This post was largely inspired by the most recent Aniwords over at Crunchyroll, be sure to check it out before reading this! Kind of awkward to open a post like this but hopefully these isolated italics separate themselves well enough.
Everyone has favorite things that they hold near and dear to them. Even if we don’t fully understand why, we know something made us respond ecstatically enough to want to become a champion of its value. It is a fascinating subject, but what of the other side of the coin? We know we like things and generally can at least describe how the variables of the show make us feel. We wouldn’t know a work was a favorite without the resonance we feel when something manages to win us over so thoroughly. Saying you loved a work tells us something just as important as saying the shot framing greatly impressed you. Loving something means the majority of it was something you fully enjoyed. Does this apply to things at the opposite side of the spectrum as well? Does something one hates do just the same thing as something one loves? The answer is unsurprisingly of the complicated variety that requires I examine it by writing more words, but framing it as a “spectrum” may prove to be apt.
One of the biggest roadblocks to understanding why someone dislikes a thing is general vagueness of their thoughts. Communication is a two-way street, but it can be harder to cross at times than one might expect (and this is not something that should at all act as a judgement of others, it isn’t at all rare). For instance, a common criticism of many things is a simple statement of the writing being bad or subpar. But in what way is that the case? Did it fail to properly define characters or stakes? Was the dialogue poorly crafted or ill-fitting for that particular work’s context? Do the plot turns just flat out not make sense? Sure, we know what we mean when we say the writing lacked polish, but does everyone else? That’s a pretty broad criticism for one to simply infer or interpret. Criticism relies heavily on the ability to make an audience understand one’s feelings on many variables as strongly as they possibly can. On the other hand, it is often tough for many to articulate just what it is they dislike about any given thing. How can others understand your viewpoint when you yourself don’t even fully understand it?
Certainly I have had moments where I failed to understand or articulate my reasons for not liking something. I think most everyone can say at some point they’ve stumbled upon something they didn’t care for but also didn’t sufficiently understand why. Sometimes it can even make one envious of those who are truly articulate and able to so thoroughly explain their feelings on just about anything (I know I’ve been there). I would make my own speculation that this applies more to the works that leave one bored and apathetic rather than the works that one truly detests. While certainly not always the case, apathy probably indicates a work that may be competent but with values completely opposed to those of the non-receptive audience. Recall that I said a spectrum is an apt description- loving something and hating something are the two ends, and the closer you get to the middle, the more apathetic and less emotionally charged one is. It’s easier to explain why I hate something as opposed to why something fails to elicit any sort of reaction at all. I think that is chiefly because hate, much like love, is passionate. Tearing something to shreds is an emotional reaction much in the same way expressing love for something is. This in turn makes it easier to understand why it is you or I react that way. If I hate something, it is likely easy to pick out why my feelings on it are so strong compared to other instances because it is easy to know when something feels so incredibly off. This perhaps even makes it more true than for works you cherish. Think of it like your kitchen table- being messier than usual will probably jump out at you faster than being cleaner than usual (though I suppose this metaphor depends on the average appearance of your kitchen).
This is not to say that all or any of this applies to everyone at all times. No theory as to why or how someone reacts to things is going to be consistently accurate. No one fully understands everything about their emotional reactions to things. Emotions themselves are very nebulous things! Engaging with art, whether by writing lots of words about it (maybe I’ll even become good at it!) or simply staring at it in awe, is a form of self-discovery. Every day we learn more about ourselves and others, and express it in a myriad of interesting ways. That’s a pretty cool thing.