Let People Dislike Things
May 11, 2019 11:22 AM   Subscribe

There are unlimited problems with the “Let People Enjoy Things” (henceforth abbreviated to LPET) approach to art and culture, first and foremost among them the fact that franchises in question (GoT and Marvel Comics) are multi-billion-dollar corporate entities engineered to entertain in the same way Doritos are made so that you can’t eat just one. These are some of the most profitable media empires in history, and they will plainly not be harmed by a Twitter user posting about why they personally don’t like them.
Kate Wagner (of McMansion Hell fame) fires a salvo in the ongoing Twitter argument: Let people enjoy things, Y/N?

Bonus: the original comic, with full (and perhaps surprising) context
posted by chappell, ambrose (90 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
Look, if I can't quietly love musicals without being mocked you don't get to fanboy over Star Wars and Marvel nonsense unscathed.

Everyone being miserable is a kind of equality, right?
posted by seraphine at 11:25 AM on May 11 [33 favorites]


FWIW, I think there's a world of difference between saying "I don't like cornflakes" and pissing in someone's cornflakes. Let people enjoy things! Let people dislike things! Just try not to be an asshole about it!

I guess that's harder than it sounds, but I don't feel like it ought to be.
posted by duffell at 11:28 AM on May 11 [81 favorites]


I appreciate this post. I especially agree with this:
Second, I introduce this radical idea: you can still enjoy things while being critical of them—it can even lead to a greater appreciation of societal and historical context, and it can make you usefully wary of the role the shit forces of the world play in the media we consume. It can also help us maintain our political and social integrity while watching or reading or listening to whatever is offered to us.
Understanding the things we see is healthy, and placing things above criticism simply because we like them is definitely not. (Also, that 'shh' comic works so much better in its original form.)

Upon preview:
FWIW, I think there's a world of difference between saying "I don't like cornflakes" and pissing in someone's cornflakes.

There definitely is, but I don't think it should be that hard. 'I don't like the show' is worlds apart from 'fans of this show are [blanket statement].'
posted by mordax at 11:31 AM on May 11 [27 favorites]


This essay is wrong.

It positions "first and foremost" the fact the the producers of the content we're talking about are large multinational corporations. This is irrelevant, the ethos of "let people like things" is 100% about the audience and 0% about the creators. (There are other arguments about critique and creators, we're not in that arena with this discussion.)

The rest of the discussion correctly centers the audience, and is wrong about them all. They're OK-ish arguments about people being mad at critiques of media. I've seen better ones, but they're OK-ish. The four dynamics listed do happen. But they're also not what "let people like things" is about. It's about not going after an audience member who is enjoying things with your critique. Conversationally this can look like "How can you like X? It's garbage for X reason." The issue is not the reason (which might well be valid), it's the aggression of the interaction -- if I express my love for something, it's not an invitation to hear how you hate it. If I ask your opinion, it is.

Critique is good and healthy. Using it as a bludgeon to spoil someone else's enjoyment is not.

(duffell said all this in a pithier way obvs.)
posted by feckless at 11:37 AM on May 11 [38 favorites]


First, this infantile obsession with having an “experience” with a piece of entertainment

Oh come on. Infantile? People having emotional reactions and "experiences" with pieces of media is the reason we love stories as a culture to begin with. This whole deal is exhausting to me. I've watched people end relationships over media over this aggressive kind of discourse that seems to exist mostly always online. I know we are swinging back towards "being nice is the same as being kind and is bad" but I don't know, our time on this earth is so short. Watch things, critique things, I do this for a job so I'm not against it, but just let people exist with their feelings and be kinder? You can't actually know what's going on in someone's emotional brain or their critic brain or both at the same time and in conclusion today's media landscape is a land of contrasts.
posted by colorblock sock at 11:43 AM on May 11 [23 favorites]


Everyone being miserable is a kind of equality, right?

Do you hear the people sing?
posted by otherchaz at 11:51 AM on May 11 [11 favorites]


if I express my love for something, it's not an invitation to hear how you hate it.

That's too bad, because it's comin' anyway, baby!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:52 AM on May 11 [16 favorites]


"I think [pop culture thing] is bad" is you expressing an opinion.

"I think [pop culture thing] is bad because [reasons]" is you making an argument.

"I think [pop culture thing] is bad and you only like it because you are [stupid/wrong/emblematic of the decline of our society]" is you being an asshole.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:55 AM on May 11 [101 favorites]


I wish all you naysayers would just pipe down and let me enjoy the article.
posted by surlyben at 12:00 PM on May 11 [43 favorites]


Can't we suggest that cornflakes are a problematic fave (Kellogg's claim that Mini Wheats improve attentiveness has been debunked; they're arguably responsible for the crack epidemic; corn flakes were intended to contribute to widespread sexual repression) without condemning people who like them? Or just declaring cornflakes "bad and for jerks"? They can have dubious origins and be great for fried chicken batter.

Obviously substitute the MCU, Kanye West, a duck drinking a milkshake, the RHOOC, the Sex Pistols or whatever other iffy thing for cornflakes.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:01 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


Context is everything here, If we are at table, you savoring the dinner you have just enjoyed, I may not describe its resemblance to various disgusting substances, profess revulsion for its lingering odor, detail the sufferings of the animals that made up part of it, and describe its probable bad effects on your health. Elsewhere, I may.

Similarly, one cannot break into a discussion of people savoring an entertainment and revile it, but one my start one's own discussion reviling it.

If like me, you savor entertainments by musing bitterly on how they could have been done better and trying to find interpretations under which they were, in fact, done better, nothing can be done for you, and you must be placed upon an ice floe and pushed out to sea.
posted by ckridge at 12:04 PM on May 11 [15 favorites]


Our final LPET replier sees criticism as an attempt to ruin their experience with superhero movies merely because it asks them to think critically about our malignant societal forces. “Oh, great,” they think, “now I can’t enjoy these movies because this person said something negative about what they mean, and it will be in the back of my mind forever. My life is ruined.”

This is a big tension that I've noticed in FanFare because people DO come into certain threads to repeatedly piss in people's corn flakes about how much this SUCKS NOW when it used to be GOOD but now it's BAD and here's WHY. And now people hear any type of not-efflusive-praise as *that*.

My pet theory is that if you paid attention in school to certain subjects then you you were taught how to have something to say about what you just saw/read/heard, whether it's positive or negative and you know it's an okay thing to do. But not everyone pays attention to the same subjects and not everyone knows how to do this.
posted by bleep at 12:06 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


And I mean this kind of thing CAN legitimately ruin other people's enjoyment if they want to share the experience of liking something together and they only find negativity. Both things can be true that people should be allowed to like and dislike.
posted by bleep at 12:08 PM on May 11


it's the aggression of the interaction

I think that's what's hard about this. It's not necessarily what you say or even how you say it, but when you choose to say it.

