Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being an Individual versus Hating the Mainstream: A Brief Editorial

This is unfortunately how many people think about non-conformism (as well as being part of subcultures).

Today's post is more of an opinion essay/rant than anything else, but I felt like I hadn't seen anyone else really discussing this issue within the lolita fashion bloggersphere. After watching youtuber Meekakitty's vlog on the subject I was compelled to write the following entry. This post is about people who hate on stuff simply because it is popular. You've seen them, you've heard them--they are especially prevalent in subcultures. For instance, when I was in middle school, I followed gothic fashion and music. I enjoyed the romantic, dark style and the sounds of Bauhaus, Malice Mizer (I'm counting them even though they're jrock) and the Cure.
But I also had a horrible secret: In addition, I LOVED Nsync and Backstreet Boys. I could sing along to Just Like Heaven, She's In Parties and Beast of Blood, but I also knew all the words to Backstreet's Back and Pop!. I didn't think anything of it because--hey--people like different kinds of music, so what? But when I took out my Black and Blue CD one day and a "friend" saw, I was hopelessly harangued. "You're not a real goth--you're a conformist because you like POPULAR music!" Now that was back in middle school--I have plenty of acquaintances in the goth subculture now who would call that behavior a crock of bull. But for awhile, I pretended to hate anything popular just to fit in, until I lost it and basically said, "You know what--I like what I like, I don't change for other people, deal with it!"
Why is it some people instinctively hate something because it's popular/the current trend? And why do they seem to feel free to make judgments about others who just happen to like these things regardless of their popularity? Read the whole body of this discussion under the cut:More...
It's as if being successful in the mainstream poisons something in their eyes. But do you ever see them give a good solid reason for their veering away in disdain? I haven't once. A good example is the Twilight Saga--now, I don't like Twilight, but I have good, critical reasons for that: I didn't enjoy the book series, I find the heroine boring and passive, the relationships don't interest me--real reasons based on observation and reflection. But some people simply pass up the series because "Robert Pattinson fangirls are annoying!" or "I hate that I have to see it EVERYWHERE." That makes no sense--an actor's popularity isn't a plausible reason for disliking a book series, nor does having a large fanbase always correlate with a movie series' being bad. Do you maybe dislike that actor's previous body of work? Are you just not interested in the melodrama of a tweenage gothic romance? Give a good reason, and don't hate on those who do like something. I have three close friends who love Twilight even if I can't stand it, and that's fine with me because I don't pick friends based solely on whether they like what I like.

Now, I'm going to share something with you--you've all probably seen the various movies that have come up for discussion on my blog: Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal, Greta Garbo oldies, German silent pictures like Murnau's Faust--all very artsy, acclaimed and esoteric. You might even say I have very critical, sophisticated taste in film--some of my personal favorites are indeed cult classics (like Tod Browning's Freaks or Dracula's Daughter) and film critic favorites like Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane. But did you know some people automatically assume I have ZERO TASTE in movies right when they hear which film is my all-time favorite?

Yeah, well--my heart will go on, haters.

That's right--my favorite movie is James Cameron's 1997 hit Titanic. I love it for a number of reasons--I like the characters, the plot, the visuals, the music, the historical details and the depth of the story which deals with gender/class inequality and man's hubris. The Academy seems to agree--it won 11 Oscars including Best Picture, but for some reason people just love to HATE this movie. "Oh, everyone had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio,and it put me off the film." So you judged a MOVIE based on how sexually attracted other women were to an ACTOR in it? Does their admiration for him somehow create a plothole out of nowhere, or magically re-edit footage? No, their crush on him has NOTHING to do with the motion picture. Fangirls exist--it's okay! But mainly the reason I'm given for why Titanic is a "dumb movie" is Titanic is a popular movie. "Oh, yeah, all the girls in my class saw it eleven times and I was just sick of hearing about it." But you never saw it or judged it for yourself? Just throw away a motion picture experience because other people, in fact, enjoyed it? That doesn't make it a bad movie--I personally don't care for Gone with the Wind but I think it's a VERY good movie. I don't hate it/try to lessen it because it's popular (I grew up in the South: it's everywhere)--it just doesn't fit my personal tastes.

An old lolita secret image I found stereotyping girls who wear OTT Sweet and Angelic Pretty as "clones" or "disciples" who can't stop spending money. I recall a time when anyone who dressed in OTT sweet lolita--specifically AP-- faced being called a trend-following clone with no originality. Must we assume things like this?

