January 21, 2009

"Yeah, I kinda like everything."

Yesterday was my first day of the semester, which meant new classes, going off my with little lunchbox and trying to make friends (okay, not so much the last two). A lot of going over syllabi, a lot of introductions. I'm taking pretty much all film courses this semester (for the win!) so there was also a lot of going around and stating tastes in film. In one of my classes, I kept hearing the one answer that drives me crazy bananas.

"Yeah, I dunno, I just like a bit of everything."

No. No you don't.

The most telling part of that answer is what follows it. A followup to that remark which would make logical sense is to say two very diverse things, to demonstrate the vastly separate poles of your interest. For example: "I like pretty much everything, from The Bicycle Thieves to Armageddon." Postwar Italian neorealist film and recent Hollywood blockbuster? Yes, those are very different and imply that your tastes stretch between them. But here are some of the things I heard in class:

"Yeah, I just like everything - like Judd Apatow and Woody Allen."
"Yeah, I like everything - some auteur stuff like Wes Anderson, but also, like, The Dark Knight."

This answer is just a cover-up for people who don't stray far from the beaten path, taste-wise. There is not a single person in the history of the world who likes every genre of film and every film they've ever seen. And if they do, it means they have no taste! It's even more of an epidemic with musical tastes. "I like everything" with reference to music actually means "I pretty much just like top 40 stuff, I like a couple socially uncool bands that I am forced to keep to myself, and I have a couple of Mozart songs on my iPod because I had to learn them for a piano recital like 10 years ago."

I'm not saying that there aren't people with diverse taste, but those people never use that dreaded preface - they can just rattle off bands or directors they like and paint a very clear picture of what they like and gravitate towards.

So how can we combat this annoying trend? Easy: with follow-up questions. "Oh, you like everything? How about foreign films? Documentaries? Shorts? Animation? Avant-garde? Experimental?" For music, "so then you like Chinese folk music? Yodeling? Screamo? Opera? Classical? Tuvan throat singers?" And they will say no, be forced to admit their actual taste, and be more careful about using that vast generalization in the future, in case there's a smart aleck like you around.


DGB said...

It's kind of like when you ask people "what are your favorite movies?" you'll usually get the "impressive" answer instead of the real one. It sounds much more sophisticated to say I like "Jules and Jim" than "Clerks II".

Unknown said...

The art of conversation... is lost?

Usually when I'm asked that question (or similar) by someone, I find myself going "Uh... A lot of stuff..." for the simple reason that I don't have every answer to every conceivable question on the tip of my tongue and also hate awkward pauses. There's enough ring of truth to it that I don't feel like I'm being dishonest and I'm giving myself a little bit more time to think of a better answer.

Also, you have to admit that the question is pretty vague itself. Ask a vague question, get a vague answer.


Scott Nye said...

Yeah, but you should at least be able to name one movie you like more than most others. Preface it with a "well, picking a FAVORITE might be too much..." but just say SOMETHING for god's sake. No one's going to hold you to it, and it makes for a conversation worth having.

And remember, if you like everything, you really like nothing.