Positive Cynicism – What passes for a bold stance on the Internet

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

I simply said on Tumblr yesterday: “Kesha > Lady Gaga.”

I also said that it was just the way things worked for me personally. But still, saying something like that — really, having an opinion on the Internet at all — is like kicking over an anthill and watching the ants scurry around in impotent rage, knowing something needs to be attacked, but not really knowing why or how.

Yes, especially after seeing her perform on Saturday Night Live this weekend, I do like Kesha better than Lady Gaga. She’s more fun. Her music is silly and energetic, and she acts like we’re all in on this hilarious joke instead of going the Gaga route of holding herself at arm’s length from her persona and hiding behind a wall of performance art. It’s really just Cyndi Lauper vs. Madonna once again, and once again Cyndi seems much more talented and enjoyable and once again Madonna seems more calculated and ultimately hollow. So, yes, for me, Kesha > Lady Gaga.

What I still don’t know is why it matters. I lost my taste for this fan-driven rabbit chase a long time ago because, ultimately, it doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s not like a discussion of scientific fact or political realities: it’s a matter of personal taste. When your arguments can really only boil down to subjective preferences — “Well, I just like Lady Gaga better” vs. “Well, I just like Kesha better” — what is there left to argue about? Neither of us is right, and neither of us is wrong. We just know what we like.

I realize, of course, that looking at such arguments rationally would shut down vast areas of the Internet. The old trope that the Internet is driven by arguments over which captain is better, Kirk or Picard, is only an old trope because it’s so accurate. The Internet began as a way to communicate information instantly over long distances, and quickly devolved into fan stupidity, the way just about everything else does. Sure, we can’t stop wars or be asked to go to the moon anymore, but we can participate in long discussion streams about which actor is the better one on Doctor Who.

But as I always go to: what does my opinion, that Kesha is more entertaining than Lady Gaga, do to your opinion that Lady Gaga is the best thing in music? In a way, it’s just like a religious discussion. I used to get into it all the time because, frankly, I’m an atheist and I find religion laughable when it isn’t being dangerous. And I would often run into a person who just hated me because I felt that way. And my question was always: How does my thinking this way hurt your beliefs? And no one would ever answer that question.

But the fact is, as I saw last night, it really does hurt some people. The kids on Tumblr like to say that the wonderful thing about Tumblr is that everyone accepts you for who you are. That’s a wide-eyed, overly-optimistic, bullshit statement if ever there was one. Just witness the truly idiotic number of fan arguments going on there: Jonas Brothers fans vs. Justin Bieber fans, people who think Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato are in love vs. people who think they’re pulling a publicity stunt, Prequel fans vs. Prequel haters, people who love the Runaways because of Kristen Stewart vs. people who also never heard of The Runaways until a few months ago but love to claim they did because they get some kind of sick pleasure out of calling out the people who are honest about it. Etc etc etc.

I honestly think there’s a point where useless fan debate becomes something harmful, or at least indicates something truly negative about a person. Because what kind of person argues to the death that they’re right about something they can never be definitively right about? Someone who takes great pleasure in proving others wrong, I suppose, even though there’s no right or wrong in one of these things. This isn’t Ethics 101. This is Personal Preference, emphasis on personal.

Or maybe it’s someone who is insecure enough to feel threatened when someone just doesn’t like the thing they like. Someone so insecure about their identity that they’ve made the mistake of looking to pop culture, and not experience, to define who they are.

Seriously, how am I still getting shit a year later for my “bold stance” that Watchmen is a better movie than The Dark Knight? Honestly, how am I still getting shit 11 years later for liking Jar Jar Binks when, apparently, I’m “supposed” to despise him (because being a true Star Wars fan is hating every move made by George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars)? Yes, I hate Joss Whedon, and I’ve said so many times. I also hate Friends and Seinfeld. What does that do for you? Because it doesn’t do anything for me except decide which reruns to watch when there’s nothing else on TV.

Look, I can’t make up anyone’s mind for them, and I don’t want to. But I do think that arguing over which music you like better is a pursuit meant only for posers and teenagers. And while it is fun and interesting to debate the finer plot points of a movie like The Dark Knight, there has to be more meat there than “Fuck you, it’s genius!” I enjoy counting the virtues of Kirk vs. Picard, it has to be with a fan who realizes that, ultimately, there’s no winner in the debate, and only a loser would think otherwise. And I have no time for people who have so little personality that they’ve made being a Lady Gaga fan — or a Kesha fan, for that matter — an integral portion of their identity.

All I know is, I never want to be one of those guys still crying, 27 years later, that George Lucas put walking teddy bears in a kiddie movie and somehow ruined its integrity. The day I do that is the day I check myself into a padded room.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

  1. MC April 20, 2010
  2. James April 24, 2010

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