I used to be awful at knowing what I liked. The question I always dreaded as a child was “What’s your favourite film / song / TV show / game?”. I never knew what to say. This continued into much of my adult life, although now I could answer at least some of them.
What’s changed? Confidence. The confidence to trust in my own tastes. Most people can’t vocalise it, but it’s themes that draw us. Redemption, surviving abuse, revenge. It takes a while to really learn your favourites because you need to know yourself first.
Me and my sister often have a certain conversation. She asks if I’ve seen X film and I say no, and that I’m not interested in seeing it because it got bad reviews. She replies that I can’t know if a film is bad until I’ve seen it myself.
I fall into the camp that there are objective measures of good and bad. The logic is seductive; there’s a hedonistic, capitalist ideal of consuming the best media and nothing else: “I’ll only watch a film that has at least 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.” I’ve fallen into this myself in the past.
But on the other hand, maybe my sister is right. Some of my favourite books and shows wouldn’t be considered the best of all time. In fact, I was shocked to see that Revolutionary Girl Utena, which I consider to be the most groundbreaking and powerful Japanese animated series ever, came in 30th place in a list of the top 100 animes polled by NHK, under schlocky, cliché-ridden shows like Sword Art Online.
Songs, films, and books that I once claimed as my fave now hardly interest me. Tastes change, but likely I was only choosing them so I had something to say to people when they ask me that damned question.
People often malign teens for being disinterested and lacking meaningful opinions. Now that I’m a teacher, and reflecting back on my own painful adolescence, I’m realising that a lot of the time teens don’t have opinions because they just haven’t had the space and experience to develop them yet.
That’s how I felt about the favourites question, but really it applies to everything. For adults, too. We need to be willing to let our opinions, our ideologies, bake a little longer, to radically change shape in the oven and come out as the exquisite and eccentric cakes we are.
And then bake another layer if needed.