Sorry, no you don’t get to dictate taste…

thoughts orangutan

That’s quite the accusatory title, isn’t it? But of course, I don’t mean *you* per se- just the *you* who tells people what they can and can’t like- this is turning into a “not you, you” moment…

na na na na naAnyhoo, the subject of taste was abuzz on the blogosphere a while back (sorry I forgot to bookmark posts!) and I wasn’t initially going to respond since I’ve touched on the topic a few times before. But then, I noticed a trend of comments on my “favourites” posts, both new and old, and it started to play on my mind again. Because apparently, saying you like/dislike something is controversial. We’re back to the primary school level of argumentation with your opinion doesn’t match mine, therefore you’re wrong, so there!

tasteLet’s start by clearing something up once and for all: you can’t be wrong about your own personal taste. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I find the “you’re wrong” comments whenever I talk about my favourites. I mean, they’re my favourites. Now, I usually attribute this to unfortunate wording- but I’ve also encountered plenty of people irl who seem to have no qualms telling me that I’m wrong about my own personal taste– somehow these *ahem* charming people know me better than I know myself- so that’s cool 😉 In all seriousness, an opinion is subjective and whether or not a person likes something isn’t really up for debate. Art speaks to the soul– and we cannot be held accountable for what we do and do not like.

There are of course plenty of things to contend with when it comes to books- and I do hold that some books are objectively better than others. People are of course entitled to say what they want, but yeah, it’s a bit daft to say “Shakespeare is crap”, even if you don’t like his work (surprisingly people do say that and my response is pahahaha I should be so crap). That said, whether something is more technically good or bad does not always affect taste. hallelujahI’ve disliked plenty of well written books- books I’ve gone out of my way to say “I understand why other people like it”- and that’s not a platitude, I genuinely mean the book has literary merit, even if I didn’t connect with it. And at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve enjoyed plenty-a trashy book. Nothing wrong with that. Books can be entertaining, lovely and make you exuberantly happy without being the next Middlemarch. I won’t pretend it’s on a literary par with a classic if it isn’t, yet I’ll happily sing its merits till my throat’s hoarse if there’s something, anything about it that catches my fancy- and I can’t say fairer than that.

obviousNor does it matter if a book is obscure or popular. I think we’ve all had the moment where we’ve been in love with a hidden gem and not understood why it’s not got *all the acclaim*. And I know a lot of you feel me when it comes to those dreaded overhyped books. Then there are the world famous hits it’s trendy not to like (I can’t tell you how many times I was told at uni that it was too obvious to like the Beatles- whatever that means 😉 ). The point is, we will ultimately form our own opinions- and that’s okay. Which brings me onto my most important point…

I don’t care if you like what I like or hate what I hate. Everyone’s entitled to hate what I love or love what I hate, as I stated in my “I don’t care, I didn’t write it” piece eons ago- I’m not going to take it personally. But I’d actually like to take it further than I did there: even if I did write it, it doesn’t matter. There will always be people to love and hate your work- that’s not only a part of life, it’s a necessary part of life. dc marvelThe world is a richer, more interesting place thanks to diverse thought and ideas. Talking to each other is how we learn; discussing even our greatest differences is how we grow and is the path to reaching common ground. Realising that other people like different things is all part of getting along like adults and it’s not worth tearing each other apart for things outside our control. Especially when it comes to whether or not we prefer DC to Marvel (I’ve probably started a comment war haven’t I…). And I think that’s a message we could all do with learning.

So what do you think? Is taste debatable? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

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172 thoughts on “Sorry, no you don’t get to dictate taste…

  1. wonderfilledreads says:

    I agree with everything you said! My take on it is that I don’t care if you don’t like whether or not I enjoyed a book. It’s my own opinion and your validation isn’t needed for it. I like what I like and that’s all that matters to me. Review are subjective, that’s why they’re OPINIONS! The world is a better place because we’re all different and people should really learn that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie says:

    YES what a brilliant post. The world would be boring if we all agreed and we can’t all have the same personal taste and no one should be here to dictate how we should and / or need to feel about something. We are allowed to have different opinions and chat about it in a respectful manner, but that’s ittttt.
    Loved this post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    I love this post. I actually saw a little while back a review for a book I quite enjoyed when I first read it (I first read it a while back so my feelings may have changed, who knows?) where the reviewer had pretty much insulted the people who enjoyed the book simply because they’d read it, hadn’t enjoyed it, and wondered how anyone out there could have enjoyed it when there were so many better books out there, and it really bugged me because just because you have a different opinion to everyone else doesn’t mean their opinion is wrong and stupid. We should be able to read, enjoy and hate what we like without having to worry about other people attacking us for our opinions. Reading is subjective, we all get different things out of it and there’s never going to be one book out there every single person in the world unanimously agrees on. I love talking to people about books, and even if they don’t enjoy the books I do that’s fine, it doesn’t really affect my love of those books.
    Sorry, feel like I’ve gone off on a rant in the comments here. Clearly this is a subject I’m very passionate about. 🙂
    Great post! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicole says:

