Sam Willet is a hairy-faced love god. He also runs a rather fine blog, the excellently named Escape Rope, in which he talks everything he loves, including music, sport, and food. It’s a scattershot approach I respect and encourage heartily. Given our mutual admiration, we decided it might be time, in the fine Amalgam Comics tradition, to enjoy a bit of a crossover between our two blogs. It’s the Summer Event You Never Asked For!
So here’s Mssr Willet – with italicised interjections from my jerkish self – coming onto my blog and spitting on its illustrious tradition of Having Favourite Things. Spitting on the idea, spitting and spitting, until his salivary glands run dry.
It’s always really riled me when people ask me: what’s your favourite… band/song/film?. How the heck do I know? It’s like being asked to some up your life in one sentence. Feelings towards media and culture are conditional on what’s going on in the rest of your life at the time.
So, I’ve come to a decision. From this day forth, whenever I get asked the dreaded ‘What’s your favourite (insert cultural product here)?’ question, I’m going to either:
a) Walk away, gleeful at shirking my social responsibilities.
b) Say ‘I don’t know’ and smile dumbly.
c) Hastily change the subject.
d) Fall over and feign injury.
e) Shout ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ into the questioner’s face until they flee or dissolve.
And I’ll tell you for why, using an example:
My most recent favourite album, when asked, was In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. This was largely based on the fact that I believed that the record elicited from me a particularly strong emotional response, one which I greatly appreciated. I believed I had a special relationship with that album, and I truly treasured it. But more recently I have come to question this, for a few reasons.
In no particular order: I gradually realised that the band were a bit better known than I had thought, and their popularity went beyond that of a small, cult following. It is common enough to feel more strongly for that which is known to few, rather than that which is known to many, but I still occasionally feel guilty about this, as it carries with it the suggestion that most people are idiots – cultural elitism. I also read and heard the band described as ‘Indie’, a genre label that grinds my gears in a very acute way, and discussion of which I will save for another time. But crucially, I also found that the more I told people this was my favourite record, the less I believed it, and the more that the unfathomable magic dust which had bound this album and I together seemed to ebb away.
If you have a favourite film, then you probably don’t appreciate film as much as you could*. The same goes for music. There are so many reasons to enjoy these things, so many positives and negatives to be taken away from them, all surrounded in each individual’s unique personal culture and context, that I just can’t understand how someone would be able to name their favourite, or why they should be compelled to. The instant I single out a cultural product as my favourite, the main emotion I experience is regret. What about all the options I didn’t consider? Somebody’s probably heard that and thinks I’m an idiot! Sherbert! [–Politeness Ed]
So I’m not a person suited to having favourite things. I think my favourite food is curry, but what about all the other tasty dishes out there? It’s just not fair. Not since primary school have I considered anyone to be my best friend – sad maybe, but it’s a concept which has never sat well with me**. Is it too cynical to suggest that it’s childish to have a best friend? It’s certainly an arrangement that feels weirder to encounter as you get older.
People aside, the best solution is to write lists. I have a predisposition for lists – I have a worrying tendency to resort to them for all of my decisions. But for films and music, it would take a huge investment of time an effort to create lists which I would be even close to happy with. I can just imagine the proud completion of my lists, showing everything I enjoy in genre categories and rank order, pinning them up on the wall and then someone walking into the room and saying ‘why isn’t The Big Lebowski under your favourite comedies – I thought you loved that film?’. There is a moment or two of silence before I tear the wretched paper from the walls and run out of the house into the street, blubbing horrifically.
I haven’t listened to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in its entirety for ages. I await my next listen with trepidation. I fear it won’t feel the same. There is certainly a strong link between this fear and my big mouth.
*Or you have devised a completely watertight way of empirically measuring the goodness of films, as this blog obviously has.
**Even having met the impishly handsome proprietor of this blog. The man is incorrigible, dear readers.