It is Cool to Care

Back in high school, I had a group of friends that decided Metallica had sold out. It happened when they chopped their locks and released what this group decided was more alternative rock than heavy metal with their Load album. The idea was that Metallica was now trying to appeal to the masses and had gone mainstream, so they weren't cool anymore. These friends took great pride in disliking Metallica's new stuff, but making it clear they were down with the Metallica of old.

Except, the Metallica of old also sold out stadiums and it wasn't like they were some unknown band in the 1980s. My stance was Load wasn't all that different from their previous album that most of my friends loved in the Black Album.

I didn't understand why I had to choose. I loved Metallica's old stuff, but I really enjoyed most of the songs on the new (at the time) album. I was baffled by the great joy some of my friends took in hating on the new version of Metallica. I didn't think it made them better music fans, but rather just closed off to some slight change.

The pride in not liking something or not caring about something has continued many decades later. There seems to be a thing that has sprung up on social media where not liking something popular or not being interested in something is a badge of honour. It becomes for some a major defining trait that some are misguided in feeling should be celebrated and makes them extra hip and cool. This is an issue that one of my favourite pop culture writers, Nathan Rabin, wrote about a few years ago in his article 'Not Caring About Popular Things Does Not Make You Special' that really resonated with me.

Not liking or caring about something shouldn't be a defining trait and is a weird direction that part of the cultural zeitgeist has headed. Just like how confused I was that the group of friends thought it made them such great music connoisseurs to hate on the 'new' Metallica. Especially since countless parents either hated or didn't even know who Metallica was, so it wasn't like such a sentiment made them elite. Much like in current culture where every piece of entertainment has people that either don't like it or don't care about it or aren't even aware it exists. There is no special skill in having negative feelings towards a creation, even if people devote Reddits and articles to such things.

In the last decade I've seen and heard many people gleefully declare they don't like Christmas and every time the season approaches, they tout it like this is some controversial and edgy opinion. I've heard it enough times that not liking Christmas isn't unique or revelatory. Christmas is commercial, tiring and hectic, not liking it or just kind of going with it is very common. It is just that many people don't think they should get a trophy for holding that opinion. I prefer those that can find the joy in such a chaotic time.

I haven't watched an episode of Game of Thrones, so I have little interest in House of the Dragon. I am aware that Barry is a popular show, but that is everything I know about it. I haven't read too much by the current bestselling author, James Patterson. I have never played Minecraft nor do I really know what Fortnite is other than an immensely popular online game. Not knowing much about any of those things isn't special and my lack of being invested in them has nothing to do with them being popular. 

For the most part, it just comes down to time. Almost everything that I watch or read is for the purpose to either review it or research for other work. I don't hold any pride in my neglect of anything in popular culture, and maybe one day (especially if someone is willing to pay me to review it), I'll happily binge all of Game of Thrones or read works of a hot new author.

The whole pride in not caring also comes from a culture that takes pride in deeming things overrated or gleefully panning certain works. There are popular things that I haven't enjoyed. I never really got into any novel by Dan Brown, despite reading most of his bestselling novels. I got sick of The Walking Dead after the third season, which just happened to be around the time that I stopped getting paid to write about it. I was not a big fan of Best Picture nominated pictures like Joker and Bohemian Rhapsody, and a Best Picture winner like Green Book was something that I felt was fine but unremarkable. 

None of these things makes me special and it doesn't diminish the opinions of those that love those works. It just shows that everyone has different views and that is part of the fun of art. We all can have different perspectives and get something unique from a work of art. The word 'overrated' means nothing more than one person didn't like it as much as several others; it doesn't take away the value of the work nor what others feel about it. 

The older I get, the more I appreciate those who champion things. People who love a scruffy film or book that others have discarded as trash. There is more value in vocalizing and declaring the things we love and care about. It is cooler to enjoy something that may not be as beloved that we can articulate why it has value. It is the things that resonate with us that really define us. As I get older, I may passionately care about less things, but it still the things that connect that are worth spending time writing about and championing.