I mean, I think that there is a time and place for all different kinds of reactions to media, whether it's gushing praise, a piece of nuanced criticism, or an emotionally-charged rant. The problem is often a failure to read the room, exacerbated by the "room" being ill-defined because it's on social media. The walls are porous, and people don't know or don't care about the context.

My reactions to a piece of popular media don't need to rise to the standard of "criticism" or "an argument" all of the time. Sometimes they are just reactions, whether they are positive or negative. I'm not going shut up because you feel that you have a right not to see negative things said about your favorites. At the same time, I'm not going to seek out fans who are discussing something just so I can complain about it there.

mean this kind of thing CAN legitimately ruin other people's enjoyment if they want to share the experience of liking something together and they only find negativity

This is hard on places like FanFare where people have different expectations and different ways of enjoying things. I'm not able to enjoy a "fan space" where criticism is off limits, but some people don't want to read/process criticism at that moment, so... the only thing we can really do is either create separate spaces, or be mindful of each other and compromise.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:13 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


I understand that somehow this comic has taken on a life of its own beyond the original post and context. But to clear that up, this is the original creator - Adam Ellis. He makes hilarious comics often about pop culture. And of course the third panel gives context to the original content.

HOWEVER, even with just 2 panels, I know it doesn't mean, "Let people be problematic." Even if people are using it that way. And maybe because I follow the artist and saw the original, but it's just saying "Don't be an asshole if your friends like something."

That's it.

It's fine to call out media, to dislike things, to talk about how problematic they are. But don't be an asshole to your friends if they like Twilight or whatever. We all have weird hypocritical issues. Or we have times where we can have a serious discussion about something problematic. But unless something MAJOR is going on, most media/entertainment we consume seems pretty equally problematic.

The read on this "subtext" is extremely overblown from a silly comic that just meant "Don't be an asshole to your friend" in a goofy way.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:17 PM on May 11 [15 favorites]


Let people enjoy things

AND

Let people critique things.

It needs to be easier for both to coexist.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:17 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I prefer to say "[thing] just isn't my thing" when asked to participate in or weigh in on something I don't like. Also works when people tried to push drugs and beer on me when I was young. It really isn't that hard to reject a thing for yourself without rejecting other people who like it
posted by davejay at 12:22 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]


If like me, you savor entertainments by musing bitterly on how they could have been done better and trying to find interpretations under which they were, in fact, done better, nothing can be done for you, and you must be placed upon an ice floe and pushed out to sea.

It's called a Doctor Who convention and it can be fun.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:23 PM on May 11 [26 favorites]


If like me, you savor entertainments by musing bitterly on how they could have been done better and trying to find interpretations under which they were, in fact, done better, nothing can be done for you,
What!?! What is fan fiction even for, then?
and you must be placed upon an ice floe and pushed out to sea.
Oh, sorry, never mind, you're clearly way ahead of me.
posted by roystgnr at 12:31 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


The societal pressure to like things or shut up, coupled with those things being profit-driven products of large multinationals, is a toxic stew of capitalism.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:34 PM on May 11 [30 favorites]


Are we talking about coming into other people's critique posts on their own turf & dropping an LPET? Or responding with LPET to someone who comes into a discussion of "which Avenger is your favorite" to say "ALL SUPERHEROES ARE DUMB AND BAD?" imo the first is rude, the second is slightly less harsh a response than warranted.

Really I think a core issue here is that the predominant form of asynchronous internet communication lets you have fun little conversations with likeminded friends! ...that are also visible to literally everyone else on the platform, including shitty people who spend their free time hatesearching keywords.

First, this infantile obsession with having an “experience” with a piece of entertainment

...what am I supposed to have with this piece of entertainment exactly, a nothing, is that what adults do

"hello adult"
"hello other adult, communicate news of yourself"
"I interfaced with a piece of entertainment yesterday, but do not worry, I read the entire plot beforehand and took medication to suppress any rogue emotions it might have elicited"
"I approve of your having successfully avoided having an experience with that piece of entertainment which might have entertained you had you been more childish and less vigilant"
"let us speak no more of it and proceed somberly into the tax chamber"
posted by taquito sunrise at 12:37 PM on May 11 [57 favorites]


SIGH

okay

it's my turn

Metafilter: "let us speak no more of it and proceed somberly into the tax chamber"
posted by duffell at 12:39 PM on May 11 [36 favorites]


Time to share one of my favorite youtube clips (which you may have most likely seen already) which has an even better statement about "let people enjoy things".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:41 PM on May 11 [13 favorites]


I’m generally an analytical and critical kind of person, so I tend to stay out of threads on the Blue and FanFare if I have grumpy things to say until people have had some time to enthuse. Just to be polite.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:43 PM on May 11 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: "let us speak no more of it"

That doesn't sound like metafilter on any subject.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:45 PM on May 11 [29 favorites]


I don’t know how you write this without acknowledging how much toxic criticism is going around. It’s either deliberately obtuse, or the writer hasn’t spent much time on the internet.

How about we admit that “let people enjoy things” (I refuse to use the acronym), might have more than the 4 suggested possibilities. How about “5: I’d like to say how much I enjoyed this thing without receiving sexist and racist comments”, or, “6: I’d like to say what I like about this thing without getting death threats”?
posted by shorstenbach at 12:49 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]


I had only ever encountered that comic with the first panel intact, and it's clear what the meaning is: If you don't like something, don't make fun of someone else for liking it. It's not about critiquing or examining or reacting to a work, it's about deliberately shitting on someone else for enjoying it.

I can see the author's frustration if shes' seeing LPET being used to silence any kind of critique. But the original usage is 100% necessary and useful. It's something everyone needs to be reminded of sometimes: If you don't like something, you don't have to shit on people who do. You are not a superior person because you don't like, say, superhero movies (KATE WAGNER OF MCMANSION HELL FAME).
posted by skullhead at 12:50 PM on May 11 [13 favorites]


This turns out not to be the thinkpiece I read a few weeks ago about Let People Enjoy Things. The one I read was actually by Esther Rosenfield, and it comes from the perspective of someone who wrote a review about Endgame and got lambasted for it in the comments. tl;dr, often LPET is deployed not in defense of people just trying to enjoy a piece of work, but by people seeking out criticisms of things they like on purpose and yelling at those people for getting it wrong/misinterpreting it/just not understanding it/HAVING AN AGENDA AGAINST THE THING I LIKE.
posted by chrominance at 1:02 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


This feels like yet another unfortunate consequence of so much of the Internet being “public by default”.

I have lots of conversations where I critique media with friends; I have other conversations where we gush uncritically about how awesome it is. These are different conversations, and offline it’s mostly easy to distinguish between the two.

Online, however, and especially on public social media, it’s really easy for these sorts of conversations to accidentally get mixed. (Or in the case of some jerks, intentionally.) And there mostly aren’t any moderators around to read the room and disentangle these situations, with predictable results.

