27 October 2008

Contrary

I am not the first person to have ever made a choice or a decision based on the likes or dislikes of someone else. Recently, in a conversation about television shows with a couple of friends, an admission by one friend surfaced that he long ago decided not to like something his wife (the other friend) liked because, frankly, she liked it. A joke was made about she being like his mother and he a petulant teen.

I've done it too. I can probably name numerous situations where I argued against something I might have liked had I tried it. Instead, I chose an opposite position on the principle of... not agreeing?

I think sometimes such a decision is made quite reasonably. Something about the other persons argument sounds viscerally wrong and we need to disagree without understanding why. Sometimes that decision is made because it helps us assert some independence from the person with whom we're becoming increasingly intimate. I am, mainly, talking about choosing to like or dislike something that a partner dislikes or likes, respectively.

Some of my silly dislikes based on partners likes:
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (specifically the TV show)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Dr. Who
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Marijuana
  • Chronic drinking to excess
Okay, so not all of those are silly -- and there's a lot of sci-fi -- but, for good measure, some likes based on partners dislikes:
  • Spice Girls
  • Dixie Chicks
  • French anything (there are lots of French things I legitimately like, but have tended to over-emphasize because of partner dislike)
As recently as seven or eight months ago, I was asked to watch something by my then-boyfriend. He wanted to know how I felt about it so he could decide whether it was something we could watch together when he came back home, or if he should go ahead and watch it himself at his leisure. I agreed to check it out. I could definitely see some merit in it, and I knew exactly what he liked about it, but I wasn't sold. I quietly decided that I would check out a second episode before letting him know what I thought. Then we broke up.

"Well, that was easy," I thought to myself, "We are now broken up and I don't have to put myself through another episode."

"Put myself through"? That's an interesting choice of words for someone who hadn't decided for herself what she thought of something. See, what I think is worse than being contrary about something that someone close to us thinks or believes is deciding to not like something because someone we don't like (or who hurt us) likes. Why? Because we're giving that other person power over our choices. It might just be a cute (sometimes frustrating) game when we're friends or in a relationship with the other person, but when it's not a friend or partner -- rather an "enemy" or someone who hurt us badly -- we're allowing that person to influence us long after they should have any claim on us.

A couple of things have triggered this particular feeling from me. Firstly, a conversation with friends in Ontario about the awesomeness of Dr. Who. That was the first time I admitted why I initially didn't like the show and why I continued to avoid watching it. I later quizzed another friend on what I would like about it. I think something about strong female characters came up. Secondly, a blog post about Mad Men. That's the show I tried out a few months back. The post also talked about female characters.

Now, while the usage of females characters in television and movies are not the hinge reason whether I like something, it does matter to me because I'm a woman and a feminist. It's important to me that woman not always be portrayed as eye/arm-candy, sex objects, the weaker sex, etc. But I'm also a reasonable person who is willing to listen to arguments about why something is not what I think it is. And so I shall be giving Mad Men another try in the near future. Probably Dr. Who, too. Battlestar Galactica is a tougher sell.

It's silly to base a like or dislike on it being the opposite of someone. It's irrational. I'm going to try to do it less, because there are enough reasons why I like or dislike something. I don't need to create more divisive issues.

However, in rare exceptions, we should absolutely ignore the likes and dislikes of people close to us, and embrace contrariness in all its glory. As a parting thought for this blog, I submit to you the exception that proves the rule:

2 comments:

Brodie said...

I'm psyched to see what the video is :)

minako said...

We appear to be out of luck.

The video was of a woman whose husband has not decided for whom he should vote in the election on Tuesday, but she is very firmly on McCain's side. She cites reasons such as Obama sounding too foreign, his mother was an atheist and his father was a Muslim. She calls McCain a Bible-loving man. She says she'll pray for her husband to make the right choice on election day.

If I were her husband, I'd vote Obama out of contrariness, and I'd be exactly right. :)