10 Things in Pop Culture That I Was Wrong for 'Hating'

On this week's episode of The Movie Breakdown, both Scott and I confessed in our foolish younger years that we took some pride in disliking certain types of pop culture. I can't speak for Scott, but I know that in my distorted teen and twentysomething thoughts that disliking a certain popular source of entertainment made me smarter and showed I had better taste.

I now have become wise enough to realize such a thought process is pure foolishness right up there thinking that because I can jog to the closest Stop sign without wheezing that I could win a gold medal in long distance running. I can't, and hating something never makes me better or show I have refined tastes. All it means, is that thing just didn't work for me.

If anything, I have switched around that I now believe one proves themselves to be a good critic and partaker in entertainment if they openly find joy in as many different forms, styles, and genres of entertainment as possible. Or at least, one should just accept that they are the one losing out when not liking something rather than those that find great joy in it. 

One of the drums that I've been beating for the last several years is that our society has just become way too negative. There are far too many creators and commenters on the internet that base their entire reputation off hating stuff. While it is inevitable as a critic trying to write about as many movies and entertainment as possible that I will encounter art that does not work for me, and I do need to honestly convey that. I am not interested in crafting a persona on what I dislike or spend more time than I need digging into the things that don't work for me. 

I want this to be a place that is mostly positive and a celebration of the things that we love, even if those things are not universally accepted as great.

But as I started this article with declaring, I haven't always had this stance. I wrongfully assumed it made me cool to dislike certain entertainment and art that was beloved by many others. I was way off.

This article (that is taking way too long to get to my point) is my public apology for being pretentious and foolish for taking great pride in hating certain forms of art through my life. Now, I may not be a fan off all the things now or even really had a chance to experience them (yep, the ultimate in stupidity was hating stuff that I knew squat about), but I can say that I was completely wrong in being so vocal and gleeful in my disdain for them. In some cases, I have come around on them and do get great pleasure from them now.

Here are 10 things in pop culture that I was wrong for proudly hating. This is not done in any particular order, because like most things on this site, I'm just winging it and writing them down as they come to me.

10. Teen Pop: In the mid to late 90s and through most of the early 2000s, music groups labelled boy bands like *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Hanson, and singers like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Mandy Moore were targeted towards the pre-teen and teen girl demographic, and were easily the most popular musicians during the period. 

At the time, I would openly declare how all of them performed horrible music and lacked any kind of talent. I am sure some of it came from the fact they were the polar opposite to the music that I loved as a teen like grunge, punk, and metal that had its moment in the sun in the early 90s. I would often whine and complain about how most of these performers and groups were manufactured by studios, thus couldn't be considered true artists.

The dirty little secret I discovered in later years was that grunge groups like Alice in Chain were just as manufactured by record executives as any of the boy bands. The origins of a group have nothing to do with their talent, passion, or creativity. Just because a million screaming teenage girls got more enjoyment from them than Pearl Jam or I Mother Earth, then that did not take away from their skill and talent. They were simply different than what my ears like bouncing around.

I also know that time has proven the talent and longevity of many of the musicians. Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, and Christian Aguilera have had long and successful careers in the entertainment business and proved their skill outside of just music. A lot of the music that at the time I screamed as a flash in a pan is still played on radio stations and continues to find a new audience.

Plus, it is time to confess something, which is I protested too much. Most of this popular music is catchy, cheerful, and fun, and I can now admit that listening to it makes me feel good. As a 44-year-old realizing life is far shorter than I assumed, I am all about embracing things that bring little bits of joy. Why yes, 'MMMBop', '(You Drive Me) Crazy' and 'Bootylicious' are fun songs to groove along with.

9. Dungeon & Dragons: This is one of the most baffling on the list that I was so loud in declaring how much it sucked in my teens and early twenties. My disdain came from it being something for nerds and geeks.


Uh. . . 

Christopher of the teens and twenties, my dear and lovable self, you are a big, giant, glorious nerd and geek, and not playing Dungeon & Dragons will not save you from this glaring reality.

