If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that people can enjoy their entertainment for very different reasons, sometimes to the point that they might get offended if you call it “entertainment.” People have differing values outside of the media they consume, and even those who might view anime or manga for similar reasons can have incompatible preferences in the actual titles they prefer. Conversely, people can enjoy the same things for different reasons.
It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Obvious, even. But the scope makes it difficult to wrap my head around entirely. The card makers over at Wizards of the Coast created basic personality profiles for people who play Magic: The Gathering (Timmy who plays for the experience, Johnny who plays to express himself, and Spike who plays to prove himself), but that doesn’t account for all of the people out there who don’t enjoy Magic: The Gathering for whatever reason. There’s differing perceptions of what it means for something to be “realistic,” and then disagreements as to whether or not realism is a good thing. Whenever someone says, “Stop being so critical and just enjoy what you’re watching,” there’s an implicit value judgment even when it’s meant to avoid such things; in this case, the value is about not having to sour a fun experience.
So basically, it’s pretty complicated and I could give endless examples of diametrically opposed ways of viewing art and entertainment if I wanted to.
Knowing this, I then ask myself, what should I do about it? Is there anything to do? I can’t say I have any right answers, but I’d like to talk about my current feelings on this matter.
I think that there is no one “correct” way to enjoy media. The person who loves world-building is as valid an audience member as the person who loves mechanical detail, as is the person who values character development, the person who wants to see in his media a desire to improve society or even the person who loves seeing hot girls. However, that doesn’t mean that one should not judge the media they consume or avoid looking at things critically, as the last thing I want is for people to feel it unnecessary to express their own values. I think everyone (including myself) should just keep in mind that because people watch anime, read books, play video games, etc. for what can be very different reasons, and so when people discuss these matters, they bring a lot of assumptions and preconceived notions with them. This can be all right, but without proper clarity it ends up being extremely difficult to talk with someone who has very different values in regards to entertainment, as if you had two people stranded on separate islands trying to communicate by shouting (and also the water is shark-infested so don’t even try swimming).
I guess what I’m hoping for is the acknowledgement that people can enjoy what they watch for their own reasons, but to prevent that from just meaning that any and all discussions regarding artistic worth (or whatever) just go out the window, and I think the key to this is being able to express why you like the things that you like.