    Yes! 100% this. I must be living in a sheltered corner of the book blogging world, because I haven’t yet had someone tell me on my blog that my opinions were wrong. (This has happened elsewhere, just not yet on the blog.) And for the record, I would also like “to be so crap” as Shakespeare.

    (P.S.: Make Mine Marvel. 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicola @ Thoughts on Fantasy says:

    Hear, hear!! Well said. I also love the fact people have different opinions on books, it makes things interesting and proves we’re all different, which as you pointed out, makes the world a richer place. I find that bizarre though that people even tell you you are wrong about your own personal taste 😂 I can understand someone disagreeing with you about the merits or quality of a book, but telling you that you should/shouldn’t have liked something just seems a bit pointless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! I definitely agree with you! Absolutely!! hahaha I know right 😂😂😂 For sure- I’m happy to have people disagree (on one of the posts in question, I even said why certain books might not be technically so good- so it’s not like I’m oblivious to their faults)- I just think it’s so silly to tell me I didn’t enjoy something, when I did 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Krysta says:

    I must have missed these discussions elsewhere, but sometimes when I am reading comments or blogs, my thought is parents teaching their children, “We don’t ‘yuck’ someone else’s ‘yum.'” Obviously, we can tell people if we don’t like a certain book, but there is a way to do that that is respectful and that opens up conversation.

    Also, I agree that sometimes the objective quality of a book doesn’t affect our reactions to it. I have not enjoyed many books that I recognize as well-written. I have also enjoyed plenty of works that I recognize as not well-written. Even as trash.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah I read a few of them (and stupidly didn’t bookmark cos I didn’t think I’d talk on the topic again) hehehe YES! That’s a great way to put it!! Yeah for sure!

      And yes, I’m glad you’ve had the same experience. There are lots of objectively good books that aren’t for me and I’ve also liked plenty of trashy books 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    WOW! You are killing me with excellent posts… I’ve run into this debate at book clubs all the time. Basically people say GAH I LOVE THIS BOOK… and inevitably head into no man’s land with… IT’S SO WELL WRITTEN! Hey… LOVE the book with all your heart, but don’t delude yourself that its well written just because you enjoyed it. I can enjoy all sorts of fluff but it doesn’t mean that they should get an award. Of course, the reverse is true too! Anyway I’m glad my opinion of your opinion means nothing to you, lol 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    A great post 🙂 I also feel like it’s incredibly stupid to argue over taste (unless of course it’s something that’s just.. harmful, you know, like kiddy porn?) Otherwise, taste is taste, and there’s no right or wrong. People are just different 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Never Not Reading says:

    Someone I went to college with WHO IS A MUSICIAN posted this weekend that the Beatles are the most overrated musicians of all time. Lol, what? I can’t even take that seriously. Like, if you don’t really like them, whatever, but overrated? That’s just showing your own ignorance, right there.

    Also, obviously Marvel. I mean, come on.

    Obviously I 100% agree with you on all points. My husband and I were just arguing this with his brother last night. He was trying to c0nvince us that The Princess Bride is a bad movie, and we were arguing that no it isn’t, you just don’t like it. And those are not the same thing. Problem is, he has convinced himself that he only likes what is “good” and dislikes what is “bad”, so that his preferences somehow are always indicative of quality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ahh that’s *crazy*!!! I agree with you one hundred percent!! And I find it so bonkers that a musician would say that about the Beatles! The arrangement, the lyrics, just everything- it’s so good! (okay, I’m having a Beatles fangirl freakout moment, but whatever 😉 ) I mean, sure, you don’t have to like it, but really? Overrated?? I honestly get so infuriated when people say something that’s objectively well done is bad. So daft.