This is why, while Facebook is hugely problematic, I find their Groups functionality incredibly useful. It’s a really light-weight way to partition conversations and provide a speed bump for getting into the discussion. In one group, we had a super-critical discussion of Endgame; another is mostly cheerful related memes. The membership overlaps heavily, but we managed to keep the memes in their place, and not disturb those who didn’t want to get analytical.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 1:03 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


Just because there is toxic criticism doesn't mean that media people enjoy is free from critique.
Lots of LPET is directed at pretty anodyne stuff that's not directed at the viewer but at the content. The author is absolutely right in terms of media conglomerates getting people to not just enjoy their content but to actively identify themselves with that content. In some spaces I chat in I caught a lot of shit for saying that I felt like Tilly in S1 of Discovery was a Mary Sue. Despite offering what at least felt like cogent arguments for that point it was treated as a personal attack on people who identified with the character and that I was shitting on their enjoyment. Another issue is a big thing is people who just want to enjoy things trying to dictate which spaces are barred from having critique allowed.
posted by Ferreous at 1:05 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


I once posted a comment here on Metafilter in which I linked to that very image (without the first panel) and...I still very much stand by what I said in that comment:

...that process of trying to get that consensus, trying to get everyone to agree that the thing you think sucked really definitely, Officially Sucked - that process adds a lot of misery to the world, makes a lot of people feel bad about themselves, and so for it to be worth it, the piece of culture you're trying to destroy needs to be a lot worse than The English Patient. Mein Kampf? Yeah, okay, maybe don't let people just enjoy it. But otherwise? Just...let people enjoy the things they enjoy, and the world, overall, will be a better place. If you want art to be better, make or support the art that you think is better, instead of trying to take a one-person stand against Sturgeon's Law and tear down everything that you think is bad.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:27 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


It can also help us maintain our political and social integrity while watching or reading or listening to whatever is offered to us.

Bearing in mind right now about 90% of online criticism that "maintains our political and social integrity" is reactionary white guys screaming about media that doesn't put them in the center of the universe. Up to and including chasing women of color off social media, or claiming that Disney spent millions of dollars filling theater seats because nobody would watch a woman superhero.

The core of of denying LPET is to deny people who aren't in the proper group the right to exist.
posted by happyroach at 1:44 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


...yeah, how's this.

There are those who seek out criticism of [thing] and yell "let people enjoy things", often with an addition of "and since you're criticizing it, you are a horrible person".

There are those who seek out people enjoying [thing] and respond with "actually it sucked, because [reason]", often with an addition of "and since you enjoyed it, you are a horrible person".

Both kinds of people suck. Let people have opinions.
posted by sailoreagle at 1:45 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


A lot of people pointing out it should be OK to criticize the work, not OK to criticize the fan, but ignoring that a not insignificant percentage of people treat those two things the same. "I hated this movie" is taken as a personal attack, and the subsequent discussion ignores the fact that it's not.
posted by bongo_x at 1:52 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


@happyroach, that feels like an absolutist statement especially when so much of LPET is applied to things like MCU movies or the like, cultural juggernauts that honestly are not in any danger of being not enjoyed. There are tons of shitty people reacting to those things for bad reasons, but legit reviews get LPET brigaded and actual critique is treated as personal attacks. It's not a defense mechanism against right wing shitlords but a inculcated logic that places well funded content above criticism.
posted by Ferreous at 1:53 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


"I hated this movie" is taken as a personal attack, and the subsequent discussion ignores the fact that it's not.

ok but that's not really the problem or the fault of the movie hater though, right?
posted by poffin boffin at 1:55 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Wow, OK, so Kate Wagner finally wrote something that I deeply disagree with, and I don't think that it's coincidental that it's outside her usual McMansion Hell bailiwick. I pretty much stopped engaging with the piece when I ran across this: "don’t identify with what you consume." I mean... has she met fans? Of anything?

And making blanket criticisms of people employing this trope without really being realistic about what, in particular, they're responding to; there seems to be an underlying assumption that such criticism rises to the standard that, say, Kate Wagner employs in McMansion Hell. She does snark a lot in criticisms of individual houses, but it's in the service of criticizing a house from a rigorous architectural perspective that she goes into some detail on in other pieces that she's written. There's quite a lot of criticism that's basically just drive-by snarking, as if they're guesting on MST3K, and quite a lot that does in fact include the fans as part of the criticism. For an example of the former, I'd link back to this thread on Star Trek: Discovery, in which the first people to show up are all basically drive-by snarking and ignoring the emotional focus of the episode, and for the latter, there have been any number of reviews of Avengers: Endgame in which the movie is taken to task for actually rewarding the attention of people who have followed the series through 22 installments. If everything is up for criticism, that includes criticism itself.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:03 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


Bearing in mind right now about 90% of online criticism that "maintains our political and social integrity" is reactionary white guys screaming about media that doesn't put them in the center of the universe. Up to and including chasing women of color off social media, or claiming that Disney spent millions of dollars filling theater seats because nobody would watch a woman superhero.

Those people are terrorists: conflating them with critics or hate speech with criticism legitimizes them unnecessarily, and LPET is an inadequate response to their fuckery. They don't need a good talking to or a pithy webcomic, they need deplatforming at the least.
posted by mordax at 2:06 PM on May 11 [14 favorites]


I get that being asked to engage with criticism, even to immediately reject it, in this age of corrupt and insincere... everything, is a big ask, since attention is a limited resource tapped every minute by a million shrieking demands, but surely the problem that LPET (when deployed sincerely) is meant to address is surely “social media is a dumpster fire,” and it’s not an effective solution to that problem.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:13 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]




I don't know whether I'm pro- or anti- LPET but through this article I did learn that I am a cultural nihilist, so that is good.

The third person who replies with LPET doesn’t necessarily disagree with the critic, and often recognizes that there are problems with media they consume, however they still enjoy it and choose to do so with impunity. After all, isn’t all media riddled with problems? This person is a cultural nihilist who, though they understand the critic’s arguments, refuses to care themselves, or even to acknowledge that someone else might care.

It's not that I don't care it's just, hgnnngh, exhaustion.

With a side of ice floe-ing (thank you ckridge!)

