Let me start by saying there was a clear recent instance that motivated this topic, so I may be venting a bit in the following column; bear with me. It all begin with a trip to the movie theater, some classic rock and a feeling of pure, unadulterated joy.
Earlier this month, I was anxiously awaiting the release of a film I'd been looking forward to for some time, "Bohemian Rhapsody." If you saw the trailer in the weeks leading up to it, I'm guessing you understand my level of excitement. With the iconic music and showmanship of Queen on display, this seemed like a cinematic experience that had to be witnessed on as big a screen as possible.
At the start of the month, the time had finally come. My brother-in-law had a Saturday off to boot, meaning the whole family would be able to join in the fun. Before we secured our tickets and made our way to the theater, there was one issue that gave me pause — the reviews.
Now, I am not one that abides by movie reviews as a definite ruling on the value of any cinematic work of art. By simple logic, that is impossible, as reviews are subjective by nature. However, that's not to say I don't put a small amount of stock in what critics are saying about a film (particularly those I follow regularly who have similar tastes as my own).
Going into "Bohemian Rhapsody" I thought there was no way critics would pan this. It looked like sheer fun. I didn't think it would be a perfect movie, but I thought it would get at least get a passing grade — that of your standard summer blockbuster fare. By most measures, it failed (earning a 49, an F on a standard grading scale, on Metascore).
That's what the critics thought ... but it didn't matter. By the time Freddie Mercury officially joined his bandmates, I was all in on this movie. Especially if you love music, this movie is just exhilarating (though that's not to say there aren't a fair share of heartbreaking moments, given Mercury's personal history) — and one of the smaller casting choices made helps highlight the iconic nature of this band. Most audience members agreed, too, as "Bohemian Rhapsody" currently has an average rating of 8.4 stars out of 10 based on IMDB user reviews.
For me, the lesson is clear. Don't let others tell you what to enjoy — or sap the joy you take from something. Admittedly, I use movie reviews more as a guideline, but I am the one who ultimately determines the personal value any film (or other work of art) holds.
Another example on the smaller screen is the joy I take from watching reality cooking competitions. When I saw Netflix would be releasing its own such show ("The Final Table") over the Thanksgiving holiday, I got perhaps a bit more excited than I should have. Given my penchant for shows like "Top Chef" and "Chopped," though, it's safe to say I was gleefully looking forward to it.
In this case, it is not so much the critics but rather my mom who pans this form of entertainment. She is consistently asking why I (and my sister) would bother watching something I could be doing myself — and reap the fruits of the actual act of cooking. While I'm not actually sure I could pull off what these cheftestants attempt, what I do know is that there is simply something comforting about watching others prepare (often elevated) comfort food ... so get off my back, mom!
Personally, I have fallen victim to this act of critiquing and looking down on certain forms of media myself. For me, it happens anytime country music comes on in my presence. Somehow, even being raised in Kansas my whole life, I never took a liking to the genre and often try to rain on the parade of those taking value from that music.
Having some friends who have taken me out two-stepping has gotten me to ease off my more extreme, anti-country music at all costs view. Of course, that's a key part of the solution — being around others who get joy from something is an easy way to spread that feeling. I've tried to do that with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and encourage anyone reading this column to take that tack.
Next time you come across something you don't like, don't play the role of critic; rather, put yourself in the shoes of a fan and try to share in that enjoyment. You know, having a little fun never hurt anyone.
— Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.