as many as men across most genres, and so are vital to keeping the publishing industry going. Nevermind that romance has moved far beyond the bodice ripper image too many peaple retain from the eighties and nineties. Romance deals in ‘feelings’ which seems to mean it’s got icky girl cooties and that’s that. Why yes I do have strong feelings about the judgement many people make about one of the genres I read, particularly as, as far as I can see, serious novels are guaranteed to bring you right down and who needs that?

  8. says

    I’m from the messy area on the charts where various pundits and pontificators don’t necessarily agree what grand generation I should be sorted into, Gen X or Millennial.

    Hmmm, makes us about the same age*

    This is, in a nutshell, why I reject Generation X and align myself firmly with the Millennials: because feeling like you have to not love things is complete and utter bullshit.

    What day of the week is it? Because on some days I am grunge as hell. Grunge was the first music style I discovered for myself and i heavily invested my pocket money in Pearl Jam when my friends were listening to boy bands. Though I don’t recommend listening to a whole Soundgarden album when feeling low already. But I also love sparkle and unicorns.
    I often think there’s too many labels. I don’t mean those that carry meaning in the world because of structural oppression, but those that are supposed to describe your whole character in a single word, often binary and frankly as accurate as your star sign and even there you get at least twelve different kinds of people in the world.

    *I am now at the age where I think everybody to be my age, younger than me, and older than me, often at the same time.

  9. Taylor says

    I was born in the first quarter of 1992, and I just want to say…

    Sonic the Hedgehog.

    Just…Sonic the Hedgehog.

    If you’ve been around the internet for as long as I unfortunately have, then you will know that Sonic the Hedgehog is many things. To the gaming community, he was never good, and to cringe culture, he is the most cringiest autistic thing to ever exist. I’m speaking as a professionally diagnosed autistic fan since the Genesis days who was twisted into hating him ever since he went 3D. I hate all of these labels. I have been attacked twice in the lounge at my local college, once directly and another time behind my back for wearing a Sonic shirt. I’ve spilled my guts out to everyone I could find and the answer is all the same; go get therapy.

    Sonic the Hedgehog must be one of THE MOST underappreciated mascots ever next to Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. It’s very sad that he gets the totally fake drama that is forced on him by the entire gaming community. In fact, I feel that it has reached long past the levels of wholly unjustified harassment as well as defamation of character. The idea of Sonic translating into 3D, let alone the idea of a mascot with attitude who puts emphasis on both speed and platforming, is apparently so profoundly incorrect that it’s cursed. I find it personally obscene that these ideas must be routed out simply because they either fail once or twice in execution or don’t appeal to the mainstream altogether. I can happily say the same to those who loathe “nostalgia-bait;” I can take joy in both the past and the present and use both to build the future.

  10. says

    @10 Taylor

    Heh, poor Sonic. The Gamerbro zeitgeist that exists right now is not old enough to remember the good Sonic games or back when he was competing neck-and-neck with Mario. Today they just see weird fan-stuff and the brain-bending work of Ken Penders.

    I did a sketch comedy show called “Nintenuendo” last year. One scene was Luigi and Sonic commiserating about being stuck in Mario’s shadow for 30 years. I played Sonic for that scene. XD

  11. Taylor says

    @11 abbeycadabra

    I have no idea who in the hell Ken Penders is and I have no interest in learning about him. This sounds like the exact same old tired pity-parties that plague the gaming community, and it’s not exclusive to Sonic. Instead of staying true to Sonic’s spirit, getting off their sweet fannies and doing something about whatever they insist on believing is wrong with him, they choose to sit there and complain and spread rumors like “Naoto Oshima regrets making Sonic” and “even Sega knows their games suck.” I’m fucking ill of it all. I know I promised myself that I would distance myself from the drama and gossip, and quit believing in good or bad in the realm of video games, but everyday has to be a whole new war, doesn’t it?

    Okay, you know what? I think I’ll cool down by talking about a different interest. There’s this honest-to-god cartoon made in Japan, not anime. It’s called Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt and I love this cartoon to death for many reasons. Mainstream anime fans, critics, and even haters all tore it apart for not conforming to any conventional sense of taste.

  12. says

    @12, 13 Taylor

    Have you noticed anything about my posting lately? That there was none? I was AWAY, guy. I was away from FTB and most other anything electronic.

    As it happens, however, I had nothing to reply to the above with. I am not a member of the Sonic fandom, and I have not seen Panty and Stocking though I heard of it; it appeared to not much be to my taste, though I’m not entirely sure. Ken Penders is a comic book writer and artist most known for years of work on the Archie brand Sonic comics.

    I have received your emails. I was planning, when I returned, to reply to one of them with essentially this message, that I simply had nothing substantive to reply with. However, you’ve brought up a whole new issue.

    Taylor, this is a blog. It is not a telephone conversation. Nobody, including the blog authors, are OWED replies. Arguably under particular circumstances in a live conversation in a populous thread there could be circumstances where a reply is reasonably to be expected, but even those invariably end. However, this “disrespected” thing as well as you sending me emails to make me reply to you is firmly in the realm of Not Okay. Your sense of entitlement has lost a check or a balance somewhere.

    You are not owed anyone’s time or attention, so stop demanding it.

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