One thing that makes everything better is to appreciate stuff for what it is, and what it is trying to be. There’s no clearer and easier example of this than pop-entertainment, going all the way back to pulp novels and dime magazines, but including B-movies and disaster flicks. It can be applied in other areas as well, but we’ll start with popular fiction of all stripes.
In a lot of areas of our lives, gate keeping snobs segregate entertainment by the supposed value of it. This isn’t me attempting to shit on the value of literature and esteemed fiction — a lot of that stuff is actually good and worth reading. The authors of yore didn’t get to their positions of esteem by being without merit. Also, understanding the older literature holds an incalculable value as a part of our education. There’s a great deal we can learn about ourselves by reading what was written by wise people in the past. Gilgamesh is an amazing story, Lysistrata is still funny, and I could go on.
That said, John Carter of Mars and Conan the Barbarian have their places as well. You can put down your snooty mug and enjoy some crazy adventuring. It’s part of being well-rounded, and it also helps your brain in my opinion: for the first half of my collegiate career I took the varied and sundry requirement classes, and for the latter half I focused solely on my major and minor classes. I wish I had peppered in some of the former during the latter because changing gears helps you think. This is especially true after reading pages of required, dry reading.
Without a doubt, without a question, my favorite movie of all time is Casablanca. It’s a perfect movie, it doesn’t need a sequel or a remake, and it captures so very much in those precious few minutes. There is so much going on in that movie that an entire college course wouldn’t do it justice. On top of that, it is downright entertaining — “What is your nationality?” “Well, I’m a drunkard.” — and moving (“Play La Marseilles!”), along with carrying a lot of important historical notes. And Bogart is the absolute best and at his best in that role.
That said, I love me some B-movie and horror movies — as evinced by my movie reviews. They’re entertaining, and I judge them each for what they are. The same can be applied to disaster movies. San Andreas is super unrealistic and super entertaining. It isn’t the same species as Casablanca. But it doesn’t try to be. You can’t judge the two by the same standards because they aren’t aiming for the same thing. The only question is: “is this movie entertaining?”
Yes. Yes, it is.
Music is another example of this. I absolutely love a lot of classical music, and I’m not sure there’s a piece I like more than Mozart’s 40th (you’ve heard this, trust me), or maybe Beethoven’s 9th, and Tchaikovsky — goodness, there’s a lot of great out there. The same thing can be said for a lot of jazz music (I love, love, love saxophone and piano, without vocals, maybe with some cello — it just sounds very pleasing to me), but damn it if Gangnam Style isn’t catchy with a good beat and a hilarious music video. Michael Bolton isn’t trying to be Beethoven or Mozart, but it might not get any better than when he sings When a Man Loves a Woman (if you don’t get that reference, shame on you).
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of synthwave — Timecop1983, Mega Drive, Dance with the Dead, to name a few. My joy at finding this genre is probably partially because of my immense love of video game music, but also because I enjoy a lot of music without vocals and I always have: the piano jazz mentioned above, the classical (expanding to classical-in-other-languages because that might as well not be vocals for my brain). That said, sometimes I have to change gears, and Simple Man and Hotel California are masterpieces of a different genre.
Having an open mind about multiple genres and styles enriches you in every way and also opens you up to more opportunities to find more things to enjoy. We only get so many spins around the star, we should have an open mind about and an appreciation of a variety of things. Appreciating them for what they are, rather than what our inner blowhard wants to judge them as, makes that a lot easier to accomplish. Just a thought.