"I really wanted to like it"--why?

I see this on the Dope a lot and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Someone will say that they saw a movie/read a book/watched a TV show/listened to a cd and that they really wanted to like it, or tried multiple times to like it, or kept watching, etc. to see if it got better.


Why not just shrug and move on? There are so many options out there, why try to like something particular?

This isn’t a complaint. I’m just confused.

I think it usually means that the work in question is of a type or genre the person really likes (or was created by a favored author/performer), and they were hoping it would be a fresh taste of one of their favorites. For some reason, it fell flat, and they pressed on or revisited it in hopes of finding something that would make it into what they had hoped it would be.

There may also be a peer pressure element in some cases. “Everyone says this movie/book/whatever is great, and that I’ll love it. So why do I hate it? I must be missing something…”

It’s always more fun to enjoy something than to not enjoy it, but it stings a little more when you feel like you came close to enjoying something but just didn’t fully connect. For me an example is the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. I like pirates, I like special-effects/action epics, I like Johnny Depp, Keira Knightly, and Orlando Bloom. On paper, it looks like a movie designed with my tastes specifically in mind! So when those films leave me totally cold, it seems like more of a loss than if it had just been Romantic Comedy #4822.

I wanted to like Star Trek V, Star Trek Voyager, Enterprise,…
Well, you get the idea.

Two recent examples come to mind. I really wanted to like The Ladykillers and King Kong, and both for the same reason. Both were remakes of films I really loved, and both were directed by directors I respected. However, both fell flat, IMO. I watched each one clear through, hoping it would get better, but I knew about halfway through during each that it just wasn’t gonna happen. Too bad, too.

Well, sometimes it’s because my friends like it. I had a friend who told me over and over again how much she adored The Killers, then she lent me a CD because she said I’d love them. I took that CD home and listened to it once. “this kinda sucks. It sounds so generic and emo.” I thought. But my friend loved it and, in hopes that it would grow on me, I listened again. And put it on repeat. And listened again and again and again, trying to find one particular thing I liked so that I could go back and say “I liked the third song” or “I liked the intros” instead of just “it’s not my thing.” I once had a CD that I loved and burned a few copies for my friends and the feeling I got when I realized they knew all the words was awesome, so I always want to do that for my friends.

And sometimes it’s something that I busted my ass to get to read or see… like a book that I reserved at the library four months ago that I finally got or a rated R movie that I begged my older friends to take me to. And I feel like a total fool finishing it and going, “that’s it, eh? that sucked.”

I agree with the consensus. You’d see this phrase used a lot in Studio 60 threads. It was an ensemble-cast workplace serial by Aaron Sorkin. I wanted to like it because it makes it easier to keep things organized in my head. I would only need one entry for Sorkin. As it is, I had to add a new one in the “Sucks” file.

I’ve read two Book 2’s of trilogies this past week where Book 1 just didn’t do it for me.

One was Maelstrom by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Anne Scarborough. Classic case of “I loved the original trilogy” (and much of McCaffrey’s writings) so I wanted to read another good book set in the world of Petaybee. Changelings (Book 1) was not a particularly good book, but it had it’s moments, and now I wanted to know what happened next. (I also had the idea that it was a two book series, not a trilogy or more–this might have made a difference. I don’t like books in series where one or more books seems to be more dedicated to setting up problems to be solved in the next book than actually resolving problems. Still, if someone asked me if I’d recommend the Twins of Petaybee series, I’d have to say no).

Book 2. Cartomancy by Michael A. Stackpole. Not a horrible book, but I don’t like the way that time passes. It’s a little light on interactions between characters, light on dialogue, and I’m still mad at the author for events that took place at the end of the first book. Still, why I am still reading this book? It’s here. I want to broaden my horizens, reading wise. Curisosity to see what happens next. There are bits and pieces which I like, just a little spread out for my taste.

Given that both of these books have a Book 3 which is not yet published, I am likely to one day have to decide whether to read that book. I probably will read book 3 of the Twins of Petaybee series, I like the characters, if not the plots, too well to easily turn away–and I hate cliff hanger endings. The Sequel to Cartomancy? I’ll probably skip it. Not one of my favorite authors, so already at a disadvantage as far as getting me to remember to look for it, not a book in my usual genre, not a book I am likely to enjoy that much. Maybe someday, but not a book I’m anticipating highly.

I’ve sampled a couple of Honor Harrington Novels by David Weber. Never read one all the way, just sampled. Clear case of “Science Fiction Series of a sort I often like, featuring a lead female character” that I just can’t get into. I don’t know why. I’ve seen Honor Harrington listed with the Vorkosigan Saga and (I think) other series that I’ve read, and I think “I should like this, too”, but I don’t.

I watched the movie A Prairie Home Companion with my parents recently. I think we were all a little dissapointed with the plot, and not thrilled by the movie. But we generally like Garrison Keillor, have seen Prairie Home Companion live, and enjoyed the music, seeing some of the radio voices come to life, etc. Not quite what you asked, especially since we will shrug and move on, probably not watch it again, but still. . .

I’d be surprised if I ever wrote the sentence " I really wanted to like it". But I know I’ve had that sentiment as I’ve read various books–especially when I try to broaden my horizons. If someone whose opinion I respect says it’s good, or if a favorite author comes out with a new book, or even just if a lot of other people seem to enjoy something, there can be a strong desire to want to like something. And so I may read it, and keep reading after I’ve decided it isn’t entirely to my taste, in the hopes that I will see what someone else saw. Or out of a desire to see what happens next–especially if I like a character.

Adding to the peer pressure theory, a movie like Brokeback Mountain can be held up (inappropriately) as a litmus test about how one feels about gay rights and if it leaves you cold because you don’t like the premise, actors, performances or writing, you’re missing something critical.

There’s a relevant Kids in the Hall sketch showing three recurring gay characters who go to see Intimate Circumstances, a pro-gay film. It’s hilarious. Video clip here.

Let us take for example the new remake of The Hitcher. I really want to like this film because I am a huge fan of the original 1986 version of the Hitcher, but I have a bad feeling about it. I will go in with expectations, but I suspect a lot of them will be misconceptions and bias based on those very expectations. And, regardless, I’ll still take it for its merits and timelieness and appreciate it within context. And might, with time, and perspective come to really like it. My appreciation isn’t static, I’m not dogmatic…

Clarify: I will go in with expectations, but I suspect a lot of them (my dislikes) will be misconceptions and bias based on those very expectations.

When someone with similar tastes in entertainment writes a rapturous review of something and talks about how much they love it, I want to feel that same high. When I don’t, I feel disappointed about missing out on a great experience. Not pressured in the sense of “Oh, I don’t dare tell anyone I didn’t feel the same way,” because I don’t keep friends around who can’t handle disagreement, but drat it, there’s too little “good stuff” to feel like I can afford to miss out on something wonderful. I enjoy the sensation of being able to talk about something with like minds as well.

I have been known to completely revise my opinion of a particular work after giving it another try when I’m at a different place in my life. Most of the time my opinion doesn’t change, but when it does, the change can be profound. I’ve even been known to call a person while in the throws of sudden passion for, say, a piece of music, and tell them “Oh, now I get it!” If I didn’t “really want to like it,” several works I love now wouldn’t have gotten that essential second chance.