I'm a writer. I love storytelling, I played imagination as a kids, and I still get great joy playing it with my kids. I had a billion He-Man and Star Wars toys that I recreated epic tales with every weekend as a kid. I have always loved fantasy. It almost feels borderline criminal that I never got into Dungeon & Dragons, because it would have been perfect for all my interests and personality. My decision to deny it in my teen years meant I robbed myself of something I probably would have cherished. Playing it definitely wouldn't have caused me to get less dates that I ended up having in high school anyway.

Now, other than the fear of being labelled the geek that I already clearly was in denial of being, there is one stigma that likely also caused me to declare a dislike for the popular role-playing game. I was raised in a Christian family that went to a conservative church. In the 1980s, during what is now known as the satanic panic era, Dungeon & Dragons was demonized as a horrific sin that almost was a declaration of love for the devil (which was a tad taboo for Christians). 

My parents never subscribed to this philosophy, but I remember seeing a video preaching the evil of Dungeon & Dragons in Sunday School. I had friends that would tell me it was pure evil because that is what their parents said. It was banned at the conservative Christian elementary school that I attended. There was likely some part of my brain that was programmed into believing that playing Dungeon & Dragons was not worth the risk of denying my access to heaven.

I do not subscribe to any of those thoughts now. I was the loser for not playing. If there is any of my readers out there that are cool enough to play and have a group they attend, I am totally prepared to correct a several decades mistake, if anyone will have me.

8. Chick Flick: Okay. I first need to stress that I would not ever use the term 'chick flick' anymore, and I think it is one of the stupidest terms in pop culture. Especially since, it isn't even clear what genre it is trying to describe. Is it a movie with a female lead? Is it romantic comedies? Is it dramas that tend to make you weep during crucial parts? Is it any kind of romance movie? Is it movies geared towards teenage girls or can the movies that are popular with older women qualify too?

The term is rarely used by those that would like the movies labelled by it. It is a term that was mostly intended to be derogatory. I now realize the term is very dumb, and it was used to diminish some really great movies.

It is on the list, because I used the term in high school usually as a way to dismiss a picture that I didn't want to see during a gathering. The idea was this was of lesser artistic integrity than the Adam Sandler comedy or Steven Seagal actioner the male contingent was trying to get passed through. 

Here is the thing, even when I was on team 'No Chick Flicks', I loved a whole slew of movies that would fall under that label.

My mom loved movies that would be described as tear jerkers. As a kid, I remember watching a bunch of widow saves the farm or strong women stands up for rights while finding true love along the way movies with my mom. As a kid, I held up movies like Terms of Endearment, Mask, and Places in the Heart as classic cinema. Even if I protested in public choosing certain movies, right off the bat I was a fan of Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Sleepless in Seattle. 

Some of my all-time favourite movies can be described as tear-jerkers or romantic comedies, and that has always been the case. I just decided to try to lean into some foolish expectation of what a teen boy should enjoy than embrace what I really enjoyed. I was foolish, but of course, that has been firmly established already in this article.

'Chick Flicks' is a dumb term that anyone who is intelligent should stop using, and many of the movies under that label are great.

7. Ally McBeal: Speaking of a stupid term used by a foolish twentysomething Christopher, I used to mock a roommate for liking this show by declaring it a 'Vagina Show.' What does that mean? No idea. I am sure I patted myself on my shoulder before bed at night for being so witty and funny.

Okay, confession time. I've never seen an episode. I just assumed it was bad and not worth my time. Considering it was created by David E Kelly who has made many acclaimed series, I am sure it was actually great, fun, and hilarious.

I lost out, because of some idiotic assumption on my part. And probably because I had foolishly decided that along with not playing Dungeon & Dragons, that mocking it would suddenly make me the coolest cat in the room. How did that help you out on Saturday nights, twentysomething Christopher? Huh?

Anyway, I never watched the series. That is my loss. Calista Flockhart is talented, and probably was an incredible lead. I have since learned that Jane Krakowski is hilarious, and is amazing in everything she has been in. I lost out. When it becomes available to me, it may be time to review it as a way of repentance.

6. Twilight: Back in teacher's college, I was teaching a grade 6 class, and I noticed several girls were really into this novel that I had only vaguely heard about, Twilight. I wanted to be able to connect and understand my students, so I decided to read the first book in the series (Google makes me aware that at the time there only could have been one novel, so it wasn't even a series yet).