I think the number one reason people say they hate something simply because it's popular is to appear "unique" and "non-conformist," but that doesn't make sense. That's just an inversion of conformist people liking something simply because it's popular or the current trend--how is strictly limiting one's own preferences to what's not popular not a form of conformism? I say if you like something, just like it--be a REAL individual and stop caring how others will react. Do you enjoy wearing OTT sweet lolita (which is popular)? Then do it--I won't call you an "AP clone" or say you're just following a trend or are unoriginal. Maybe you love expressing yourself with all the deco accessories or adore how the cotton candy colors look--maybe you didn't even consider its popularity! One of the most annoying things I hear people say is "I would hate it if lolita fashion became popular" because I love so many different styles that have become popular! I love Boho, for instance, but it's constantly associated with the Olsen Twins and Nicole Richie and other celebs I don't much care for. If I like Boho chic and suddenly everyone else likes it because some celeb made it popular, am I required to relinquish my love of it in order to be "special" or "unique"? Why should I be? Besides--nothing stays mainstream forever: trends come and go, popularity rises and falls.

We have to stop judging each other as "sell-outs" or "conformists" for liking what is/isn't popular: If something interests you, don't let fear of being labeled keep you from a new style, band, movie or favorite thing. Because if your definition of nonconformism is liking/not liking something based solely on what other people think, you may need a dictionary.


4 comments/comment?:

Jacqueline said...

I'm not one to dislike something because it's popular, but there are some exceptions. I'll use Twilight as an example. When I was around 12 I picked Twilight off of a bookshelf (surrounded by other equally unknown books) and read it. I thought it was a good book and shared it with my friends, but that's all it amounted to. I thought it was an entertaining read. Then, the Twilight fandom EXPLODED. it got to a point where people only liked "Twilight" because JACOB IS SOSOSSOSOSO HOOOTTTTTTT!!!! (never even reading the books or paying attention to the plotline) People walked around with shirts saying "TEAM EDWARD" and things of that nature, rabid fangirls started foaming at the mouth because someone mentioned a flaw in the plotline, people claimed that they'd "only date a boy if he sparkled," etc. (for many of these girls, it was the only book they'd ever read outside of school in years). I toned down my appreciation of the book from then on, because I didn't want to be associated with those ridiculous people. However, I never said I didn't LIKE the book itself, I just said "I could see where it's a good book, but the obsession around it is RIDICULOUS. It's not THAT GREAT."
I never hated the book itself, but I hated the mass fandom centered around it (and the reasons FOR that fandom.) I think it's the same way with a lot of things. For example, those little hats with animal ears on them used to be really popular in the otaku community. It was generally paired with some sort of emo or otaku-centered outfit. They wore them, but didn't really say anything about them. For them, it's just another cute accessory.
However, now that these hats are ALL OVER THE PLACE, all of the girls at my school will come wearing them. They don't just WEAR them, but they shove it in other's faces, like they invented it. Like, they'll be like "LOL LOOK, I HAVE A ~SILLY HAT WITH ANIMAL EARS~ isn't that SOOOOOO COOOOOLLLLL? I wouldn't dislike animal ear hats because of that, but it does make me cringe a little.
I hope this comment makes sense lol.

DuskRose_Dreaming said...

You nailed everything I could have said on the subject, and said it much better! Thank you! I've been afraid I was the only one who noticed/thought that way.
Like the commenter above, I liked Twilight when I first read it--I even loved it (sped thru the first three books in a week, college classes not withstanding).

But my real "secret vice" is Evanescence. They were the first band I loved, and they really helped when I was, y'know, going through some stuff. I even hold that they opened the first door that led me into the goth subculture. I don't claim their music is goth (I just like their music, that's all :D ), but the aesthetic in some of their photoshoots /music videos etc first introduced me to the aesthetic of the Romantic substyle of Goth. They also introduced me to the idea that beauty could be found in dark places (to paraphrase others), as a result of their music helping me with the abovementioned "stuff I was going thru."

Thank you (again). It felt good to get that off my chest. ^-^

beata-beatrixx said...

@ Jacqueline: I completely get how your appreciation got "toned down"--when Titanic was super popular, I didn't want to be associated with the crazed Leo fangirl crowd so I didn't let it slip that I loved the film. It's because of that that I don't label people into Twilight or other popular book/film series. Thank you for that comment, because I didn't really talk about that in my post :-)

@DuskRose_Dreaming: I love that band too! People really seemed to hate Evanescence for becoming popular, but I don't really see a change in their music style that warrants that kind of backlash. I also love Nightwish, but since they changed lead singers, their sound changed and I don't like them as much as I did before (but not because they're now popular). Thanks for your comment!

DuskRose_Dreaming said...

I just wanted to pop back inhere to say: Yay, a fellow fan! I'm glad I'm not the only alternative type who likes Evanescence. XD

I've found I like Nightwish's new sound, but it's certainly very different from their old style, so I get what you're saying.