In this fast-moving, snarky world we live in where everyone needs to have some witty comeback to everything, it’s easy to develop certain standards. The law of the land is to like cultural products that are well received critically, but not loved by the world at large. Simply put, there’s this persisting idea that media’s not good if it’s too popular. Even as the old hipster meme played up the way that fans of indie media refused to try anything mainstream, the attitude seems to hold true in many more circles than just flannel-wearing, big-spectacled caricatures.
Until recently, I had been very concerned about abiding by these self-imposed rules. It was just a couple weeks ago, when I read a glowing review from favorite source Stereogum about Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album, EMOTION, that I really started to change my mind. A legitimately good album? By a pop star? For a little while, I was convinced the review was intended to be ironic. Had I kept my close-minded mentality, I would not have had the opportunity to enjoy the music. I don’t want this article to become a review itself, but I loved the album and it’s one of my favorites of the year.
Since then, I’ve wanted to get a perspective on what’s good from sources I wouldn’t normally venture towards. I ask friends who I assumed had bad taste what they enjoy, though I used to avoid the subject. I hardly ever gave the Top Albums list on iTunes a second look, but now I do.
Conversely, I’ve also become more aware that media that were critically acclaimed but not massively popular are fallible. I went to see the movie The Gift earlier this month, a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and raved about on social media. I went in super excited, but came out thinking it had a dumb story and ham-fisted performances rather than being a subversive, chilling thriller. In this case, I found myself more on the mainstream side of things than the groupthink I’d been exposed to.
On the other hand, I saw the mega-popular Furious 7 this past spring, a movie from a series often stigmatized as catering to mass culture, and thought the film was an amazing, heart-filled thrill ride. Neither side of media, indie or mainstream, is great all the time. I realized assuming the quality of cultural products isn’t always a good thing.
The lesson I learned from this change in perspective is that life is too short to block yourself off from having new experiences for superficial reasons.
Feature photo courtesy of FAKEGRIMLOCK.