I’m not one to fall for hype. Usually the more I feel like people or advertisers want me to like something, the more skeptical I am about that thing. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, I’ll come upon a work that seems like something that I will love. Many times I do end up loving that thing. Recent cases include Sleepy Hollow, Janelle Monae’s albums, and Ender’s Game (both the book and the movie). And then there are works that make me feel like I’m on a first date with someone who looked like a great match on paper, but with whom, for some indefinable reason, I have zero chemistry.
This post contains only my extremely subjective opinion. It’s not an objective analysis of these works or a statement regarding the character, intellect, or taste of those who do love them. 10 through 6 are things I wanted to love but instead only liked. Or merely didn’t actively dislike. 5 through 1 are things for which I ended up feeling something between annoyance and trauma. I realize I am wrong about all of them.
10. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993)
I did like this one, kind of, but it was a huge disappointment because I really wanted to LOVE it. Much Ado About Nothing ties with Twelfth Night as my favorite Shakespearean play. The cast for this version is unbelievable. Kate Beckinsale! Denzel Washington! Wilson from House! I just couldn’t buy Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as the leads, though. I didn’t feel like I was watching Beatrice and Benedick. I felt like I was watching two graduates of The William Shatner School of Hammy Acting play Beatrice and Benedick.
Like Much Ado, I don’t dislike Grimm. I do enjoy it. I watch it most weeks. But while I love elements of Grimm (notably the Portland setting, the German folklore, and Monroe and Rosalee together and individually), I find I merely like the show as a whole. It’s a pleasant diversion when there’s nothing else to catch my attention. When Sleepy Hollow came out, a friend of mine commented that Sleepy Hollow is what he’d wanted Grimm to be. I think that sums it up for me as well.
Everything about this TNT drama seems like I should really enjoy it. I love cheesy detective shows that focus more on the quirky crime-solvers than the actual crimes. I love dry, witty cynicism. I love Rachel Leigh Cook. And yet, I’ve stayed tuned for this show after Rizzoli and Isles at least a dozen times, and I can’t tell you a single thing about a single episode. Except that Rachel Leigh Cook is beautiful when she’s bitchy.
7. THE OFFICE (BBC)
I love British humor, and I love the American version of The Office. This seemed like a no-brainer. The handful of episodes I’ve seen were entertaining enough, but didn’t compel me to watch more.
I never thought I’d say this about a movie, but Battleship disappointed me by not being bad enough. I mean, it was based on a toy made of grids and pegs, and it starred Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Rhianna, and a bunch of CGI aliens! I went into this movie expecting something gloriously stupid. Instead, the movie tried too hard to actually be good, and ended up being forgettably mediocre.
I had some misgivings about this because I was never a fan of Fred Armisen on SNL. *coughblackfacecough* But I liked crunchy comedy, Portland, and Carrie Brownstein, so I gave it a chance. Maybe I’d like Armisen better with better writing and directing and no blackface, I told myself. I was wrong. I keep coming back to Portlandia hoping I’ll get over it. The writing is witty and clever. Carrie Brownstein is wonderful. The jokes are spot-on for someone who was crunchy before it was cool (I was helping my mom divide co-op orders of organic amaranth flour in kindergarten). Alas, for some reason, Fred Armisen is just one of those actors who annoys me by existing.
This show looked like it’d be a great guilty pleasure. Gossip Girl in a French castle! The pilot ended up feeling more guilty than pleasant, though. I really did not want to see Susan Pevensie’s boyfriend try to rape Mary Queen of Scots under Anne Shirley’s orders. I might give this one another try when it goes to Netflix, but in the meantime, I haven’t felt compelled to watch it in prime time.
3. THE LAST BATTLE
This was probably my first literary disappointment. I was six years old, almost seven. I’d read through all the Narnia books by myself. I loved them. I mean, LOVED them. It was my first fantasy fandom. I was writing Narnia fanfiction before I even knew fanfiction was a thing. I spent hours imagining adventures with all my favorite characters. My absolute favorite character was Aravis Tarkheena, because she was smart and snarky and she had a talking horse. Most of all, she was a brown princess.
Then I got to The Last Battle, in which it is repeatedly and explicitly stated that the bad Calormenes are dark and the good Narnians are white. I was absolutely heartbroken. I felt like my imaginary friends didn’t want to play with me. From my adult perspective, I’m more aware of Imperialist English attitudes toward the Middle East, and of C.S. Lewis being a product of his culture. But I didn’t know any of that at the time, and I sure as hell didn’t know anything about political correctness. I was friggin’ six. All I knew was that if Lucy and Susan Pevensie met me for real, they’d think I was a bad guy because I looked like a dark Calormene instead of a white Narnian. Not that I could meet Lucy anyway, because she was dead. And apparently I couldn’t get to Narnia if I liked nylons and lipstick like Susan.
