You Don’t Need Permission to Like Something

I’ve talked about this before on the blog, but it’s something I feel needs repeating. You don’t have to like what everyone else likes. Also, you don’t have to dislike what everyone else dislikes. You don’t need to research the social history of all the creators of the thing you like. They don’t have to all be perfect people. They don’t even all have to be good people. (Though you should always keep in mind that the persona of that artist you read about online or in print might well be very different than who that person actually is. Art can be very admirable. I tend to avoid admiring artists too much, simply because I don’t know them. For example, just because JK Rowling has done or said something you dislike doesn’t make Harry Potter a horrible person.)

Likewise, you don’t have to dislike something just because everyone else dislikes it. (Or like it because they all dislike it.) I try not to let my personal taste be swayed by what others like or don’t like, one way or the other. I can think Parasite was a terrible movie, and it can still win the Oscar for Best Picture. That doesn’t make me wrong. That’s the lovely thing about opinions. (Though it’s important to me to be able to support my opinion. If someone challenges me on my dislike of Parasite, I have plenty of reasons to back it up. Perhaps they have reasons to counter those. If those reasons are strong enough, you never know: maybe I’ll see something in the movie I didn’t see before, and that might make my opinion change.)

But what about spending money on works done by artists who you dislike? If you’re disappointed in who Johnny Depp seems to have become, can you still buy a Jack Sparrow t-shirt? For this, I’d encourage everyone to remember that unless the art is being sold directly by the artist, only a fraction of the money of each sale goes to the artist.

As an author, I get a small percentage of royalties on each book that’s sold. If you hate me as an individual but love my books, you deciding to not buy my books anymore just to spite me is really hurting you far more than it’s hurting me. It’s also hurting future artists. My publishers make money off my books. They then take that money and invest it in new books. And if you loved my books, odds are you’ll like other books that publisher comes out with. Editors each have a certain taste, after all. Buying my books supports copy editors, illustrators, marketing staffs, and more, and that’s with a book, which is generally looked on as a product of a sole individual. With movies and music, it’s only more complex.

I’m a big fan of Woody Allen movies. Something about the way he makes films really resonates with me. I’m still a big fan of many Michael Jackson songs. I love some of the old Bill Cosby standup routines. I might have trepidations of those artists as individuals, but I still love their art.

But this post isn’t just about questionable artists. It’s about giving yourself the permission to love or loathe whatever you want. There’s a book out that’s been hailed as one of the best YA fantasies to come out in the past two decades. I couldn’t stand it. That’s okay. I don’t need to get on a soap box and tell everyone else they’re wrong. I can let them love what they love, and it doesn’t need to impact me at all. If I’m reading or watching something I don’t like, I can (and should) stop reading or stop watching.

Life’s too short to bother with worrying about what the general consensus is about any one work of art. And that’s all I have to say about that.


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