I didn't make it three chapters before I realized this novel was not written for me, and I was appalled they turned what I thought was one of coolest type of mythical monsters into sparkly bad boys. Now, I was smart and caring enough to not pan the book to innocent 12-year-old girls, but I did have to concede that I wasn't able to finish it.

Those few chapters I read were painful for me as I did not enjoy the prose or the depiction of the lead character or how it decided to reinterpret the once badass vampire. I deemed the romance the as unhealthy, and nothing was compelling to me. 

So, then for the next several years I derided the whole Twilight novel series as horrible and would never give any of the movies a chance. While I don't think I ever vocalized it, I internalized that those who were not preteen girls that liked the series must have horrible taste in literature. I had convinced myself that not only was Twilight one of the worst novel series ever, but that Stephanie Meyer was a hack writer.

Based off not even finishing three chapters, I was declaring best-selling and millionaire author Meyer a bad writer, and feeling her beloved novel was trash. Based off not even finishing the first novel, I decided to join the hate parade.  

At least, this entry proves that I was just as pretentious and foolish a critic of pop culture in my early 30s as I was in my teens and twentysomethings. Because I probably should have known better in 2008 when it was released and been willing to at least not pan something that I didn't actually read all of it. As a writer, I should have celebrated there was a novel that was getting more people to read.

Yet, when I wrote for Collective Publishing and various other publications, I openly wrote about my disdain for the series, and felt validated when other professional novelists mocked the series too. I didn't account for the fact that they were probably jealous that they didn't even sniff close to Meyer's book sales.

One thing that a critic should never ever do is pan or criticize something that they never watched, read, played, or listened. It doesn't matter if hundred of respected critics say it sucks. If one hasn't actively engaged with it, then their opinion on that work is trash and worthless. For now, I can't have an opinion on Twilight or the skill of Meyer, because all I've ever read was less than three chapters.

No matter what I feel about the novels, Meyer seems like a wonderful person, and I am glad she has had such great success. If her readers love their sparkly vampires then I'm glad, because I'm sure many of them would hate my beloved Salem's Lot and their bloodsuckers. There is enough room in the creative space for all kinds of vampires.

5. Anime: In the late 1990s, I watched a few minutes of shows like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and Pokémon, the hyper presentation style, dream-like story structure, and odd dialogue threw me off right away. I then declared that anime was for those with a short attention span or tripping out on shrooms. It definitely could not present great storytelling and engaging characters -- no way!

I stuck with my Anime Hater membership until a few years ago when Everett really fell in love with Pokémon, which got him seeking out other popular anime shows and watching many of the Studio Ghibli movies.

Guess who usually ended up watching the movies with him?


Guess what happened?

Studio Ghibli is amazing. Their animation is gorgeous, their imagination is expansive, the storytelling is bold, and it is some of the most immersive worlds that I've ever experienced. I have loved almost every movie that I've seen from that animation studio. While I haven't been as hot on the different series or the Pokémon movies, I also am slowly appreciating what they bring to pop culture and find myself growing to like them more and more.

Plus, Everett got me into playing the Pokémon card game, and it is a blast, I love playing it with him, and I've done it enough times that sometimes I even win, because I have a bit of strategy. We also started playing the Magic: The Gathering card game, which is equally fun and great.

Everett helped to make me a much more open-minded person, and experience the riches of an entire medium that I had once declared not for me.

4. Green Day: I cried in high school that Green Day only played three chords. They weren't punk rock, and I'd argue with anyone that tried to disagree. I convinced myself they were all about image rather than real art. I decided they were just another bunch of hacks that created catchy but not talented music with a look that attracted an army of mindless fans.

Then as a joke, someone bought me the Green Day album, Nimrod.

And I played it a few times.

And a few times more.

A few times more after that.

Then just to see how it compared to the previous Green Day work, I bought past albums.

And listened to those a bunch of times just to reaffirm where I stood.

Yep, Green Day is catchy. They aren't like a lot of the punk bands that I enjoyed. Maybe their songs weren't the hardest to play. There definitely pop punk.

But they were good. They were popular for a reason. I had to gobble up lots of crow.

And Green Day albums. But that part was fun.

3. Star Trek: This was another foolish one that fit alongside my sight-unseen dislike of Dungeon & Dragons. It also was very particular, as I had seen all the motion pictures, but just stayed away from the shows. The movies were cool. but the shows were for geeks was the stance that I deluded myself into thinking was not idiotic.

