I tend to be very particular about the media I enjoy. I don’t like techno, I like other types of electronica. I don’t like science fiction, I like utopian and dystopian fiction. I know this sounds very snobbish, but I assure you, it has nothing to do with how high I can turn up my nose.
Since I’m trying to write a novel, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the kind of literature I like to read. Of course the novel I am writing is in the same genre of my favorite reading material. However, I only recently discovered the proper name for my favorite kind of literature.
To find things to read, I usually Google “science fiction,” but I would always get results having to do with random aliens fighting space battles. Well, that’s all well and good, I like an epic space battle as much as the next person, but I don’t really enjoy watching a movie or reading a book where that’s the main premise. I want more meat and potatoes.
So, out of frustration, I filtered my results as best I could. Sifting through countless 1950′s space operas, I starting noticing the words “speculative fiction” popping up more and more frequently. So, I looked into it. As it turns out, two of my favorite books are listed as the top novels in that genre: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. However, speculative fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction which also encompasses literature about superheros and vampires. I’m not exactly fond of those two. So, I had to get to the heart of exactly what themes I preferred over all else.
By understanding my specific tastes, I can now more easily search for the types of books I will almost certainly enjoy, rather than depending on a lottery. Keep in mind, I do not turn my nose up to books that don’t fall into “utopian and dystopian fiction.” This only means I don’t have an unlimited amount of time on the planet to read everything that might seem even remotely interesting. There are some people that read only comic books. There are some people that read only nonfiction. There are some people that read only religious texts. Practically speaking, everyone has to limit what they read somewhat, especially if they want to become an authority rather than a passer-by in that specific field. [Side note: I should write an article about "specialties" at some point.]
I think the problem arises when someone insists that because their preferences are “more refined,” their opinion is more valid. It takes more of an effort to appreciate specific sub-genres of music or literature. Media that reaches a large percentage of the population is easily accessible, and often, appeals to the “lowest common denominator.” It is usually massively entertaining and not much else. For some people, this type of media is satisfactory. For others, there is not enough substance. So, they dig and dig and dig until they discover media more to their liking.
My point: just because I spend more time trying to determine what my specific preferences are does not give me the right to pass value judgments on pop culture.
But, what if that media prevents people from using their minds productively? Is pop culture the world’s newest religion?