By the year 1994, I had already been born and lived for an unspecified amount of years. I liked movies, food, books, and fresh air.
Forrest Gump came out that year. If someone had asked me to go the first week or two of its release, I probably would have. The film wasn’t high on my radar, but I had nothing against seeing it.
By the third week of its release, it had become a major phenomenon. People talked it up. Friends quoted it. Teachers lauded it. Everyone was eating shrimp.
Then the radio ads started. It seemed that every car dealership and retail store had to get an ad out that began with that quote. I don’t have to repeat it here; if you are a living human, you know it.
By the fourth or fifth week, I was getting those incredulous reactions when someone found out that I hadn’t seen the movie. “What’s wrong with you? Are you diseased? Did your soul die? Walker, you have to see it. You HAVE to.”
I developed a simple response: “Never.”
It’s a stupid reaction. I know this. Let me clarify: I don’t hate Forrest Gump. I can’t, because I’ve never seen it. The movie is probably great. I like Hanks and everyone involved. This isn’t an issue of hating the film, but of being told to like it.
The film This Is The End made fun of contrarian attitudes (and me) by referencing Forrest Gump specifically. I loved it.
I think the joke there is on both the angry contrarian and those telling him he is an angry contrarian. But I happily take the hit, even if it doesn’t exactly apply to my situation (too old to be a hipster).
Luke Skywalker had this same psychological condition. The Dark Side was very in vogue during his youth. Dark Side stock was HOT. Even though people weren’t constantly telling him to like the Emperor, it was definitely the popular option.
But Luke didn’t want to bandwagon, so he turned the other way and checked out this light-side stuff. (Feels weird to call it light-side. I had to google to see if that word was cannon).
Luke was just like a teenager who watches old film noir instead of Home Alone.
It makes sense because Luke inherited this same contrarianism from his father, just like he inherited a connection to the Force. When Anakin was a pup, everyone was soooo into the light side. People constantly told him that he would love being good and heroic, so he went the other way.
All this infallible logic leads to one inescapable conclusion: I am exactly like Luke Skywalker.
Star Wars also offers a pretty good example of why my particular brand of contrarianism has nothing to do with the entertainment itself. There’s nothing more popular than Star Wars, but mass appeal doesn’t stop me from loving it.
Let’s imagine that I lived in a cave until at age 20, finally emerging to ask what I missed from pop culture. If everyone had screamed “STAR WARS!” I would likely binge on Dr. Who instead.
My “don’t tell me what to like” reaction is pretty rare. Most recently it happened with the Making a Murderer phenomenon on Netflix. One moment I was digging in the dirt for bugs, and in the next, everyone I’ve ever known was standing over me screaming “You have to watch this. It’s amazing.”
I said “sure, maybe if I have time,” and went on my merry way. But they came back. Emails, Facebook, podcasts, radio, dinner conversations… you have to watch it, Walker. You HAVE to.
I went off the grid. I hiked into the forest and built a cabin of human skulls. That’ll keep them away, I thought.
But still they came. Their yellow eyes shimmered in the dark, watching from the edges of the torchlight. Watch with us, Walker. You’re the only one left who hasn’t seen it. Really, it doesn’t even feel like a documentary.
I should note that my “don’t tell me what to like” reaction only applies to entertainment. If everyone tells me that I HAVE to check out this amazing new pizza joint? You’ll find me there within the hour, choking to death as I try to inhale twelve pizzas in one sitting.
These reactions are silly, inconsistent, and arbitrary. But the psychology of it fascinates me. With enough research, I could probably find a name for it, but I don’t think I’ll look. The results might be as sad as they are informative.
Do you have even a touch of this? Has there ever been anything in life, entertainment or otherwise, that you avoided precisely because everyone else told you to love it?
I need to know I’m not the only one. Being like Luke Skywalker is great, but he’s fictional.
Gotta go; a friend is telling me about Hamilton. It changed her life, she says.
I can’t wait to see it.