My reaction whenever someone tells me The Thing I Like is Bad is just a weary "I know, I wrote meta about that on tumblr for three years."
posted by coffeeand at 2:25 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


@halloween jack, I like that point of view Leth is espousing too because I think its speaks to the fact that in an ingroup that follows LPET the only outlet for criticism often becomes what is deemed as problematic and issues of things being problematic often do have the implicit logic that if something is problematic people who like it are problematic too. It's worth calling out problematic shit but more than anything else problematic issues is the criticism with the most value judgements about the consumer of that media attached.
posted by Ferreous at 2:30 PM on May 11


Then there are those, like myself, who seek out negative criticism of things they like. Why? To get another opinion and maybe another way to think about it. But I try only to seek out opinion from real critics, people who know what they are talking about. Internet comments aren’t criticism.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:00 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]


My daughter said she told her boyfriend that a chorale he had composed was deficient in certain required elements. She then asked me if her doing so was insulting. I said yes. If he wasn't her boyfriend, I might have answered differently.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:01 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


That seems a bit reductive. If you're in a thread discussing an episode of something and how it failed and where it succeeded that is criticism.
posted by Ferreous at 3:01 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


So. I don't like the style of criticism that's, like, "Arya/Rey/Rose is a SJW Mary Sue and if you like her you're a dumb bitch/soy boy," because the problem is not letting people enjoy things, the problem is specifically YOU, being a horrible asshole as a person, using scare-quotes "criticism" of a popular media piece as a platform for spreading hate and bigotry. Fuck you, twice, for real.

This is not the same thing as not liking a movie for...well...just about any sane, good-faith reason. If you really don't like the sexism of Game of Thrones, and I can see why you wouldn't, this is a one thousand percent valid thing to critique about it. It's also fine to just not like something even though it's totally inoffensive politically, but shitty as a unit of entertainment.

The overwhelming sentiment vis a vis most of the stuff this awful meme is posted in response to is uncritically positive. If you don't love, say, Infinity War, you can start to feel like a fucking alien being. You need to able to express your own opinion about something that is constantly and relentlessly being sold at you, especially if you don't like it. That damn meme is like Donald Sutherland screaming and pointing at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:02 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


The people in that thread might not list critic as their job but saying it's not criticism is definitely gatekeeping.
posted by Ferreous at 3:03 PM on May 11


Generally speaking:

1. "Let people enjoy things" means if someone says they liked something, don't go out of your way to be an asshole to them about it if you did not like that same thing.

2. Conversely, if someone says they didn't enjoy something, don't go out of your way to be an asshole to them about it if you liked that same thing.

3. Most people who like/don't like something are not engaging in rigorous criticism of that thing, or wish to engage in formal debate about it, and it's best to remember that. When they are doing/do wish such a thing, it's usually clearly marked, either by title or by location (hello, Metafilter).

4. Most entertainments that people like/don't like at any particular moment are of evanescent consequence at best, both for themselves and for the culture at large, so them liking/not liking that particular thing is mostly harmless.

5. You probably won't go wrong not directly getting in the way either of someone's expression of enjoyment of whatever entertainment they like, or of their exegesis of whatever entertainment they dislike. Let them do that thing without you.

(Please note "generally speaking." Some things are worth getting into a fight about for moral/cultural/social reasons. Entertain the notion, however, that those things may be fewer than you think.)
posted by jscalzi at 3:08 PM on May 11 [32 favorites]


There is the expressing of opinions. And then there are the expressions of reasoned arguments why something is or is not good. MeFi is a good example of the latter, in general. The internet as a whole barely reaches the former. That is what I meant.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:09 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


@kittens the ubiquitousness of major fandoms is such a thing that does drive me nuts! It's impossible to avoid sports, mcu, or star wars content and it's constantly being blasted at you whether you care or not (see: the inanity of May the fouth as a cultural meme)

Almost everywhere feels like a fan space and expressing frustration with that is quickly met with LPET. At a point it begins to feel like an element of demanding people adhere to a corporate hegemony.

The comic posits that people who don't like these things are sliding into private spaces and shitting on them but it ignores the context of how inescapable they are.
posted by Ferreous at 3:12 PM on May 11 [20 favorites]


Part of letting people like things is also letting people not like them, and it must be really hard right now to be a person who doesn’t like both dragons and superheroes, I would imagine.
posted by padraigin at 3:27 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


What I think is interesting/sad is how many people define themselves by what spectacles and media they choose to consume. I'm as bemused by people who feel proprietary towards, say, Star Wars (with its attendant gatekeeping, etc.) as I am when a Sports-Ball loving person says 'we won' or 'we lost' referring to whatever team they identify with.
I think it has something to do with the general grind of living in radical late-capitalist societies, and the postmodern senselessness of life, especially the loss of family, religions and/or nation-states as overarching narratives, and the need many people have to define themselves by and feel a connection with something larger than their own lives, and the general hyper-consumerist world they live in which is basically screaming at them 24/7 that they're defined by what they choose to consume.
posted by signal at 3:33 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I take a very critical approach to media, but I find people who parade the mere fact of their not watching or enjoying, e.g., superhero movies, or dragons, or even football, to be worthy of being told to LPET. You don't watch Marvel movies, or you don't watch the Super Bowl. Um, congratulations? I'm glad you had something to tweet about when everyone else was tweeting about the show? There's a snobbery about it quite distinct from critical engagement that I dislike.
posted by praemunire at 3:35 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


I feel like the author just hasn’t spent much time on Leftbook, where LPET is /desperately needed/.

Like, until you’ve experienced the hot takes of “The Wall in GOT Reinforces MAGA And If You Watch It You Do Too”, I’m not sure you can really get the screaming terror that this handy comic/phrase is holding back.
posted by corb at 3:40 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


The comic posits that people who don't like these things are sliding into private spaces and shitting on them but it ignores the context of how inescapable they are.

I have seen this godawful comic strip posted in response to things people said on their personal Twitter accounts! I think that one should not leap into another person's conversation to tell them the thing they like sucks, but this is pretty much common sense.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:42 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Oh, I like this.

Americans often are critical of European snobbery. I found this a quite refreshing trait when I arrived in the US!

However, after a couple years I’ve found that only about 20% in this anti-snob attitude is based on genuine democratic openness to low-brow, maybe even non-hegemonic sub-and counterculture. The other 80% is ‘lemme watch whatever is on TV right now without thinking about it’.

Critiquing people’s taste is, actually, not at all comparable to urinating in their breakfast cereal. It’s more like telling them (with words) that their Frosty Flakes are sugary shit and, ideally, then handing them a bowl of decent homemade grits. Go all Adorno on them and their fucking TV, somebody has to do the counterprogramming around here.
posted by The Toad at 3:49 PM on May 11 [14 favorites]


I have a rule that frustrates all my GoT fan friends - I only binge-watch a series after production on it has concluded. I say if you wanna tell me spoilers, you go for it, 'cause I haven't seen it, I'm not emotionally invested, and by the time I do, I'll forget what you said anyway.

This article is why I do that.
posted by saysthis at 3:50 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


What I think is interesting/sad is how many people define themselves by what spectacles and media they choose to consume.

