When I was a kid, I used to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make a boulder roll down a hill via the magic of C64 BASIC, before giving up and making Rockford drop boulders on the heads of unassuming butterflies in seminal arcade title Boulder Dash.
Back then, computer programming and video games were about as far from cool as it’s imaginable to be.
As I grew older, I developed a taste in music also best described as ‘unfashionable’. When chums were dressing in baggy jumpers and jumping around in a garden to The Levellers, I decided I’d sooner be blasting electronic music from the likes of Depeche Mode into my ears. Older still — now, in fact — I like comics. I have thousands of the things. Also, I bought several songs by Kylie on iTunes. I quite like the first Michael Bay Transformers film.
I say these things not because I want some kind of reward or pity, and not because I’ve suddenly had an urge to reveal all my guilty pleasures to the world. And that’s because the word ‘guilty’ should never be used before the word ‘pleasure’. It assumes embarrassment. It suggests you should make excuses for things you happen to like, because they don’t gel with current societal norms and fashion. It makes you question the very things you enjoy and even those you are passionate about.
This line of thought came to a head recently when someone pointed me at a piece of academic puffery about a certain extremely popular TV show, featuring quite a lot of swords, blood and nudity, along with the occasional dragon.
The underlying theme was that this show was somehow ‘more than’ fantasy, because it addressed contemporary concerns. It was almost saying: Hey, Game of Thrones fans! It’s OK that you like this TV show, because it’s not ‘just’ fantasy! PHEW!
This is the kind of bizarre snobbery that leads to people happily shoving popcorn down their throats while watching the latest Marvel flick, but sneering at anyone who suggests reading an actual comic. And it’s a mere stone’s throw away from the truly bizarre events that happened in the 1990s and 2000s, when millions of adults hid away behind ‘adult’ covers of Harry Potter, trying to fool themselves and everyone else that they weren’t reading a children’s book.
But why? Harry Potter’s a perfectly good read. So what if it was primarily authored for kids. And so it goes with every other kind of entertainment you can think of.
You like Lego? Great. It’s a toy. It’s not a construction system for adults. Get over yourself and admit that in your twenties, thirties and beyond, it’s still fun to play with toys.
You have Bee Gees records? Don’t blush and dismiss them, pretend they’ve not been played for years, or claim they’re some kind of ironic kitsch. Own your passions! (Just avoid doing the high bits in the songs, if you value the long-term survival of your throat.)
Mario Kart’s your favourite game rather than KILL KILL DEATH METAL DESERT SHOOTY THINGS IV, and you’d rather play an adventure game featuring a cute critter living in a saccharine rainbow-infused world than a merciless death-pit of brown and grey? Good for you. Just don’t garble on about how you “play proper games, too”, because those colourful family-oriented games are proper games.
In short, then, admit you like something or don’t; in fact, don’t do the ‘don’t’ part. Just admit when you like stuff, and tell people why. Maybe they’ll end up broadening their horizons a bit. Nuts to ‘fashion’, which is swings and roundabouts anyway — most of the things mentioned above have become mainstream at times). And nuts to people who can’t just recognise entertainment, pleasure and fun for what it is.
Like what you like. Own what you like. Share what you like. And don’t be embarrassed by the films, games, books, telly and music you happen to enjoy. Life’s too short.