Taste is Subjective

I mean, it goes without saying, right? Or, it should, at least, go without saying that taste is subjective. I always feel wary of recommending any form of media to people because what I might think is amazing others might think is pretty subpar. Still, it’s a beautiful sort of relationship when you realize that you can easily recommend something because you know that person well enough. There are tons of books, shows, movies, music, etc. that I love that I know I can’t recommend to certain friends because we just have different tastes. Heck, my family loves country music, and it is literally the bane of my existence. But, sometimes, there are those people that think there’s something wrong with you if you don’t love the thing they love.

I don’t entirely know what the purpose of this post is today, but it’s definitely not to call out anyone or book. I’m definitely guilty of this. If you came on here right now and told me that you enjoyed the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, well. I’m honestly not really sure what I’d say. I literally threw it in the trash. It still haunts me to this day. I’d be pretty confused we had things in common if you liked it.

I guess, though, that to enjoy that book is kind of to say racism isn’t a big deal to you, which is pretty racist in its own right, so that’s less of the subjective variety when it comes to taste and more of the “I think an entire race of humans is lesser than me.”

ANYWAY, let’s swerve right away from this topic because we’re here to talk about taste, whether or not you like garlic in your food, not whether or not white supremacy is the worst thing in the world. It is, by the way.

I recently rec’d Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene to a fellow book blogger friend, and I had this moment of panic before I did it. I know the A&D duology is not for everyone. While reading it, I knew it was going to be one of those books that I probably didn’t actually rec to anyone, that I just quietly loved on my own. It’s got approximately one million tropes in it–enemies to friends to lovers; broken boy wants to be better, but is also occasionally Cardan; chosen one AND special snowflake; the most purple writing ever; long lost royalty; I’m going to stop, but I could honestly keep going. Selene, however, is clearly so in love with all of these tropes that it just feels like a celebration. I thoroughly enjoyed A&D, as well as the sequel, Diamond & Dawn, but I like a lot of things that a lot of people don’t, so Lisa, if you’re reading this, know that I panic-paced through my house before deciding to just say to hell with it and rec it anyway.

Honestly, most books/movies that I rec, people don’t end up liking. I am completely aware that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a trash fire of a movie, but I loved it so much that I wrote an entire review about why it was amazing. And a bunch of people that watched it were like bro you okay? because it really isn’t that good. As of drafting this post, I’ve planning on showing my best friend, Erin, The Old Guard, and I am so nervous she isn’t going to like it. I’m pretty sure she will because I seem to be in the majority here, and my radar for if something is actually good or not usually makes sense, but there’s still that fear. I would 10/10 die for Andromache the Scythian, but also? Rec’ing things scares the pants off of me.

(Okay, we’ve now watched it, and the verdict issssssss she thought it was pretty good, nothing to write home about, but I did show my dad it (yes, I have watched it three times in three weeks) and he cried over how amazing Nile was, so I win.)

The same thing happens with Anna-Marie McLemore a lot with me. Objectively, I’m pretty sure her writing is excellent. Her stories are really well thought out, and her characters are always very engaging. But taste is so subjective. I know, in my heart of hearts, no matter how I feel personally, that Brendon Urie is an incredible musician. I also know that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. My brother can’t stand him, and while I list him up there as my favorite musician of all time, someone’s taste is going to prefer something different. Objectively, Brendon Urie is an excellent musician and Anna-Marie McLemore is an excellent writer, but not everyone is going to like them.

AND THAT’S OKAY!

Oh, look at that, I just talked my way into the point of this post, huzzah!

Ya girl owns a lot of Cassandra Clare, and well, here’s another thing I don’t rec to people. I wrote a post a while back about guilty pleasures. I chatted about how I don’t really like the term guilty pleasure because there’s nothing to be guilty about enjoying something you love. For a long time, I did consider the Shadowhunters universe a guilty pleasure. I can look at it from an outside perspective and see that it’s not some kind of masterpiece. (Although, honestly, what is?) It’s kind of a mess at times, and it’s another of those full of eight hundred tropes universe, and each new series is basically the same thing written with different characters. But, I got to think why am I calling it a guilty pleasure? Because other people don’t think it’s good, so I should also recognize that it’s bad and feel guilty about enjoying it?

Satan, set that thought on fire.

That’s so much bullshit, ugh. Taste is subjective. You know what, actually, I’m mad at myself for doing the whole objective thing up above. Who can actually say, objectively, that someone is a good musician or writer? There’s no actual rulebook here saying that okay if you follow this step and do this thing and make all these other random ass things happen, you’re good at what you do! Nah, bro, that’s just not true. And if there is a rulebook, throw it the hell out. There’s no objectivity when it comes to taste. And I really don’t care if you think Cassandra Clare’s books are trash because guess what! They bring me a heck ton of joy. I have so much fun reading them, and the show has truly made me run the gamut of emotions, and I love Clary Fray with all my damn heart, FIGHT ME.

