Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Make up your mind

According to the vast drone of political discourse that the internet has created, one of the worst thing a politician can do is flip-flop - changing position on a subject and maintaining that this was always the way the politician really felt. Our leaders are supposedly meant to stay focused on what they believe in, and ensure their ideological path is a straight one.

Needless to say, I would make a fucking rubbish politician.

This is partly because my opinion of my fellow man rarely rises above total despair, but also because I change my mind all the fucking time. An open mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it also means a constant influx on new data invariably leads to a total change of opinion on almost anything. If every argument has its good and bad points, how is it possible to come to concrete conclusions?

This inability to keep a consistent opinion is most obvious in the types of entertainment I like. Some things are constant: I don't think I will ever respond to Pearl Jam with nothing less than complete apathy, while I will defend the works of creators from David Lynch to Frank Miller to my dying breath.

Music is more likely to change my mind than any other medium. Bands I have detested have become beloved, and the worship I felt for some musicians can just fade away and die. All it can take is one gorgeous performance, or hearing the exact right song at the exact right time, (or vice versa) and my view can be utterly changed.

Incessant hype can be the biggest turn-off, especially if the dullest or most irritating song in an artist's range is the one that is shoved down the consumers throats until they gag, but mostly it's a matter of personal taste. Sometimes a band can completely change their sound, and while early Radiohead is still slightly too twee and irritating for me, the various artistic leaps they have made in their career have done nothing but raise my estimation of them. Other times, all it takes is one good song or album to turn an opinion right around, and a healthy dose of humble pie is called for as I eat my own past criticisms.

It's relatively rare for an opinion shift with a movie, although there are plenty that have been dazzling on first viewing, but never seem to hold up on later reflection. For better or worse, the opinions of others in this regard can be massively influential, and a single review that gives new insights on a film can leave a strong opinion on me. Sometimes this can force me to reappraise my opinion and come to the conclusion that I was talking out of my arse when I slagged it off after the first viewing. But most of the time, a good piece of writing or analysis is more likely to face the fact that something I thought was quite clever was, in all honesty, a bit shit.

Television shows have a far better shot at a flip-flop, if only because the longer nature of the work. Some shows can run the better part of a decade, and while quality will invariably rise and fall within this time, (usually, but not always, tending towards a drop in quality levels as time marches on), there is always the chance of getting hooked.

After becoming distracted during the first season of Battlestar Galactica and losing touch with the series, it wasn't until early in the third season that my opinion of it was significantly changed. In this case, it is even possible for me to nail down the exact moment when it all changed: when Galactica jumped into the atmosphere over New Caprica, the ship descending from the heavens like an angel's fucking flaming sword, firing off its righteous vengeance in all directions. Besides all the religious allegories and nihilistic wanderings that give the series an extra dimension, that one scene should be enough to convince any casual viewer that this could be a show worth following.

A single comic narrative can sometimes take place over decades, with multiple creators taking their crack at the same characters and concepts, and a single opinion on the adventures of somebody like Spider-Man is a little harder to nail down. In this case, it often comes down to individual creators, and my opinion on their contributions are more likely to hold greater sway than an opinion on the title itself.

Mind you, with shorter, more complete works, I can still be utterly unsure whether I like something or not. My head jury is still out on works like Blankets and Fun Home, comics that have been universally praised, but left me strangely cold. I know I should enjoy these books, and I have little doubt that a future re-evaluation will be gigantically rewarding, but for now, I just don't know.

But they still had enough to merit a re-read, and there is always the strong possibility that they will resonate far more strongly a second time around. One can hope. Starman left me bored the first time around, with something about Robinson's writing not clicking, but further investigation has revealed a title that went its own way, had a unique style, and was all the better for it.

And then there was Scott Pilgrim, which all the cool kids were raving about, but despite the best of intentions, I could never make that connection until the closing moments of the most recent volume, where it all came together so nicely.

Trying something new is always recommended, and changing tastes and desires are a fact of life. Keeping that open mind means it can be a little harder to make sweeping judgements on certain entertainments or the tastes of others, but it's all worth it in the long run.


Zom said...

Scott Pilgrim was a big surprise for me. I expected to loathe it. I had visions of nerdish wish fulfillment, and a comic full of really awesome stuff thrown together with a truly awesome arbitrariness*.

Earlier this year, however, I decided to put my prejudices to one side. Since then I've been reading one Scott Pilgrim volume a month and I'm happy to say that I'm utterly crazy about the book. Fucking totally in love with it. One of the best comics I have ever read without a shadow of a doubt, in fact one of my absolute favourite things evar.

*A pet hate of mine spawned - I think - from being weaned on 2000AD. After all, wacky juxtapositions are a big part of how that book is built, and if you're brought up on that shit then perhaps you demand a little bit more from your comics than "woah, look a robot actually riding a dinosaur!11!". Morrison did that back in the 80s and he did it better than you, Mr Random Writer.

Bob Temuka said...

I do need to go back and read those earlier Scott Pilgrim books again. I think the problem was that I read them while reading a whole bunch of other stuff and didn't really get into it properly. Too easily distracted, that's me problem.

The same thing happened with Blankets and Fun Home, which I read on the same day and now have all mixed up in my head. I'm still reading them properly, but not absorbing them fully, if that makes sense....

Zom said...

I loved Blankets too, but I read it yonks ago and wonder if I'd feel the same way now.

Fun Home I have yet to read. It's sitting on my bookshelf but I just can't bring myself to read a book about a parent's death right now. I've seen too many people who I care about die over the last few years, I suppose.