Tuesday 3 September 2013

Just for a change, I'm going to like something...

Obviously you are at complete liberty to hold your own personal tastes and views.  I am not going to shout at you for detesting raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens or similar.  However, plenty of people seem to believe that their tastes are somehow superior tastes to those of others.  I learned this week that apparently clever people shouldn't like reality tv. I joined in a conversation about Celebrity Big Brother, and was told "I expected better of you", by someone who knows I have two degrees and was presumably imagining I spend my evenings memorising pi and gazing at my Simon Schama pinups.  

Others have assumed I watch in some kind of "ironic" way, perhaps picturing some sort of post-modern leisure movement of doing things one doesn't enjoy, then moaning about them, for the amusement of one's online acquaintances.  Well guess what, I know full well that Celebrity Big Brother contains neither anyone much celebrated nor any Orwell references, and I still like it.  It's funny ("Jedward are running a bubble bath into which they have emptied a whole bottle of washing up liquid" remaining one of my all-time favourite commentaries).  It makes you think (would anyone with that upbringing have ended up like Lauren Harries, or is she just a natural eccentric who, lacking friends, sees the public as substitutes?).  It gives you an insight into the "celebrity" world (Mark Owen's genuine overwhelmed tears at winning, while mum-aged Take That fans wait outside with a banner saying "we never forgot").  It gives our own prejudices a workover (at the height of the Jade Goody/Shilpa Shetty controversy, a nation somehow found itself looking to Jermaine Jackson and H from Steps as the voice of reason).

Moreover, along with the "civilian" Big Brother, it tells us something important.  It takes people we would not usually get to know in the normal course of life, and tells us something about what they are like.  Generally, they are not like us.  And that's why I like them, and it.  It's a window (albeit a tinted and distorted one) into the lives and minds of people I don't know and don't have much in common with.

X Factor is harder to defend because the music is, almost uniformly, terrible, and the voting predictable, but it's an interesting and fun way to find out what constitutes popular music these days - certainly more fun than listening to Radio 1 (I say this as a person whose listening habits tend firmly towards the direction of unpopular music).  My favourite last year was Jahmene Douglas, a man whose singing was the audio equivalent of a Per Una top* - really nice, but disfigured with pointless frills and embroidery.  I can't say I'll be buying, or even knowingly listening to, his album, but I enjoyed watching his progression through the show, and it was fun to talk about him  - and intriguingly creepy Chris Maloney and meta-celebrity Rylan Clarke - with my colleagues.  I work in a supermarket, and while conversations about literature, history and science are as regular as those about who isn't really "off sick" and who's going for the management job, it feels good to have an interest in common with co-workers who prefer to chat about Saturday night television (it's also useful to steer the conversation into safer waters when I fear someone might be about to launch into praise for Boris Johnson or similar).  

I am barely restraining my impulse to say that the disdain for reality shows and the people who watch them is simply snobbery.  I think that would be unfair of me - it's not as unpleasant as that, it's more a need to compartmentalise people and things so we can process them more easily - "I'm the sort of person who likes X Factor" "I'm the sort of person who votes in X Factor"  "I'm the sort of person who auditions for X Factor" "I'm the sort of person who pops up every fifth or sixth comment after an article on X Factor to ask why the journalist is covering this crap".

So like what you like, and I'll like what I like.  Just don't try and interfere with other people's preferences, or you will sound as delusional and self-obsessed as someone you've never heard of (but was once married to someone you have) having an argument about sausages with a weatherman.

*or, indeed, four tops

No comments:

Post a Comment