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An idea to ponder - Eric's House Of Ego
July 23rd, 2013
08:40 pm


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An idea to ponder
Something I have been mulling over lately.

Having as many talented friends and acquaintances as I do can lead to an interesting problem. I was raised to be a critic by my father, who taught theater for decades. I have pretty much always had a problem with the idea of "I don't like something, therefore it is bad". No, you don't like it. Sometimes it is something that is good, it just doesn't speak to you (ok, sometimes it's just bad, but that isn't what we are talking about here). There is a lot of music and writing that I don't particularly like, but that I think is brilliant. There is a lot of music that I don't like that I think is amazing. It just doesn't speak to me.

So, what do you do in a situation like this? How do you deal with someone whose work you admire, but really don't like?

Or are you one of those people who, if you don't like something, it is bad?

(and no, this isn't about you ... whoever you are)

This was originally posted on Dreamwidth, after which it wandered out to various other sites. Feel free to reply where ever you want. I should still see it.


(11 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been an authority on good artistic taste. I know what I like, and I am well aware my opinion is not the only valid one in the entire universe.

That said...

I find that being up-front about your particular taste in genres (musical, literary or otherwise) is usually the best bet... as long as you don't attach a value judgement to fans of that particular genre, the Creatives who work in that genre, or the genre itself.

However, if you must evaluate a work that's not exactly to your taste, I've learned the easiest way is to learn what "good [genre]" looks/sounds like... and compare the person's work with that.

It's been my experience that most artists and other Creatives are trying to communicate something in/with/through their art - even if it's just putting the idea in their head onto a page or in some other tangible form so they can free up space in their mind to think about other things.

If you can "get" this message, even if the specific work isn't to your taste, the art has done its job... and you can always learn to ask the right questions to let the Creator talk about the message behind their work... assuming there is one.

I am also a bit surprised that I've just defended the validity of symbolism as the purpose of a creative work, as the extreme hyperfocus on symbolism I was forced to regurgitate in high school all but completely killed my enjoyment of reading. (But that's a thought that should get expanded on in my LJ... not here)
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
(Reposting my comment from elsewhere)

There's a phrase I use frequently. I didn't originate it, but I've used it enough for it to be a personal catchphrase:

"This is the sort of thing you'll like if you like that sort of thing."

It's my shorthand way of saying that something has some degree of merit, though it won't appeal to everyone (and usually, though not always, means it doesn't particularly appeal to me.)
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
I often say "taste is a matter of taste"

[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
I come across this a lot with books, music and art. My taste is very personal and I try to convey that it's not based on the quality of the work or artist but my own proclivities. Most of the time it just helps to joke that I don't really have "taste" but that doesn't always go over well. Concentrating on how *many* different genres and styles there are sometimes helps folks get it too. The problem is, of course, that many folks who think "What I like is good and what I don't is bad" often think it's a cop-out, but I've learned to *sigh* and move on from those conversations.
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 11:24 am (UTC)
There are lots of things that I enjoy but that aren't good, and vice versa.

As far as dealing with a PERSON whose work I admire but who I don't like personally...I generally don't deal with them and just admire their work.
[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC)
dealing with a PERSON whose work I admire but who I don't like personally

I am not so good at this, if the person and their work are intrinsically tied together... but I'm getting better.

Do you have any pointers on making that mental separation?
[User Picture]
Date:July 26th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
Not really. It's kind of just an ability to compartmentalize.

Note that if I hate the person, it doesn't mean I'll spend money on their stuff, but I can still appreciate it.
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 12:20 pm (UTC)
I find it especially difficult in situations where I need to provide critiques, such as the on-line songwriting challenges that I keep doing. Part of their community standards is being supportive of what other people create. I try to remember what was repeated often at a photo club I once belonged to: "Comment on the picture in front of you, not the one you would have taken if you'd been there."
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I generally think about what I like and don't like and not so much whether it is good or bad.

Sometimes I will realize that a particular work hits a lot of the checklist for, for example, a "Mary Sue" and I'm more likely to notice this if I don't enjoy the work. I guess I could be said to be looking for flaws at that point.

I have recently taken to trying to read the short list of books up for major SF awards, thinking that if they're widely considered good, I will probably enjoy them. This has not been working out the way I expected. So perhaps my enjoyment is no key to whether other people will like a work or not.

If I dislike someone for personal reasons I will probably avoid their work too. It is in part a "I just don't like to think about this person anymore" issue. However it depends on whether I already have reason to think their work is something I will enjoy before I discover I dislike them personally. If I liked their work enough I might continue to seek it out.
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2013 02:04 pm (UTC)
I first ran into this with Moby Dick. My first reaction 'How the !@# am I going to read this whole, unengaging, verbose thing?' and my second was 'Wow. this is really well written. I absolutely hate it.'

The sad truth is that, while I have studied 'literature' - and therefor what makes writing good - most of my life, I have not studied music, and only lightly touched on the visual arts. So, I can read a book, short story, article, etc. or watch a play or mvie and say - 'I didn't enjoy it, but it was very well done', I can't do that with music. An excellent example is what I think of as the 'Screaming kid' on this season of America's Got Talent. Apparently, she's very good at that whole 'I have screamed my voice away trying to be heard over a cacophony of drums and power chords' style of music, but I just hate it.

I suppose what it boils down to for me is that i will accept that something is well done if I don't like it but a proponent/scholar of the genre or art form says that it is well done. I just won't buy, play, or read it myself again. Ever.
[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
I frequently sign many styles of music, and am often asked how I like what I sign.

There are musicians who are a joy to sign, and those I endure because the music is really not my taste.

I generally focus on lyric, or ask questions about how they chose the style in which they play. Allowing them to talk about their passion, indicating an interest in THEM, is often far more important than whether I liked or bought their CD.
Eric Coleman, Curmudgeon Powered by LiveJournal.com