It is interesting! I don't think it's sad. It is why things like "representation are important" are concepts at all. I think when someone identifies so deeply with the media they consume, it doesn't, most times, say anything about them as a moral or ethical human person, but it's important to think about what people are getting out of certain things in these conversations, even Very Problematic Things, what kind of connection they are reaching for and how, what kind of community may be connected to the thing itself (team, fandom, loving a queer thing because it is the only queer thing around for miles). There's a lot of reasons, not of of them conscious even to the people doing the consuming, why that connection forms, and they're not all dystopian capitalist society-ish.
posted by colorblock sock at 3:56 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I think citing Avengers and GoT (or Star Trek Discovery) are particularly ironic because these stories are predictably about fighting the big bad bosses/borg/authoritarian evils; if you are a woke anti-capitalist the interesting question is why do so many people love these films about power and injustice and is there some cognitive dissonance or unmet social need being thwarted in this kind of media. I think it would force the author to consider that in a specific sense, Office Space isn't any better or truer than mainstream superhero movies--it raises the issue of a false dichotomy of Good and Bad media.
posted by polymodus at 4:28 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I prefer to say "[thing] just isn't my thing" when asked to participate in or weigh in on something I don't like.

or as I learned to say back in the day of working for an indie record label, "Sorry, I'm just not the target market for this."
posted by philip-random at 4:59 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


There are reasonable and unreasonable reasons to dislike something ... and also to LIKE something. I had the impossible privilege to get paid for writing some media criticism (mixed with trivia, satire, snark and bad puns) for a major media entity's relatively minor website. But does the fact that I authored "Most Important Moments (Good AND Bad) in the first five Star Wars movies", "The Relative Cool Factor of Batman in All His History" or "The Evolution of the 'Funniest Night on TV' and its Runner-Ups" make me an expert in the history of Pop Culture? I could make that claim but I won't.

The single biggest thing I regret self-editing out was in the "Comedy Nights" article when I called one version of CBS's Monday Night Sitcom Block "the Night of a Dozen Dumb Dads" and considered adding that it suggested a misogynistic tendency by CBS management, and realized years later I could've been the first to get Les Moonves' number. Secondly while reviewing "Undercover Boss" that I only included one highly snarky comparison to Trump's "The Apprentice" when I could have made a dozen.

It's hard to deal with so many people who think they know it all, when you obviously know more than them. Unfotunately, there is no Pop Culture Criticism equivalent of "Jeopardy", where we can find our own James Holzhauer.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:59 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Me: Why does everything have to devolve into an argument?

Literally the entire internet: *SCREAMING* WE AREN'T ARGUING, YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT!

Flecks of spittle fly from their collective mouth and pepper my face with wetness.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:21 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Luckily, there exists a simple remedy: don’t identify with what you consume. There will always be people who dislike what you like, and becoming disgruntled because of it will transform your life into one long battle against them. .

at certain points in my life, I have definitely identified with what I was consuming (some of it anyway). I suppose because it was filling some kind of void, and doing it well. And here I'm not talking about superhero stuff or anything particularly lowbrow, it was more the other way. I was a young man from the suburbs who was discovering, mainly via movies that were showing at a downtown rep-cinema, that there were magnitudes more options available than the popular stuff that generally got people lining up a the local multiplex.

But often as not when I dragged a friend along, the aftermath would be painful. I'd be swooning at what Fellini had accomplished with Armacord, they'd be wishing they'd gotten high first.

Eventually, I just stopped dragging friends along, learned to love the solitary movie going experience. Which, of course, wasn't solitary at all, I'd share it with a dark room full of strangers with the bonus that I wasn't compelled to listen to their negativity afterward, I could just wander off into the night and reflect*. Way better than any church service I'd ever attended.

How is all of this relevant to the "Let People Enjoy Things" problem? I guess, it's just a way of saying it's pretty complicated. Like go ahead and say some godawful megabudget super mega franchise summer movie is THE BEST THING EVER DON'T YOU DARE SAY ANYTHING CONTRARY YOU JUST LIKE ALL THAT WEIRD ARTY SHIT ANYWAY! but I'm going to respond with that thing Marshall McLuhan said about World Word Three being a guerilla information war in which no distinction was being made anymore between military and civilian targets. We're all in it whether we want it or not. So, battle joined. What we need, I suppose, is some sort of updated code of chivalry.
posted by philip-random at 5:31 PM on May 11


It's more like telling them (with words) that their Frosty Flakes are sugary shit and, ideally, then handing them a bowl of decent homemade grits.

See, I like Frosted Flakes, while at the same time recognizing that they're unhealthy mass-produced sugary garbage. I like that I can go down to the American capitalism store and pay to have basically exactly the same sensory experience I had & enjoyed when I was a kid with no taste level.

If I'm eating Frosted Flakes, or watching that anime about the women's sport where they hit each other with their butts until one of them falls down, I know exactly what I'm doing & it's what I've chosen to do at the moment.

Your homemade grits are no doubt delicious & I would love to eat some with you while viewing Princess Mononoke (subtitled OBVS). But they're not gonna fill the Tony the Tiger-shaped sugary shit hole in my heart.
posted by taquito sunrise at 5:34 PM on May 11 [16 favorites]


I generally don't tell people who don't want to hear it anything they don't want to hear, and that includes criticism of art they like. But I will say that when I get together with friends who do enjoy critical discussion, we have more enjoyable, in-depth, interactive and rewarding conversations than I ever experience in groups who prefer to merely gush and let gush -- and we usually end up discovering multiple new facets of even the books/shows/movies/etc we disagree about. LPET is fine for people who don't enjoy a good critical argument but I'd be sorry to be stuck without my friends who love a fierce discussion of what worked and what didn't, what was novel and what was hackneyed, what was politically retrograde and what was emancipatory, etc. I don't know how it works online (which I guess makes all disagreements worse) but a good impassioned argument about art can be a real joy.
posted by chortly at 5:43 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


It's about not going after an audience member who is enjoying things with your critique.

This is clearly what the full version of the comic is about, but a whole lot of people post a cropped version of the comic in response to comments that address a piece of media directly and not the comic-poster at all. If this essay is wrong, those people are exactly as wrong. I've seen people post the comic in response to professional critics tweeting excerpts from their own reviews!

I could swear I just saw someone (prior to this thread) make this point much more clearly and concisely than this essay does, though?
posted by atoxyl at 5:48 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Then there are those, like myself, who seek out negative criticism of things they like.

I look for the negative reviews of everything, I get so much more information from them. I can quickly read through the negative comments and decide if they have a point or if they're full of shit. The positive comments are much more someone telling me how much they loved something, which has little to do with whether I will.

What I think is interesting/sad is how many people define themselves by what spectacles and media they choose to consume.

Interesting yes, sad maybe? One thing I find interesting is how much people define themselves by TV and movies now vs how many people I knew did that with music when I was younger. It makes comparing reactions difficult if you aren't taking it into account.

I have a rule that frustrates all my GoT fan friends - I only binge-watch a series after production on it has concluded.

