I saw this post on Noelle Stevenson’s Tumblr recently, and it dovetailed with something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late:
There is often a binary perception of how things in life should be appreciated: either love them (wholly), or don’t. And I’ve been thinking about how obviously untrue that is, and also how difficult it can be on the internet to express the complicated relationship most of us have with things we love.
The internet flattens things, making it difficult to tell when someone is being sincere, or bitingly sarcastic. In fact, I would say the internet is a place where it can feel impossible to be silly. And when I love something—like a book, TV show, or movie—that is complex, with both positive and negative parts, I express it most often by being silly.
Let’s take the most obvious example: Twilight. (Of course!)
I have read all the books more than once, including Midnight Sun. I own all four, and all the movies. I went to Forks. But I also did this. Silly! Because I understand that Twilight is flawed. Hugely. That does not, however, diminish my enjoyment of the books or the movie*.
This was brought up when we featured a Twilight-themed cover in the “Go Away, I’m Reading” series. The “In Forks, Send Help!” cover got a lot of reaction. A few comments were along the lines of: “Oh man, that’s great! Making fun of Twilight is the best because boy does it suck!” or, “I thought you were cool and everything until I saw you making fun of Twilight and now no sparkle party 4 U.”
I totally appreciate both of those points of view. My problem is that they represent extremes. And, to paraphrase John Green, the truth resists extremes. We live our lives not in black or white, but in a great big mess of gray. So I can’t please the person who loves Twilight genuinely, earnestly, completely, with no room for poking fun at sparkle motion or the fact that the original book says “moats” of dust instead of “motes.” (MOATS.) But! At the same time, I am not down with people only interested in sneering at Twimania. As Noelle said, if I didn’t have a nugget of love for something, I’d ignore it.
So what is it? What is the feeling of thinking about something often (like, entirely too often), finding friends with that same interest, engaging in repeated and serious discussions about it—-But also, mocking it? All over the place? With giddy abandon?
It boils down to: What is being so intrigued by something in which you also recognize, accept, and even, at times, delight in its weaknesses?
Seriously. That’s all it is.
I don’t have to believe that the things I love are flawless or above reproach. But being silly about something, or making fun of it at times, doesn’t make my love less geniune. It’s just what I do with things that interest me that deeply. For me, joking about a subject is still spending time with it.
I’ve found that it can be difficult for people to understand this, sometimes. ”But I thought you liked Twilight?” or “But you said the writing in Twilight wasn’t very good? So why are you re-reading it?“ I don’t have a better explanation for that besides: I love it. For better or worse, richer or poorer, subverting the male gaze or sparkling the shit out of an infant imprint, I just love it.
What about you?? What are some things that you love, but also find problematic? Do you have Thoughts on whether it’s hard to be silly on the internet? Can you believe it really said MOATS?!
* This is a great post on how to be a fan of problematic things, re-linked to recently by Stephanie Perkins. Definitely worth a read!