Ubik Witty Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-05-01 14:00:00 No comments

I have wondered, on more than one occasion, whether or not the fact that something is widely loved is a function of its quality or simply its availability. By this last I mean more than just the fact that it's on TV every time we turn it on or what have you; it's that people enjoy having something to bond over, and a shared taste can become more than the sum of its parts -- more so than something which struggles to find any audience at all because it's not shared so broadly.

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The more people know about a given something, the easier it is to bond over it. Dig down and find a group of people who are passionate about something obscure like Gojoe (I seem to be in a fandom of one for this film), and the feeling turns ... well, clandestine. Even if it isn't something that obscure, one still feels like the love for the thing in question is being stoked as a way of protecting it from a world that neither understands nor cares for it. This is why most every fandom of repute has such a wildly protective fanbase: if anyone's going to mess it up, it ought to be them.

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The temptation I have is to lay some claim that bonding with others in the latter fashion is somehow better, more honest, more real, etc., than the former. Anyone can hitch up with anyone else over something as commonplace as a sports team, but it takes real imagination and a passion for the unusual to bond over, say, Dom Casmurro! This is the easy way by which fans with the cap F set themselves apart from everyone else who just Likes Stuff: those of us with refined aesthetics of one kind or another are just plain better people. By becoming appreciative of this rare flower rather than all those common weeds, we make ourselves into finer creatures.

Many of my own delusions about such things were punctured when I had a falling-out with someone with whom I shared a great many tastes. Many, that is, but not all of them. Wounded as I had been from the experience, I still believed in self-improvement through shared acculturation, as it were -- which amounts to being a better person by hanging out with the right crowd. It wasn't true in high school, so why would it be any truer now? But fandom is shot through with a good deal of such self-aggrandizement, not all of it visible even to outsiders. It is far from deadly, but it can trip you up if you're not aware of its gears turning.

Good taste, no matter how embattled, is no protection against fallacies of spirit -- and the fact that you and others have an affinity over something rare is not by itself redemptive. The fact that we get together to share something should be the beginning of greater work, not an end in itself.

Tags: aesthetics fandom