Same. I don't want to invest in something that may end up sucking or not finishing at all.
I see you hiding over there Flash Forward.
posted by bongo_x at 5:49 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


I'm still bitter about Battlestar Galactica.
posted by signal at 6:07 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


I had never seen the original comic in full or half form. It seems to me the full version ignores the fact that things like "sportsball" are a reaction to being a person who doesn't enjoy something that almost everyone else enjoys. I don't, and I don't think people similar to me do this either, go up to sports fans and start talking about stupid sportsball. I joke that way with other people who, let's say, get tired of The Warriors WOOOOO GO DUBS DUB NATION FOREVER! being the default conversation in a lot of settings and are blowing off a little steam about it with a presumed audience mostly of others who feel the same. I may have my own more specifically critical feelings about sports, but when I say "sportsball" I'm just saying "ok I'll be over here talking about something else." The joke is largely on me.

And if someone who lives and breathes sports reads/hears it and experiences it as an attack, well, hey, I like opera, and every time it shows up in popular culture it's someone howling in a horned helmet, and I go on with my life. "Let People Enjoy Things" probably pretty often means "let me enjoy this thing liking which is widely accepted as normal and if I want to mock your niche interest, that's just because it's weird."
posted by Smearcase at 6:35 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]




Ahh, I missed EmpressCallipygos also posted this.

I feel like the main article is one of those things that requires you to be better in the know of how the meme is being used than most people just stumbling on the article. If it's one of those things where you have trolls seeking out any and all criticism posted publicly (and not as a response to anyone else) then I see her point. But I have also seen enough interjectory vitriol on the internet that my mindset going in to reading the article is thinking of that situation, which made me feel like it was kind of missing the point.

It sort of makes me think of #bluelivesmatter. If you are not well-versed in the context of #blacklivesmatter and why it came about, then #bluelivesmatter feels uncontroversially true and you might wonder why anyone would have a negative reaction to it.
posted by that girl at 7:13 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


"Let People Enjoy Things" has the implied second clause of "until a critical mass of the fan base turns on it". Letting people enjoy things is just a cover for not having a wave-making opinion. Fanbases are using self-care language to enforce majority opinion.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:39 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


it must be really hard right now to be a person who doesn’t like both dragons and superheroes, I would imagine.

Eh, there are a lot of conversations I'm not part of but I also have friends who share my nondragon nonsuperhero interests so it works out.
posted by Smearcase at 7:45 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


it must be really hard right now to be a person who doesn’t like both dragons and superheroes, I would imagine.

What’s weird for me is that I find the ideas of superheroes really intriguing and enjoy all the directions that people have gone with the concept over the years, but I find the MCU so tedious that I can’t enjoy the movies at all, regardless of whether I’m sober or insanely high or anywhere in between.

Whereas I find dragons boring as shit, but greatly enjoy GoT despite its various flaws - mostly because it has good dialogue and some pretence at three-dimensional characters. (The dragon set-pieces are dull, really. The series was much stronger when it had a budget so constrained that they couldn’t even show Jamie being captured in battle.)

However, despite my preferences, I don’t feel personally attacked when other people aren’t interested in GoT, which feels like a mentally healthy place to be.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:58 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just me, but it's just easier to keep an opinion to yourself. Which is why I will not be sharing my thoughts about the article.

Thank you, and good night.
posted by FJT at 9:16 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Writing as a parent of teenagers - totally in Kate Wagner's corner on this one.

My advice to my children, "21st century media is not an all-inclusive package - you need to be selective and discriminatory as to which media you employ and engage with and when." LPET is contrary to that - it discourages selection BETWEEN media, it discourages selection WITHIN media.

Good criticism allows a better appreciation. So, for instance, I read a fair bit of criticism of TV and movies, and watch very limited amounts of either. But when I do, I feel that my enjoyment is heightened as a result of having engaged with the criticism previously. We are totally comfortable with telling people that their enjoyment of a play will be greater if they have previously read the play or that a discussion of a piece of music prior to a concert will enhance their enjoyment of the music, so SHHH is a huge disservice.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 9:18 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Addendum. And LPET is actually disrespectful of the media when you consider how it stifles discussion.

Effectively it says that something that the people enjoy does not merit criticism; it is does not deserve the effort of critical engagement.

Like Biblical literalists - Shakespeare is allowed to write plays that have a literal meaning, a metaphorical meaning, a psychological meaning, a moral meaning, an ethical meaning, etc. But God can only tell a story. How disrespectful.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 9:48 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


It sort of seems like this whole article is based around not bothering to understand the people who disagree with the author. It’s a critical failure to understand that people think differently than you do — like, sure criticism makes YOU enjoy things more, but that says nothing about me.

The whole idea of “let people enjoy things” is almost a stand-in for all things anti-intellectual: it’s a refusal to do the more interesting, more aware, more intelligent thing.

As with all things, there’s always room for nuance. There will always be times that “let people enjoy things” is used in a weird way, and there’s always times that “let people criticize things” can help someone avoid having to self-examine their own relationship to media and other people.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:53 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Although I try to practice LPET, the thing I never quite have learned how to do is, given that two of us have both adopted a LPET attitude and both enjoy show X, we are then having a discussion of what just happened in the most recent episode, and we get to the part where, say, the strong woman is suddenly weeping at the departure of her new lover, and we simultaneously exclaim "that was awesome and heartbreaking!"/"that was awful I can't believe they did that to that character!" Are we then supposed to smile benignly and immediately drop it and go on to the next scene ... where, say, the next strong woman is killed in a Braveheart moment (one of us loves Braveheart, the other hates it, LPET means we never talk about it) and we simultaneously react "awesome!"/"terrible!" and so move on to the next moment, and on and on like a tea party of southern matrons. Is the solution just to get friends that agree not just on LPET and shows, but on every scene, or just to quickly dodge any moment friction is detected? Because it seems like the LPET problem is fractal not just at the level of shows, but with characters in those shows, scenes, writers, turns of phrase, etc etc. What is a fan if not someone who loves X but can get into heated arguments about X.0.2.3b with someone who thinks it should have been X.0.2.3a? And if we can sustain that within a community who all love show X, why not across them?
posted by chortly at 11:36 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


The Baffler still thinks the "screed" is the best method of engagement eh? Seem to either not have noticed that's now commonplace or are using it because it is to get attention, which would be ironic given their alleged values since it is such a standard commercial way to draw clicks. Either way it feeds the very beast it hopes to attack by using the nuance-free form of argument that finds such favor on facebook and twitter. But, hey, the president likes the short form version of it, so they're in good company.

Framing the issue around "likes" vs "dislikes" is simply the wrong way of approaching the problem, though it does, I'm sure, draw more attention. Liking is an inherently personal interest in something, attaching importance to liking or disliking as the area of conflict is to go after the person and not the work/thing, or more importantly, the larger constructs that inform how the work/thing is made, what it contains, and what it might suggest about the culture celebrating or denigrating it.

