First of all, HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR WORLD!
Second of all, a Thought For The Day: Don't take this the wrong way, okay folks? But here's some friendly advice, because I've had it up to here with a recent phenomenon on Facebook. If you're watching a movie, or reading a book, or listening to an album, and you find it doesn't appeal to you — or you think it's total shit — then do all of the rest of us a favor: Stop. Press the stop button, or put the book down. Don't go any further. Save yourself from the "torture" of having to continue something you do not enjoy, but for God's sake, don't "force yourself" to continue watching, reading, or listening and then go on the Internet and bitch about how "awful" the media you're consuming is. Because you know what? You did it to yourself. You made yourself sit through that, read that, listen to that. Nobody put a gun to your head and said, "You must see this." Nobody told you, "You must experience this." Nope. You did that. Yourself. You set the bar for what you will and won't accept in your media; nobody else sets it for you. You're the critic; you're the judge and jury, and you're the executioner, too. If ya don't like it, then get it outta your face. Kill it, kill it with fire!
I once tried to read "Twilight." I got as far as page 10 before I said, "You know what? Stephanie Meyer can't write worth a shit. She's a terrible writer, and this story is bullshit. I'm not going to read this." And — you know what? — I put the book down. I stopped reading. Now, I still bitch about the cultural phenomenon of "Twilight" because I believe it harms young women, but I didn't go on the Internet and bitch about how bad the book was after "forcing myself" to read all 300 pages of it . . . because I didn't. Because why the fuck would I invest all that time into a book that I knew was going to be complete crap, in my judgment? Why give it that much effort? No way, Jose. I'm not doing that. My time is too valuable. I simply can't see investing it into something I do not actually enjoy; I cannot see "forcing" myself to do something I don't enjoy unless I am being paid to do it. (So this advice is obviously moot if you're actually a paid critic. But let's be honest — very few people who bitch about movies, books, tv shows, and music on the Internet are paid critics, are they.)
So, yeah. Quit "forcing" yourself to "sit through" things you already know you don't like, and thus stop the rest of us from having to hear your incessant whining about them.
This was all started by a post a "friend" of mine made on Facebook, where she was griping about how Ernest Cline's Ready Player One had, overall, a consumerist message to it; she argued that the moral of the book was, "You're good because you consume shit." Which I think is reductive at best, and flat out wrong at worst. She argued that the hero only comes to his realization about real life being better than video games because he's a "good little consumer," and, she hated all the "namedropping" in the book. Which I think completely misses the book's point. It's a book about celebrating 1980's pop culture. Yes it has it's flaws — it doesn't quite succeed as a literary work because it has a weak, passive protagonist whom things happen to rather than him actively working to change things — but it's not meant to have an overall thematic message. She's trying to imprint one on it after the fact. (This is what happens when literary types get hold of popular fiction; they try to imprint literary meaning on a text where it has none, and wind up grabbing at all sorts of weird connotations to the text that have nothing to do with the author's intent.) I tried to politely tell her this, but she vehemently stuck to her guns. So, I made the above post on my own Facebook feed (everything above "This was all started...")
I think this will continue to be a problem for as long as popular fiction endures: Literary types will forever try to imprint deeper meanings upon pop fiction texts, when in fact they have none and do not aspire to messaging or political statement, and in fact do not carry with them any significant thematic import. They also have a tendency to imprint significantly negative meanings on pop fiction texts, if you haven't noticed. They never imprint positive messages onto them; no, it's always negative. I think this is intentional. It's all part of the old bias: "If it's popular, it must be bad." It's also part of the old ego game: "If I say critical things about something that everybody else likes, things that sound insightful, I will appear more intelligent than everyone else." The key word there is things that sound insightful. My friend didn't stop to think that in the universe of Ready Player One, the main character lives in a world of hyper-scarcity, and that the things he "consumes" are no longer valuable monetary commodities, but are purely virtual cultural currency instead . . . and that the only valuable commodity is the OASIS itself, and that he is vying not for the personal financial gain of winning Halliday's Easter Egg, but is instead doing it purely for the sense of personal accomplishment. She didn't take the time to do a deeper reading of the text. Her impressions are superficial, and do not show the hallmarks of actual literary criticism, something I'm actually trained in, having — y'know — actually taken a few classes in it and shit. She's doing a Marxist critique of the book, and that's fine. But there are other readings available. A deconstructionist reading, perhaps. Or a feminist critique? How about an environmental critique? Or a psychological reading? She doesn't understand that there are other schools of literary criticism besides Marxist criticism. She's got one trick down, and knows it well, but that's all she knows. if only she were to take a class in actual literary criticism, and open her eyes a little.
All in all, Ready Player One is not a great novel. It's good, and it's entertaining, and above all it is FUN, and I love it for what it is — a grand celebration of 1980's pop culture — and hey, it helped inspired The Technowizard Guardians! So that's something!— but it deserved to be treated with more respect than my friend on Facebook gave it. It's a damned fine achievement, and it's popular because it resonates with its core audience, which is something that more books ought to aspire to do. (Yeah, yeah, I know; "Twilight," as much as I hate it, and as much as I think it harms young women, also resonated with its core audience, so what ya gonna do?) RPO doesn't deserve the hate it's getting from the "geek chic" press at the moment; it deserves more respect. It accomplished something few books can do: It struck a nerve deep in the heart of geek culture, and for that, it deserves to be commended. Not many books can do that.
In the end, too, I suppose I am sort of wrong, also, because the book does sort of have a message, as well. In the closing paragraphs of the book — SPOILER ALERT — the main character, Wade, decides to give up video games and instead spend time with his new girlfriend, Art3mis. "I didn't even want to log in," to paraphrase his words. He grows up, beyond pop culture and video games, leaving behind his eternal childhood in the OASIS and embracing a newfound adulthood where he lives in the real world instead of in a fantasy. That's a positive message that flies in the face of what my friend on Facebook was trying to say about the book. It's an even better message than most books aimed at geek culture can ever hope to have. So I disagree with my friend. The book does have a message, and it's a good one. A great one, in fact. I think the literary types are often looking for meaning where there is none, and all too often, in their search, they come upon rotten fruit that has withered on the vine; they miss the flowers blooming right in front of their noses.
So, stop "forcing yourself" to get through things you know you don't like. It does no one any good, least of all you. If you don't like it, and you know you're biased against it, don't read it. Or at the very least, don't bother "reviewing" it, because your review isn't going to be the least objective or impartial. It's going to be slanted by 300 pages, 120 minutes, or 30 minutes, or whatever, of pure hate and seething anger. And that does no one any favors. It adds nothing to the discourse that's useful. All it does is pollute the Internet with one more useless "opinion" that's like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks. And really, who wants to smell a fart?