Friday, April 30, 2010

Because it was good.

Liking things is a tricky business.

Please note: the above has nothing to do with "liking" in the facebook sense of the word.

What I mean is that the mental activity of having likes and dislikes is far more nebulous than you'd expect. If I asked you to explain why you liked a particular movie, you could probably produce a lot of reasons: "The acting was good," "The story was interesting and well written," "The scenery was beautiful."

But if we were to ask a director, a person in the business of making movies that people will like, were to tell me why you liked a movie, I'd almost certainly get a different sort of reasons: "He liked it because there were regular action beats to get his attention," "She liked it because there was a female character she could identify with," "They liked it because there were family themes that resonate with their demographic."

You might disagree, even be uncomfortable with the director's perspective. It's eerie to think that someone could "program" a message for us to like, that we don't understand the reasons we "like" a movie, a restaurant, or a computer interface.

But if you're trying to increase your appreciation of one of those things, I think you must acknowledge that "liking" is a "gut" reaction. No matter how many rationals you come up with after the fact, you formed your opinion without fully understanding why.*

And with your biases laid bare, the magic is (somewhat) broken. You can, with time, achieve a "critic" understanding, where you do understand exactly why you did or didn't "like" what you experienced.

*The troubling part, though, is how much of our society is grounded in focus testing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if even the director would know why you liked it, though. I think about this with music- does the artist KNOW people will like this? If so, why not make all their songs really likeable so they become more well-known?> If not, is it just random happenstance- the artist flailing around, and occasionally stumbling on something good? I would further argue that the reason you like that movie has a lot more to do with the marketing and hype around it than with its intrinsic qualities. See Avatar.