This American Anxiety

Why are people so neurotic about This American Life. This review of the TV show in the New Yorker is particularly fretting

One is so reluctant to express any degree of dislike for “This American Life,” . . . that one’s inclination is to avoid the use of the first-person pronoun for as long as possible, in order not to be identified with any reservations concerning the show. . . One wants very much to like “This American Life”—to love it— . . . [a]lso, one is not proud of one’s feelings, and one suspects that the gnawing stomach acid sometimes released when one listens to the show is composed partly of envy.

I heard the people on the Slate’s gabfest similarly worrying about liking TAL (yeah, I go there on the regular, TRL style). The consensus from these thoughtful people seems to be that since everyone likes this show, there must be something wrong with it that they can identify and, like the princess and the pea, gleefully fail to appreciate. “Oh, you like that show? I guess I can imagine why, on the surface, it’s appealing, but I personally find it a bit smug?” Nancy Franklin manages to smugly dismiss TAL by calling it smug, a brilliant move in and of itself.
Why can’t you just enjoy something without worrying what people are going to say about you? This reminds me of the guy I knew in college who never listened to Radiohead because “The people who like Radiohead just always rave about how great it is, it all seems like a lot of hype.”
That’s like a five year old saying “Yeah, I’m not really into the swings. I mean, the people who like the swings are so into them, it just seems like there’s not all that much to them.” What’s wrong with liking something? Why do we constantly have to worry about what people think about our preferences?
I like Project Runway, Korean soap operas and Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t like any of them ironically, not even the Korean soap operas. Come on and sue me for liking garbage, but don’t worry about why and how much you like things other people like too.
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~ by Joe on April 9, 2007.

3 Responses to “This American Anxiety”

  1. I have some songs I am ashamed to admit I like, but I stopped apologizing for stuff I watch and read a while ago. I realized it’s kind of like apologizing for who you are. I’ve tried to also not be snobbish about what other people watch. I’m just going to enjoy what I like and stop shitting on people for liking garbage. Someone can always claim to have better taste than you. That game just isn’t worth it. And yeah, who gives a shit who else likes your show as long as you like it.

    I vaguely remember this statement about Radiohead from college. Who was it? Did you already tell me this once?

    Come on and sue me for liking garbage, but don’t worry about why and how much you like things other people like too.

    You and my wife are so much more alike than I’ve ever realized.

  2. It was Chief.

    You and my wife are so much more alike than I’ve ever realized.

    You’re the last one to know.

  3. Kurt Vonnegut suggested that people use ideas as badges of friendship and enmity. Thus people would ‘believe’ in intelligent design or evolution not because they’ve thought things through critically, but because they’ve been told by people they respect and it’s what their friends believe. I think this is true. And not just for ideas per se, but also for preferences in styles of clothing, music, etc. Traditionally this has been known as culture (or at least the most tangible part of it). Today it’s more complicated (we don’t listen to the music our parents do). But we still want the respect of our friends, and a difference between us and those we dislike.

    ps: The problem with the new sidebar is that now you’re going to be getting comments years after posting.

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