I wrote a (probably awful) fanfiction retconning the whole damn book. I don’t remember a thing about it, but I imagine it was better than the original.
2. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
I found this show before hearing any of the hype. One of my best friends, whose taste often coincides with mine, had seen the first few episodes and rated it “interesting, but I’m not sure.” I checked out the description on Netflix. Kate Mulgrew piqued my interest, as did that chick from But I’m A Cheerleader! and Laverne Cox. These ladies remain the biggest reasons I wish I could love this show.
I couldn’t get past the pilot. God, I hated the pilot so much. I hated that Piper “used to be a lesbian.” I hated the predatory lesbian prison stereotypes. I hated the thug/ghetto Hispanic prison stereotypes. I can’t help wondering how many of the queer OITNB fangirls have grown up having to make an effort to distance themselves from the stereotype of “thug,” “felon,” “ghetto,” or “person who belongs in prison.” I’ve noticed that most of them are white and/or grew up middle-class. I’m all for more LGBT women and women of color in media, but CAN THEY NOT BE IN FUCKING PRISON??? Can a show have an integrated cast without the white people being literally forced to live and work alongside the people of color? Can the people of color be in the same social strata as the white people? Can there be Latina main characters who are not maids, not immigrants, not from the ghetto, and NOT? IN? FUCKING? PRISON?????
1. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
It took me awhile to decide between this and OITNB for #1. Rocky Horror won because, although I hated OITNB more, Rocky Horror was the bigger disappointment. I wanted to love this movie for the experience of loving it. I wanted to go to midnight showings in campy costumes and throw toast at the screen and make a jump to the left and a step to the right. And I can’t even put a finger on why I didn’t like it. I could make a long list of its problematic elements, but there are things I do love that have as many problematic elements if not more. I enjoyed Twilight unironically, for goodness’ sake! Alas, it was not to be. I just found this movie downright unpleasant to watch. Depressing, even. Really depressing. I had to watch Monty Python sketches for about half an hour to make myself un-depressed enough to function again. Although I don’t regret having watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I could easily go the rest of my life without watching it again.
But I will still do the Time Warp.
3 responses to “Top 10 Things I Wanted To Love, But Didn’t”
It might please you to know that all those tropes you hated in the OITNB pilot were itentionally; they represented Piper’s really awful, awful mindset–and acknowledged in-universe as REALLY awful–/at that point in time/, and are gloriously deconstructed and torn to pieces as the show progresses. The show set them up so that they could be broken down as Piper slowly becomes less of a shitty human being.
And while I’d love to see more diversity in television outside of prison too, the show directly addresses the very real fact that racism and bigotry mean there /are/ less straight white people in prisons than basically any other demographic. And they treat all of their characters with an incredible amount of respect, which is kind of really great.
(I also feel like I should point out that of the Narnia books featuring Calormenes, Last Battle is the one that actually says they’re NOT all evil, and that Aslan doesn’t care what you look like or what religion you follow as long as that religion makes you a better person. I mean, I’m not arguing against the really harmful aspects of Narnia as a series, but that one point in particular itched at me because it goes against the entire message of the book. The Calormenes aren’t evil. They were never evil. Their portrayal in the series is /awful/ but the only thing explicitly stated about them is that it doesn’t matter what god you do good in the name of; and that if you do evil in Aslan’s name he isn’t going to forgive you the evil deed just because you gave him lip service. It only matters that you do good. Like, Aslan says that. Almost in those exact words.)
(Still problematic, but not for those precise reasons.)
^ “Upvoting” this comment as a good analysis of both works. Everything you said about The Last Battle (which I have reread a few times in the last couple of decades lol) is accurate. I probably wouldn’t have had the emotional reaction to it that I did if I’d read it when I was older and more aware of things like England’s imperialist history. I read Lord of the Rings for the first time in my late teens, and while I can see the same problematic cultural influences in Tolkien’s writings, I had enough distance and objectivity that I didn’t have the visceral reaction to it that I did with Narnia. And I don’t think Lewis was deliberately trying to make brown kids feel bad. I honestly doubt the idea of brown kids reading his books ever occurred to him. But my first memories of The Last Battle are what they are, and although I can see its literary merit as an adult and look forward to sharing Narnia with my future kids, I’ve never really been able to enjoy that book because of the memories associated with it.
I haven’t gone back to OITNB, but based on spoilery reviews I’ve read, what you said about that sounds accurate, too. Which is likely why most of my LGBTQ friends really enjoy it. It sounds like it’s a solid, well-written show. I am glad there’s a show that calls attention to and deconstructs things like Piper’s “really awful, awful mindset”, and the over-representation of minorities in the US penal system. I just don’t enjoy watching it. That’s the kind of thing I’ll watch a documentary about, and then watch something stupid and funny to get my mind off it. And for someone else, OITNB might be that stupid, funny thing, which is cool.
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