I took a lot of pride in not knowing much about any of the series, because that clearly meant that I was just too cool for such geekery.

Here is the sign of someone being oblivious and having their head stuck firmly between their butt cheeks. I declared Star Trek too geeky while owning hundreds of Star Wars toys, loving every Star Wars movie, and reading a whole slew of comics and novels based on Star Wars. A huge Star Wars fan was calling Star Trek too geeky. 

Because loving Star Wars in the early 1990s was how you got all the street cred.

I haven't watched any Star Trek series yet. But that is more to do with time and watching Star Wars a hundred more times, and I now know that is my loss rather than victory.

2. Titanic: I really enjoyed Titanic in theatres. Then it became the highest grossing movie of all-time, then it won a truckload of Oscars, and then it was talked about for years and years. Then some movie fans start arguing it was overrated for having a generic story, not deserving the Best Picture accolades, and failing to be historically accurate.

I joined that team declaring it is overrated and just not a very good movie. Of course, it was a stance I was taking without rewatching it since the few times I enjoyed it in 1997 and 1998. But I thought it made me a smart critic with excellent taste to throw Titanic on the heap of pictures beloved by those lacking good taste.

Then I rewatched it for The Movie Breakdown, and I loved it. The story was a classic old Hollywood love story that felt like a call-back to the epics of the 1940 and 1950s that was lovingly crafted by a true auteur of cinema in James Cameron. The movie is sweeping, grand in scale, visuals that still stand-up today, with great lead performances, a classic villain to jeer against, and is as deserving being a Best Pictures as many other winners. As for historical accuracy, Braveheart is pure fantasy outside of William Wallace being a historical figure. Historical accuracy has never been and never will be the chief concern in any motion picture. Even those 'based on a true story'.

I also have learned to dislike the word 'overrated' as much as 'guilty pleasure.' It gives off the idea that others are wrong for liking something, and I am better for seeing through it. I now think that is ridiculous, and instead when a bunch of people love something that I dislike, it just means that I don't get it rather than anyone being wrong. I am on the one missing out.

Titanic isn't perfect, but no work of art ever is. Perfection does not exist. A movie having elements that can be criticized does not stop it from being great entertainment. The elements that work like the set design, engaging lead characters, and the sense of old-school Hollywood sweeping storytelling make this worthy of being a great movie.

1. Sushi: I know, I know, I know. A food is not art or pop culture necessarily. It probably shouldn't be on this list. But it does fit under the theme of things I claimed to hate without ever having any experience with it.

I grew up in Brantford in the 1980s where international cuisine was considered Taco Bell. Without even being exposed to sushi, I just assumed it was uncooked fish, and that was it. Why would I want to eat uncooked fish? I had undercook chicken and was sick for a day. So, I let everyone know sushi sucks.

Then I started dating Emily in the 2000s, who was for more cultured than her barbarian boyfriend that claimed wrestling was a sport and believed Pop Tarts were the epitome of a pastry. She wanted to take me to a sushi restaurant, and I pleaded if I could order a burger there.

Then I stopped being an idiot and ate the sushi. Then I wanted to go out for sushi again. Then when we got married, we would travel to the closest cities places that had sushi, so I could eat more sushi. Then Brantford got with the game, and a few sushi restaurants opened up, and we went there as much as we could justify it.

Now, I'd say sushi is my favourite food. I cheer whenever Emily makes it for dinner or if I discover it will be at a party. I definitely have never uttered the words 'no' when sushi has been offered in the last decade. Everett now absolutely loves sushi, and also tries to eat it as much as possible. 

Sushi is awesome. I know this because I eat it now. I only ever hated it, because I had never eaten it and didn't even really know what it was.

That is the major issue, the things that I protested the most through the years were either things I never really engaged with at all and was basing that dislike on whatever I concocted in my mind, or from minimal experience with it that I then allowed to blow-up in my head.

Hating stuff sucks. No one should wave their hate and dislike as a banner and define themselves based off it. You can't like everything, but it makes more sense to just realize we didn't get it and move on to what we do enjoy and love.

What is something you once 'hated' but learned to appreciate as time passed?