Does this mean I’m suddenly going to start rec’ing them? Also no. Because I know that taste is subjective, and I know that not everyone likes those kind of books. Because that’s not their taste when it comes to books! But there also seems to be this really weird divide. If you asked me for a really excellent space movie/show, I would probably say The Martian and not Lost in Space, even though I literally just wrote a review shouting about how amazing the new Netflix show is. (The world is a hilarious cruel? place because Lisa just commented on that review, as I was writing this sentence, saying that I’d convinced her to check it out. I AM SHAKING IN MY BOOTS.) Why? Because, generally, people are more into big name stars (Matt Damon), stories they can relate with (no aliens or robots), and a simple story line (astronaut gets lost on Mars, astronaut must figure out how to get home from Mars). That’s just mainstream. Oh wait, I just figured out my point, ha.

This post is a mess.

But who decides what gets to be mainstream? Why is Matt Damon abandoned on Mars more mainstream than everyone’s favorite bi pirate lost in space? There’s that rulebook again, people telling me that Zenith is a book to avoid, even though I had a damn good time with it. Why is mainstream even a thing? Why did a bunch of people decide their taste was the right taste and made it the thing that’s most readily available to everyone?

Why do I get strange looks when I say I enjoyed Zenith? Why can’t we just instead be kind to each other and be like it wasn’t the book for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed it! Why do people jump down my throat when I say I like Shadowhunters, but, weirdly, not A Discovery of Witches? Guys, they’re basically the same story. One of them just has misogyny in it, and it’s not the one everyone sneers at. (I like ADOW, don’t @ me in the comments just because Matthew & Cardan are both gross.) Hell, why do I get so don’t you dare rec me True Blood when I’m asking for vampire stories? Instead, I could just say, “Yeah, I’ve tried True Blood, it’s not the vibe I’m looking for, but thanks!”

Okay, before we really go off the deep end, here’s my actual argument. Taste is subjective, and we should all be a little kinder to each other when recommending and reviewing things. When you ask for someone’s critique on a piece you’ve written, and all they say was it was stupid, but don’t actually give you reasons to back that up, well. That’s not really helpful, and now I don’t really respect you. There are some things that I still believe are kind of a deal-breaker. Go Set a Watchman promotes racist ideals. 27 Hours literally glorifies the white colonizer. She Who Shall Not Be Named is transphobic, and I am disgusted by her. But none of these are I don’t really like purple prose or tropes just aren’t my thing. Those are opinions. Those are our different tastes. Again, those are not this entire race of people is lesser than me, which is no longer an opinion to disagree on, it’s, uh, yeah just you suck sorry bye.

But maybe next time you think about shouting at someone because they enjoy love triangles, just don’t? Taste is subjective, so whatever you’re enjoying right now, I’m happy for you.

What’s your favorite current read
that might not be everyone’s cup of tea?

Posted by

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

8 thoughts on “Taste is Subjective

  1. This post is so important and everyone should read it! I also get nervous when recommending books/movies because I know not everyone will agree with me, but that’s ok. Diversity is what makes us so interesting. If everyone liked and disliked the same things humanity would be pretty boring. Yes to more kindness and letting people be happy with what they like instead of trying to guilt them out of it.

    Like

  2. Heck yes, I completely agree with this entire sentiment! There is a total difference between saying “I like this thing that might not be considered high art” and “I like this thing that is actively problematic and harmful,” and it’s important to recognize that difference. And just because someone enjoys something that I don’t, or vice versa, doesn’t mean we should be subject to judgment or mockery.
    I work in a bookstore, so I encounter people with different reading tastes all. the. time. And as a bookseller, it’s super important not to be judgmental about what people enjoy! Sometimes people are embarrassed to ask for recommendations from the romance section, or YA/MG recommendations as an adult, but then it’s always gratifying to see their happiness when I start gushing about my favorite books from those sections. It makes up for the people who give me weird looks when I mention that I frequently read those books ๐Ÿ™„
    Anyways, wonderful post!! Definitely something that we should all be keeping in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, the snobbery around YA just makes me eyeroll so hard, I’m liable to knock myself out. It’s so ridiculous. I just don’t get why people have so many “rules” around what should and shouldn’t be enjoyed. As long as it’s not harming anyone, enjoy away!

      Like

  3. Well…umm, I liked Go Set A Watchman.
    Lol! j/k j/k โ€” haven’t yet read it. A friend recommended it to me, but I’m not enthused to read it. Although, I don’t think if a person likes that book it means racism isn’t a big deal to them since there are different reasons why a person might like a book. I like the classic Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which I think is a problematic book, but I liked how the story is told. It kept me hooked, interested.
    Of course, I understand that Go Set A Watchman is a deal-breaker for you, and we all have those. She by H. Rider Haggard is a huge deal-breaker for me. I don’t understand how anyone can like that book. It’s another problematic one (racist, sexist, xenophobic), but I still found parts of it interesting (parts that discuss philosophy and universe…if I remember correctly).
    But I totally agree with your point here that taste is subjective. I also feel a little weird when making book recommendations. I sometimes work in a bookstore and it’s tricky trying to figure out what might interest someone, even if they helpfully list all their interests for you because the writing style can also be an issue or the narration, if the person is as picky as I can sometimes be, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL! No need to panic! And hopefully will get to it this month and let you know what I think haha. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I feel you though, recommending stuff is so hard! I have several friends where our tastes line up like 85% and I trust their recs BUT there is always a chance that there will be one book that one of us won’t like because of one specific thing in the work that is maybe a glaring problem or something that just turns one of us off. Taste really is super subjective!

    Liked by 1 person

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