Trying to deal with the endless tide of things people say on the internet that are wrong is almost certainly impossible, a Quixotic errand that is likely born of arrogance in and of itself. That said, there is one spectre of internet-born ignorance that I feel the need to address. Any piece of entertainment, especially one that has managed to last a long time, will eventually begin to lose steam for one reason or another in the eyes of the fans, whether because of an actually drop in quality, or simply a perceived one. Once this happens, it’s only a matter of time before the Amazing Race of Hatred (I just made the term up, so don’t bother searching for it) begins. Those who once praised this series for its novelty and quality begin talking about how early they realized it sucked, as if the sooner they realized it, the smarter they are. This is, you guessed it, something that needs to go away.
A great example of this is The Simpsons. At this point The Simpsons has been on the air for over two decades, which is a long time for a show by any reckoning. During that time, a lot has happened. When it first aired, various moral groups were blasting the show for how obscene it was, and how Bart saying “Eat my shorts!” was the most vile blasphemy ever uttered. Now, some of those same groups go so far as to say it’s the most upstanding show on television. Even leaving that aside, the shock level is far tamer than, say, South Park or Family Guy or half of Adult Swim’s lineup. The show clearly has enough fans to stay on the air, but very few people are talking about it the same way they used to, and a lot has changed and changed again as far as the concept goes. By the natural laws of entropy, some people have lost interest for one reason or another, which is perfectly fine and normal.
The problem arises when people brag about how early they stopped liking the show. The battle, usually inspired by nothing more grandiose than the mentioning of the show’s name, goes something like this:
“Simpsons? That show’s sucked since season 10!”
“No way, it’s sucked since season 9!”
“Guys, I totally hated The Simpsons…since season 7!”
“Gasp! His elitism is superior to ours! Run!”
I am overstating to make a point, but the fact remains that this is sadly normal. Now, again, if a person simply dislikes the show, I don’t have a problem with that. No piece of entertainment is innately owed loyalty. My problem comes from people who find a point of pride in disliking something they once liked. The Simpsons themselves got somewhat meta about this very thing in the Poochy episode, where Comic Book Guy declares one episode of Itchy and Scratchy to be the “Worst episode ever,” like he was proud of it, obviously a shot by Simpsons writers at fans of their show, who so callously turned on them. Amusingly, internet people now use the phrase without the slightest hint of irony, without realizing that it was designed to mock crass, entitled pseudo-fans.
I can only attribute this to a desire to appear smarter than others. Being the one who points out the emperor has no clothes has always carried with it a certain amount of pride, and having knowledge before others do can make a person feel special. Now, I’m sure that some would argue that they are simply venting frustrations, and I can understand that. I rant and rave like a bloody madman when not writing posts about my D&D characters. Still, I don’t understand being proud or happy at learning that someone I like has waned in quality. Even if The Simpsons has gone downhill, and you could probably make a persuasive case that it has, why is that something to be bragged about? Why would something I love getting worse make me happy. It’s like saying, “I knew Grandma was dying since she was 56!”
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again. Like what you like, and don’t what you don’t. But partaking of something to hate it, or racing others to hate it doesn’t make you part of the solution. Plenty of people watch bad TV to feel superior to it, but what do they think everyone else is doing? Here’s a hint: the same thing. Watching the Kardashians or Jersey Shore or whatever spoiled bride show is on this week because you know they’re bad doesn’t make you better than people who watch them seriously. It makes you worse in a way, because you know it’s bad and you support it. People who read comics crossovers they hate because they have to know what’s going on are also wrong. I won’t read comics by Bendis because I know I’m going to hate them. I’ve read a few and the dialogue is like acid in my brain, while the pacing would lose a fixed race against molasses. But I don’t go out writing bad reviews of his work over and over and over. I just don’t read it. Money is money to publishers, and your angry review of Fear Itself that you paid for isn’t making Joe Quesada cry into his pillow stuffed with money.
Don’t let stuff you dislike dominate your life or personality. If you must talk about it, try to engage the problem in a constructively critical way. There’s enough out there that most people can find something to enjoy without fixating on what they hate, or bragging about it for that matter.