There's little one can do directly about someone liking something and even less one should care about someone else's like if they aren't people who are close to you. I don't care what you like and you have no reason to care about what I like save how it may fit into the cultural dynamic one way or the other. Any influence on such a thing is a chosen one based on some sense of familiarity or respect that comes from knowledge of one's history of discussion on such subjects. Random passersby spouting witless memes or attacks over disagreement can only annoy, which is where so much of the problem comes from; self important screeds.

This is a moment in media/art/criticism history where things are changing dramatically and that needs conversation, not because any one of us has the certain answers or knows where it will lead, but because the time to address these changes and the works/things that represent them is now. There are some deeply troubling trends in all media in how they are consolidating and changing how we receive entertainment and news. The desire to render everything proprietary isn't new, but the success they are finding in it is just at the very moment the manner of criticism over representation and a history of distortion grows. This isn't just something of the moment that will pass quickly either, the roots can reach back decades and the reach is hoped to extend for decades more to come.

The need to discuss can't be driven by the corporations or fans alone, especially when the preferred model of engagement being pitched is one of near endless deferment of meaning and appeals to childhood that adults then pass on to the next generation as part of a hoped for cycle of repetition in preferred properties passed from one generation to the next over and over. The responsibility for representation is being given to corporations who have little interest in anything but audience dollars. Fighting over "liking" is missing the point entirely, displacing the conflict to the audience from those in control. Many may not care at all about such things, but that's why others find the discussion important in hopes of drawing attention to areas of concern.

Context should inform discussion. There are times where there is no good reason to disagree with people liking or disliking a thing since there is little to be gained save for "the thrill" of pointless antagonism. It's been repeatedly shown mockery doesn't influence as much as harden stances, so doing that is more about you than the thing being criticized. There are perfectly good reasons why some discussions shouldn't have people dropping in to say how wrong everyone is for not seeing things as you do. That's pretty basic stuff. I might also add there's rarely good reason to rely on crappy memes or empty slogans when adult speech works much better, but that could just be a "like" thing.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:53 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I don't love the tone of the article. But I do share some of the author's reservations about the LPET ethos.

The basic idea of LPET is that tastes in art and entertainment are just like tastes in food: personal and idiosyncratic, about little more than gustatory pleasure, and ultimately harmless. I love cilantro, and you hate it. You love mushrooms, and I abhor them. (I don't really, but you get my point.) So what? There's plenty of room in the grocery store. You can eat the stuff that you like, and I can eat the stuff that I like. We needn't spend any time thinking or talking about the foods that we don't like.

And, like...I just don't entirely buy that analogy. Art is never completely divorced from politics. And that's part of the whole point of art.

Consciously or not, we gravitate toward particular movies, genres, etc. because they say something about the real world: they're a commentary on how the world is, or a vision of how the world should be, or a sentimental or cautionary tale about how the world used to be. (And this absolutely includes speculative fiction.)

Even if we accept the food analogy: I think most people would agree that it's fair, in appropriate contexts, to discuss the environmental, economic, and public-health effects of our collective food choices. And I think the same applies to art and entertainment. Sure, you have the right to eat nothing but ice cream and Doritos, or fish species whose industries destroy coral reefs, or veal and foie gras. But I also have the right to say "hey, I'm not sure that these dietary practices are great for the world".

And the kind of mass culture that we produce and consume has effects on our society that are every bit as real. Sure, everyone has their problematic faves. But we need to be able to acknowledge and discuss their problems. And if the bulk of someone's media diet is problematic, or they're insulated inside a bubble that refuses to acknowledge the problems...that's, well, a problem.

I don't think the fundamental question of LPET is whether or not we should be allowed to criticize art and entertainment. It's really about how this should play out on the internet.

The internet has completely upended the traditional dynamics of human conversation – and I think this is a huge part of the reason that social media is so full of conflict. Pre-social-media, conversations between people always occurred in some kind of shared context. Participants very often belonged to similar social classes. Conversations necessarily occurred in some physical space, with a more-or-less explicit social setting (a meeting room; a bus; a bar; a high school reunion). That space had a particular mood – festive, somber, workaday – which all of the participants could sense. All of this shared context serves to establish a common agreement about what kind of conversation is being had.

Social media has completely obliterated that shared context. "Conversations" on social media consist of the cumulative drive-by contributions of a more-or-less random sampling of people. Participants often belong to wildly different classes and cultures. They're all in different physical and social environments, at different moments in their day, in different moods. One person found their way to this post because they've been researching some social or political aspect of the movie in question, and another person has just been geeking out on a fan forum. One person thinks it's a conversation among like-minded compatriots that happens to be occurring in public – and another person thinks it's a public space where anyone is welcome to chime in. And everyone is interacting with each other through this tiny little pinhole, which doesn't admit any of that context.

On the one hand, it's great that people of varying classes and cultures can now interact so easily – and I hope that'll ultimately break down some of the barriers between people. On the other...this sudden loss of shared context is forcing us to figure out a completely new set of social rules for how conversations should work. LPET is one attempt to solve part of this problem. The intent behind it is good, but it's not a perfect rule.

Facebook's looming shift away from the anarchy of the news feed, and toward groups, may actually restore some shared context to conversations. I mean, I don't put much faith into anything that Facebook says or does. But it sounds like a significant change, and I'm interested to see how it pans out. Hopefully it won't just segregate the racists and fascists into their own groups, out of sight and out of mind, where they can fester and radicalize. (But, you know, it probably will.)

Sorry for the ramble.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:20 AM on May 12 [16 favorites]


(on non-preview, I see that many others have already made the same point about the contextlessness of social media, and more concisely than me. carry on.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:32 AM on May 12


and it must be really hard right now to be a person who doesn’t like both dragons and superheroes, I would imagine.

No, not really. I don’t like, and have never liked, any absurd (as in, I can’t suspend disbelief) fantasy genres (including almost all historical or science fiction fantasy). I like my art documentary and realist. I like my stories plausible and drawn from life. I’ve never ever liked superheroes or dragons or space ships. Always been that way. And there’s tons of great art at all levels of culture to feed that taste.
posted by spitbull at 6:08 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


The kind of comment that LPET applies to is totally different than the kind of criticism being discussed in the article. It is, in fact, not even criticism. Telling people that science fiction is dumb, that comic books can't have value, that pop music is devoid of soul - these are situations where LPET applies. If someone tells you they find value in some media, there is no need to try to convince them they are wrong. It is a kind of meta criticism: gatekeeping which things have value and thus which people have value for appreciating them. It has nothing to do with someone saying "wow, the writers really dropped the ball on this episode."
posted by Nothing at 6:18 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


and we simultaneously react "awesome!"/"terrible!" and so move on to the next moment, and on and on like a tea party of southern matrons. Is the solution just to get friends that agree not just on LPET and shows, but on every scene, or just to quickly dodge any moment friction is detected?