      hahaha fair enough 😉

      Whoa- again- Princess Bride is an *awesome*, fun movie! Like you said, you don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t mean that you get to say things are bad. I mean, it actually shows a more discerning palate to be able to pick out the qualities of a piece of art and understand why others might like it, even if you don’t. I agree with you that a lot of people convince themselves that their taste is “right”- and are blind to their own subjectivity. I’ve seen and heard very intelligent people criticise things as bad when they really mean “I didn’t relate to such and such” or “I’m not into that style”. When it comes to Princess Bride, it’s very campy and 80s style fantasy (with not-so-great special effects) so people don’t have to like it… but it is not bad, because it’s also got great characterisation, a witty well written script and a pretty genius plot and frame narrative (*ahem* probably pretty obvious I’m having a fangirl moment for that too 😉 ) To go back to the music example, I think it comes down to attitude a lot of the time, because my sister, whose a musician (and a better person than me 😉 ) often says that if she doesn’t like a famous artist or got into a genre, she must not have listened to the right song yet (which is more generous than I’m willing to be, because I’ll write something off as “not my taste”- but you get the idea 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  10. LizScanlon says:

    Here *hands you a medal* you deserve it for this post! XD No, really. I so completely agree with you and in a way I have become the ‘ignorant being’ who just, whenever I come across one of those utterly nonsense arguments where one says their opinion is the truth, reads it through, scoffs and moves on. I don’t bother even getting involved in those ‘debates’ anymore because dayum- I could make the time for them, but unfortunately it is hella’ difficult to make someone see the light… and even if I tried- wouldn’t that kinda/sorta make me like them? 😀 I swear, life and everything within it has too many gray areas 😀 ahhh… I am going way too general with this comment already! 😉
    Books! Yes- to be honest, and this has been said by a few- if someone’s opinion differs from mine- I welcome it… sure, there’s a little bit of — oops, I recommended that book because I LOVED it and now they hate it.. and me? — but generally, some very strong and passionately worded opinions about the book (good AND bad) have often swayed me into either reading the book, or help me see a different angle to things that I never even considered with my pea-brain! 🙂
    Great post! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Aww thank you!! I’m really glad you agree and honestly think that’s a good way to be. hehehe I totally get that! I don’t think I try to convince people that they’re wrong per se (cos that you said, then you’re just playing the same game). But rather, I think it’s good to explain the other side of the argument. For instance, if someone dislikes one of my favourite books and says it’s bad, I’ll say it’s fine that they dislike it (usually trying to identify why they dislike it as well) but also explain my perspective- and if it’s a well written book, I’m not afraid to get technical 😉 (sorry to ramble- I just saw someone talking about how Gatsby was crap, so this is fresh on my mind lol- like I said, fine for them to dislike it, it appeals to very specific tastes… but there’s no way it’s bad!)
      I love how you put that about books- I really do like to see differing opinions, because it gives me a view I might not have considered and that’s great, cos that way I get to learn something 😀 It doesn’t mean I’ll change my opinion on whether I liked it, because that’s not how taste works, but I love what you said about getting to see it from another angle (also it’s helpful to get all kinds of book recs from friends- even when you don’t end up liking them, cos then you can be more discerning about what you like, it’s all a learning experience- so I could never be upset with someone for that, only grateful! 🙂 )
      Thank you! love your comment!

      Like

  11. Jonathan Scott Griffin says:

    This is an extremely well thought out piece. You are right. Taste in literature is so subjective. However, I can see why some people get defensive and call someone wrong for liking or not liking a piece of work. You mention tastes in a book being personal. Fair enough. I can’t argue with that. But I think people get personal because of taste being personal. Say someone loves the Narnia series. These series become a huge part of who they are. Yet others might find C.S. Lewis to be too preachy. The Narnia reader might think, “do they think I’m too preachy?” Or say someone loves the work of Jane Austen, but others find her a bore. Those who like Austen may think others who find her to be a bore may also think that they think think they are a bore. So, therein lies the problem. Books, and other forms of entertainment I might add, speak to us on such a level that they are a part of who we are. Therefore when the book is attacked, others may take the attack personally seeing as they connect with the book or the author’s viewpoints.

    With all that said, I have had to learn to take criticism of some of my entertainment to be something that someone doesn’t like about me, instead of disliking everything about me. That said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you very much. And I do understand why people get defensive, but also think that people can look beyond this because everyone has an experience where they’ve been in the other person’s shoes (aka if they’re getting upset someone doesn’t like something they did, then surely they can consider the time they had the unpopular opinion?) And I think it’s possible to recognise that as deeply affected by a book as we may be (or as connected we might feel to it as its creator) we are not that piece of work. I get why it’s difficult, but I also think it’s possible to have reasoned discussions about these things without getting personally offended (for instance, it can be an objective fact that one person found Austen boring, without it affecting the objective fact that millions of other people do not find Austen boring- one person’s feelings do not effect this).

      And yes for sure, it’s not about the individual and everyone’s entitled to think what they like.

      Liked by 1 person

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