As close to being mad as makes no difference

Over at my beloved A.V. Club, Steven Hyden’s been writing a wonderful series called “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?”, a look back at the mainstream rock movements of the 1990s. This week’s entry is on Oasis and Radiohead, and predictably it took about thirty seconds before the snobbish bickering began in the comments thread (in fact, it started two weeks ago, when Hyden announced the topic of this week’s article). It’s such a tired debate that I almost feel like my generation continues to have it just so we feel that these passions we had as teenagers are still relevant. But really, reading through the comments got me thinking about being a hardcore fan of anything. The shame and defensiveness that goes along with loving something so much.

Now, when I say hardcore fan, I’m not talking about this dude. Or this batshit girlfriend over here. I’m talking about those of us who, while we might draw the line at a full back tattoo of Thom Yorke and his Lazy Eye, feel personally attacked when someone else hates something we love. As I’ve spent more time reading and writing criticism I’ve become progressively less offended by other people’s tastes, but boy howdy did I get into it with people in high school. I’ll still get into it with you in the Radiohead vs. Coldplay debate, but I won’t see your views as a moral failing if we disagree.

With a band as polarizing as Radiohead, you have to accept that haters exist. What I think’s so interesting is the number of people who feel the need to express their hatred of this band specifically to antagonize those of us who love it. I had friends who did this, I see it all the goddamn time on the interweb. This is not a case of spirited debate. It’s a case of people insisting that another group’s taste is wrong. And it goes back and forth in an endless, indignant circle.

I’ve got a number of strong opinions about art, pop culture and the like. I prefer it if you also have strong opinions. I f-ing hate the Doors, and you probably won’t convince me otherwise. But if I know the Lizard King is your personal hero, I’m not going to try and bully you into feeling differently. It’s a waste of time. With things like Radiohead or Tarantino or the Simpsons, I feel like half the backlash is the strength of passion they bring out in their fans. As if anything eliciting that level of adoration needs to be put in its place, as something not actually that wonderful.

I suppose it’s frustrating to feel like you’re supposed to love something that doesn’t do it for you, especially if you had to listen to a bunch of adolescents hyperbolize endlessly over that band/movie/show you just don’t get (and the internet tends to bring out this tendency in people). But at this point, why does the debate stay so personal? I’d like to elevate the conversation to another level, wouldn’t you?

Or maybe you just want to tell me I’m an idiot for hating Jim Morrison.



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