There are a lot of terrible misunderstandings of the point of LPET in this thread but this seems like the extreme form of the most common misunderstanding. Let me ask you this: when you engage in arguments with your friends over a piece of media, what is the purpose of those arguments? What do you aim to accomplish by having those arguments? Do you just want to make your position clear? To get your friends to see your perspective? Or do your friends not only need to see your perspective but to agree with it as well? Are you trying to persuade your friends that their own perspective is Bad and Wrong? That they should not like the thing that they like? If, instead of skirting the argument, you have the argument but at the end of it your friend still has the opposite opinion about Braveheart, is that okay with you, or not? Do your answers change if it's not "your friends" but random internet strangers instead?

"Let People Enjoy Things" doesn't mean you have to swallow your own opinions; it just means don't do things for the specific aim or intention of preventing other people from enjoying something they enjoy. That's it! It's that simple. Or as other people have posted a few times in this thread already: It's okay to dislike things, just don't be a dick about the things you dislike.

I feel like maybe one of the big mental roadblocks here is that lots of people will just automatically put forth their opinion on a piece of media without thinking about what they actually hope to accomplish by doing so. Letting people enjoy things, or not letting people enjoy things, has a lot to do with intent. Which makes it harder to parse when people are just kneejerk posting their driveby hot takes without ever contemplating their own intentions.

Now of course, there are lots of people out there who use LPET in bad faith to try and stifle any/all criticism of something they like. The fact that those people exist, and behave that way, does not mean that LPET is fundamentally a bad idea, any more than "it's about ethics in game journalism!" being deployed in bad faith means that journalistic ethics shouldn't actually matter in gaming news.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:38 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


Well, there's always been criticism made in good faith, and also in bad faith. Back in the previous eras, crickets chirped things written on pieces of paper, some of it was analytic and insightful, and some of it was just poop throwing. Nowadays it's kinda like the same crap but mostly crappy filtered thru imperfect tubes. Twitter does what it does, but it doesn't do nuance.
posted by ovvl at 5:49 PM on May 12


There are a lot of terrible misunderstandings of the point of LPET in this thread but this seems like the extreme form of the most common misunderstanding. Let me ask you this: when you engage in arguments with your friends over a piece of media, what is the purpose of those arguments? What do you aim to accomplish by having those arguments? Do you just want to make your position clear? To get your friends to see your perspective? Or do your friends not only need to see your perspective but to agree with it as well? Are you trying to persuade your friends that their own perspective is Bad and Wrong? That they should not like the thing that they like? If, instead of skirting the argument, you have the argument but at the end of it your friend still has the opposite opinion about Braveheart, is that okay with you, or not? Do your answers change if it's not "your friends" but random internet strangers instead?

"Let People Enjoy Things" doesn't mean you have to swallow your own opinions; it just means don't do things for the specific aim or intention of preventing other people from enjoying something they enjoy. That's it! It's that simple.


I had hoped that my previous comment made clear that the people with whom I am actually having arguments enjoy them just as much as I do. In my comment and the one before, I was trying to elucidate specific moments in which LPET can be contrary to the fundamental aim it aspires to -- to let people enjoy things. This is not a general criticism of LPET, but an attempt to illustrate how it can sometimes come into conflict with one of the basic joys of fandom: arguing passionately about art. For folks who don't enjoy that, duh, don't do it. The purpose of such arguments is, fundamentally, to increase enjoyment. LPET, in that context, is self-contradictory -- the best enjoyment is in a good argument -- not for the sake of argument per se, but because for some people, argument is a mechanism by which the appreciation of an artwork is increased, via discovering new aspects of it in the process of thinking it through. A standard argument in defense of criticism is that it is basically just what the individual does in thinking through and experiencing the artwork, except between two people. That is the answer to your many (rhetorical?) questions.

LPET is, as others have repeatedly described, a good practice in contextless random encounters in order to live and let live. But among friends, I find it contrary to what many of us most want: to learn more about the art and each other through a good thorough discussion -- and a good thorough discussion necessarily includes disagreements and arguments, since perfect agreement is both impossible and undesirable. Contrary to what your many questions seem to imply, the fundamental goal is not just to make one's perspective clear and increase mutual understanding (though that is certainly a goal), and it is certainly not to persuade someone they are bad or wrong or even necessarily that you are right. It's about a form of interactive learning and complexification of the art, the world, and each other, and like art that itself challenges the viewer instead of merely asking to be enjoyed, it is one of the great joys of living. No one is arguing that LPET for random internet encounters isn't a good general idea. But many of the discussions here and in the original article are sketching out in what less unnatural places than the internet LPET might be inferior to Enjoying Things More Through Argument (ETMTA). Personal conversations among like-minded friends can be one of those circumstances.
posted by chortly at 6:13 PM on May 12


I had hoped that my previous comment made clear that the people with whom I am actually having arguments enjoy them just as much as I do.

That is what I would have assumed from your previous comment, but at the same time, if both parties involved enjoy the debate, then why would it even occur to you to think that having those arguments was somehow in conflict with the concept of Letting People Enjoy Things? If you both enjoy debating the merits of the artwork, then debating the merits of the artwork clearly isn't preventing anyone from enjoying it. There's nothing about LPET that says that Enjoyment needs to be mindless and unreflective. That seemed so self-evident to me that I had to wonder where doubt about that would even enter into it, thus the questions (which, though somewhat leading, were not rhetorical, and I appreciate your answer!). I think we're basically in agreement, although not all of my friends enjoy that sort of debate and many of my friends are, at least, somewhat selective about which art they want to debate and which they don't; I feel pretty safe assuming though, that if one of your friends said, "hey I don't want to debate this particular thing, just let me enjoy this one in peace" you'd respect that.

So I feel like "sometimes friends just want to sit around and debate the merits of [Thing]," while it's definitely true and while those debates certainly have their own value, is kind of an orthogonal point to discussions of where LPET actually applies, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:51 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I feel like most people end up sometimes in the position of the enjoyer, and sometimes in the position of the criticizer, with shades in between.

When I am the criticizer, I find that more often I am told, essentially, to shut up by enjoyers - and this is in general forums, not specifically fan forums, and I'm not in the habit of attacking fans' taste rather than the media itself. The reverse happens when I'm the enjoyer as well , but less often and - honestly - it's much less frustrating when it does. Being told not to criticise something because it affects other peoples' enjoyment after the fact is just absolutely enraging. Especially if I'm told "oh, you don't actually dislike [x] because of reasons you said, you dislike it because of reasons that are petty or trivial like 'it's popular and you're just being contrary'". Arrrgh.

I feel like some people make fiction and franchises a large part of their identity. I think that's where some of it comes from - someone critical of something you like can feel like a personal attack if you're very wrapped up in it, especially if you identify with it.
posted by one of these days at 6:15 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


A follow-up from the creator of the original comic.
posted by Carillon at 10:52 PM on May 13


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