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Season of the Witch | 2013 | Love Note

11.15.13

Bad literature is a form of treason.  

-Joseph Brodsky

 


Media Matter

Our Valued Customers  
From Our Valued Customers.

The late Roger Ebert once said that he tried not to savage any movie too badly because he understood that every movie is someone's favorite. Even Mac and Me. This attitude may perplex those who believe the soul of criticism is to tear apart the "unworthy," but those people are jerk and we should not base our perception on what they think.

As an author, I love few things better than when people are enthusiastic about their media - especially when they add my series to their favorites list. Even if I can't relate to a book or show they love, even if I do not personally share that specific passion (I would explode if I came close to echoing a hundredth of the fandoms in the world, though I would become the personification of Tumblr before my messy death), there are few things more appealing and intriguing that someone with the aureole of genuine excitement when talking about an artistic pursuit. I can think of a dozen things I adore - musicians, foods, movies, books - that came into my life purely because one of my friends could not contain their delight. There is nothing quite like seeing through the eyes of a fan the potential of something unfamiliar.

I hear some of you rolling your eyes - it is a wet, slurpy sound - offering dismissive grunts of "twihards" and "bronies." There are fandoms of which you do not approve of and, rather than simply declining to participate, you opt to behave like a seagull: flying over and relentlessly shitting on their picnic without any awareness that this is, at the bare minimum, tactless. Yet, if someone were to imply that they did not appreciate either Supernatural or the works of Goethe (and don't think literary affection is any less of a fandom just because it is well-aged), you would be at their throats, calling them an "idjit" or philistine.

Enthusiasm is a beautiful thing and should be fostered, not dampened by people who feel they prove their own worth by denigrating the loves of others. I would rather be around a dozen people who are delighted about some bit of media I either do not know or do not like - and often am at conventions - than one person who thought they were erudite for hating Hetalia or Homestuck.

I say this not simply in the sense that you should stop being a bully - though you should and quickly - but because media matter. You may think these are frivolous shows, movies, or book but they are far deeper for the person who loves them. Mae Jemison was inspired to become an astronaut after having seen Nichelle Nichols as Uhura on Star Trek (even Martin Luther King, Jr., when we heard Nichols contemplated leaving the show, urged her to stay as a positive role model for minority women). I know then young Pagans who were initially encouraged by Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer being Wiccan because it was the first time they saw their religion portrayed as anything other than evil. I know a few lesbians who were as encouraged when Willow and Tara got together. It is hard to enter into an argument about the casting of a superhero movie without hearing someone pound the pulpit over how crucial minority representation is in the media.
Loses their minds  
From Memebase.

We are a story-telling species. We define ourselves by our tales. While as an English teacher, I can say that it would be nice if teenagers had a firm grounding in Odysseus and Oedipus, they don't always. Who they do know are Sam and Dean (and Odysseus and Oedipus were not created to bore graduate students, but to entertain just as much as the Winchester boys). If you take away our stories, if you denigrate the tools by which we define ourselves, you deprive us in a very real sense of who we are. We need to cheer for the righteous and flawed, to hate unjust characters, because it helps us discover for ourselves what our values truly are. The desire for heroes has not changed in the least since time immemorial, they just wear flannel or neon orange horns now.

Even if you think these media are immature, you owe it to yourself to let others take the journey at their own pace. Neil Gaiman has said that one of his biggest mistakes in dealing with a daughter who liked Goosebumps was to get her a copy of Stephen King's Carrie, which meant only that she avoided King for a decade because she was too young for that experience. We need to let people experience the level of media for which they are ready, not tell them that they have to like immediately what we have grown to love with time. Remember, there was a time before you read your favorite books and there was certainly a time before which you were not ready for them. Someone trying to shove these down your throat, someone insulting you because you weren't already privileged enough to be a fan, taints their beauty.

In high school, my then-girlfriend Kate asked me to read A Room with a View, a book that had touched her deeply. I read it. I did not like it. It was boring and stuffy. I could relate to none of the characters. She was deeply disappointed and I knew it. A couple of years later, I picked it up again and it was like a different book, lovely and witty. I proudly told her how much I enjoyed this second reading. She was thrilled that I was finally ready.

There are things I once loved that I now only like, because I am in a different period in my life or it simply served a need I no longer have. I don't feel the need to shame a kid for liking Metallica simply because I would rather listen to Regina Spektor. Rather, I envy them for the musical trip they have started taking. Maybe they will still be into metal in ten years. Maybe they will move onto jazz fusion, but I know they will only get there because they loved Metallica first. Likewise, maybe the girl reading Twilight would have progressed to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles then to Dracula before discovering an abiding fascination with nineteenth century literature, except that she was teased mercilessly about reading early on and so gave up. We owe it to ourselves and to our media culture to allow people to experience the media for which they are ready and trust we cannot mock them into taking the path that seems best to us.

Soon in Xenology: Love notes.

last watched: Clerks II
reading: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
listening: Tori Amos

Season of the Witch | 2013 | Love Note

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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