I know a lot of people use blogs to hash out ideas that eventually get revised into books. Some of what I’d like to cover falls under broad topics that might be better suited to books. It’s not necessarily just a “review”.
I’ve become interested lately in stepping back and understanding how stories become popular (and when I say “stories” I’m talking mostly about TV and films.) I also want to understand the reverse, why people wind up disliking things, and how this disconnect expresses itself in fans vs. haters.
The internet in particular has created an environment where being a fan (or a hater) is equivalent to being part of a community. I’ve also seen how fandom for a particular franchise can break down into smaller and smaller subgroups who like certain aspects and dislike others. This is especially vitriolic within Trekkies given the half-century history of that franchise.
Taste (or fashion) is, for the most part, an extension of identity. People will judge you (or more appropriately prejudge you) based on what you like. And the first visual evidence of what you like is what you wear (assuming you put any thought into it) or what kind of car you drive. When it gets down to TV and film, one can still draw conclusions based on taste, hence stereotypes about nerds liking sci-fi and fantasy and women liking rom-coms.
The bigger question is WHY do people like what they like? The sorts of conclusions you draw from the above examples seem open-and-shut. Geeks like science and gadgets, therefore they’re into sci-fi. Women are into romance, so they like rom coms. Why overanalyze?
But have you ever caught yourself on a weekend zoning out to television and suddenly “catching” yourself and thinking , gee, what am I really getting out of this? Most people do not consciously think about why they’re driven to see a movie, lock into a channel, or fire up a stream on Netflix. It’s the same primal impulse as deciding what to eat (or to suddenly get up and binge on a snack). It seems to come from a place we don’t spend much time trying to understand. It feels as automatic as breathing.
In order for me to be fair in dishing out reviews, I need to understand myself and what I, personally, get by spending some of my precious time idly watching things, and what turns me off, and why. For anyone to find any value of my reviews, I at least have to explain what drives my own taste, and if it doesn’t match your own wiring, then odds are none of my kudos or my raspberries will make the least bit of sense to you.
So what I’m going to do is break my thoughts down into bullet-points. The bullet-points will list out various ways story gives us something we want (a payoff) and other ways that stories turn us off. Along the way I will also offer some key examples, some representing my own personal greatest-hits, but also some that are probably on the greatest-hits list of those with different taste. I think you’ll see how even two people who have different tastes can actually be searching for the same quality in their entertainment. They just wind up getting it in two different forms.
If I get through all these I’ll go back and put a table of contents in this post so that it’s easier to click around later, since I doubt I’ll write all this out in straight sequential posts.