On Loving Lesser Media

In my thesis presentation, I mentioned that I loved Marvel Comics, and that there is nothing too stupid to love. A professor challenged me on it (read: said "that's not true but it's a nice sentiment"). I think I'm writing this in response to that moment. See, nothing is a strong word, but there really isn't very much that's too stupid to love, even if for the moment. What Marvel taught me (however clumsily) was how to build a universe out of separate stories -- yes, there are better versions of that, but I learned the language I needed to love them through Thor/Wolverine crossovers. Sure, there are better books about fate/will... but for a lot of kids, The Fault in our Stars did the trick. 

 I don't believe that everyone can or should enjoy all of the same media; at the same time, there is a way to love just about everything. There are things that shouldn't be loved, movies that shouldn't be made. There's problematic media. That's not the question at hand. The question is whether or not someone can enjoy a thing, dig into it, and really feel connected to it. I think it's possible with basically any narrative-driven form. There are (of course) ways to manufacture connection. Again, this isn't a question of whether or not a particular bit of media  should matter to someone; it's a question of whether it can, and whether it can matter enough to be an influential piece of their intellectual journey, even if the piece isn't intellectual. I believe that it can, and that sometimes those are the things that stick with you.

Occasionally I find myself providing an apologetics for my tastes (like now). Why? Sometimes I'm defending my enjoyment of children's books, or of literary works, or of ridiculous T.V. As often as not, these defenses are to me, about my evolving tastes. Just because my thirteen year old self thought pop/electronic-driven music was trash doesn't mean my current self can't enjoy it (I'm writing this blog post listening to Chvrches' album Every Open Eye). There are many things I thought at thirteen. I haven't held onto any/many of those ideas. Speaking of being thirteen, in my blog post on Stephanie Meyer, I betray that, at one time, I enjoyed reading the Twilight books. I don't know why that felt like a confession; I was thirteen. Most of what I enjoyed at that age, I have outgrown. That's an important word: "outgrown." It means that, at one time, I fit into the box that story asked me to be inside as an audience member or consumer. While I no longer fit that box, I think that the thoughtful consumption of media (is there any real love of anything that is unthoughtful, in the sense that it is flippant?) brought me to where I am. That includes lots of things, some of which I have not outgrown, and some of which is firmly in the past. One of the things that touches both is Star Wars. As an adult, I love it differently than I did when I was seven. But I haven't outgrown it. I don't know that I will.

I recently asked a student of mine (she's sixteen) if she would be offended if I bought her and her sister toy lightsabers, since they were just introduced to Star Wars, and she said something oddly profound:
"No, because of your relationship to Star Wars." It wasn't about my sense of humor or that no one would be surprised if I actually did purchase the aforementioned lightsabers, but the way that I have loved it for a long time. I haven't loved everything for that long. Some things are more special to me; many are less. What matters is that there is a story, many stories, that have helped me see who I am, who the people around me are, and perhaps what we and the world are becoming. Now, I get to enjoy nuanced stories about life and love and loss, but sometimes the story of a good kid whose fear turned them evil and whose love turned them back to good is more than enough.

As a creator and writer, I want to put good work out there. I never want to be re-enforcing bad ideas or encouraging bad behavior. At the same time, I know that my body of work has many peaks and valleys in quality (though of course I hope the peaks get higher over time, and the valleys rarer). What I hope as a creator is that the less-than work I've done is still loved by someone who is where I was when I made the darn thing. And, I hope that much of it gets outgrown, and that my audience (even if it's just my little sister checking for typos) and I can grow together. Until we're all smarter, better, wiser... maybe there's room for the stuff before the greats. 


Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash