Guest Post

Reading what you want | Written by Gail

reading what you wantPassover’s right around the corner – This Friday night! – and instead of having the entire week off, I have two more days of university, so another short one this week.

I’m studying Film and Television. This means that sometimes my homework is to watch something. I have a class called “Proficiency” every Thursday evening, where the teacher gives a little lecture (anywhere between ten minutes and an hour) and we watched the movie the lecture is about. The movie is something historically significant – anything from Metropolis to Pather Panchali – and in chronological order, too.

I’m also sharing classes with Film Buffs™ who are constantly recommending movies to me – I’m more of a TV person, so I haven’t even heard of some of these. And that’s okay, of course – wanting to share love for something I enjoyed is a core part of who I am. My problem is when people say – “You have to watch it!” Because, well,

no I don’t.

Nobody can force you to consume any content you don’t want to. Even in the context of school – I might have to learn about Nazi propaganda, for example, but that doesn’t mean I have to go and watch every Nazi propaganda movie ever made. Or in my Proficiency class – I might have to watch one movie by a racist, but I certainly don’t have to watch all of them.

My point is that you could spend your (free) time doing absolutely anything. If it isn’t something you need to consume to pass a class or you need to review because that’s what you do for a living like a lucky person, watch what you want, read what you want, listen to what you want.

When it comes to choosing between a book by a dead man who couldn’t recognize a complex female character if she slapped him in the face but is considered a classic and a book released in the last ten years about a queer autistic lady*, I’m going go choose the newer one, because it’s the one that excites me. I choose to read – and my choice is going to be changed if I feel obligated to read something boring. It’s your free time. Why consume media you don’t want to just because somebody else thinks you have to?

Happy Passover – chag kasher vesameach, everyone.

* Failure to Communicate, a fantastic read, definitely recommended.

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Please note: This post is posted a week late and that is entirely my (Lauren’s) fault. Life was weird last week but we’re back on track & Gails writing is as eloquent as always.


16 thoughts on “Reading what you want | Written by Gail”

  1. Welcome back, another interesting topic of discussion to digest. It’s certainly great to live in a free society without any obligation to read or enjoy a specific type of media. I suppose the contrarian or downside to that liberty is the danger of only consuming any form of media that falls in your own personal comfort zone and living in an echo chamber.

    In the UK where we’re based controversial films such as A Clockwork Orange was self censored by Kubrick for decades, even A Life of Brian was derided as blasphemous for a long period but both in the optics of today are viewed entirely differently.

    Certainly there is a natural tendency to pushback against any attempt to force or push an opinion or subject matter on you, I guess personally I tend to try and consume a mixed pool of media both those I agree with and more contrarian voices to find a balanced approach which is difficult.

    Anyway, long ramble over 🙂

    1. I’m not objecting to recommendations or attempts to broaden your mind – I’m pointing out that for a very, very long time, literary (and film) canon belonged to very specific people. Classics are almost always from a Specific Group’s pov and a lot of the recommendations that led me to this conclusion were essentially “sure he’s a dick for xyz reason, but you HAVE to watch/read/consume this… Because.” Recommend away. But I’m no longer telling people they have to consume media of any kind. Our lives are our own, and we are living in an age where more & more diverse media is coming out. If someone wants to consume nothing but fiction podcasts, they’re still broadening their scope by listening to them. I’m not going to insist they read books if they don’t appeal to them, especially when audio fiction is so diverse nowadays. People deserve the respect of choosing what they spend their time on in a way that benefits then, and if that involves never seeing a rape scene – which Clockwork Orange has – or suffering through bad British humor – life of Brian is one of my least favorite movies even for the overrated group it belongs to – then… That’s okay. Because life choices and tastes vary wildly.

    2. Also, I welcome long rambles with open arms! They’re great to read and it means people are actually thinking and forming opinions about what I’m saying. That’s a good thing, in my view!

  2. I have always marched to my own drum so I love when a post like yours comes along and just validates the fact that just because everyone thinks you should watch or read something doesn’t mean you have to. Great post and really well thought out!

  3. I have been thinking about this recently too because I have been in such a “chick lit” mood. I feel like I should be reading fantasy which everyone loves but it just isn’t for me. I keep trying because I want to be in on the conversation, thankfully not because anyone pushes it on me! :)

    1. Honestly I’m willing to try almost every genre, and I’ve found books I enjoy everywhere. But I think there’s a lot of pressure to read very specific books mostly written by old white men. I’ve enjoyed a lot of books written by old white men – but I’m sick of the pressure, and I’m sick of people telling me I HAVE to read them. And the pressure is exactly that – trying to be part of the conversation. Nobody has to tell me I Have to watch The Godfather – it’s implied by the fact that it’s hard to join a conversation on film history without it coming up. For example.

  4. This is a great discussion topic! And while I agree that nobody can make you read something you don’t want to, I think as a book blogger there is definitely a kind of pressure to read what others read too, or read what’s hot and new. Though I haven’t really let that get to me, or caught myself before it happened. And no one should be shamed for what they read, really.

    1. A lot of the comments I’ve gotten so far have been “well this hasn’t happened to ME” – but I’m not sire this is true. Any time we jump on a bandwagon, any time we read a classic, any time we recommend something with a YOU HAVE TO READ THIS – all of that falls under what I’m talking about.

      1. I definitely agree! I think we just don’t like to accept that we can be pressured into something even if that pressure is not necessarily negative. It’s definitely an interesting topic to think about and to discuss!

  5. This is a great post! Recently I’ve definitely been feeling like I’m not reading what people ‘expect’ of me as I’m wanting easy reads, and I do need to remember not to feel pressured to read other things!

  6. Loved this. There is such a culture in today’s society about people “needing” to read, watch, or listen to something, and sometimes it can just become too much! Outside of the YA community, a lot of the times, when I say I am a reader and a writer, I get asked what my favorite book is. When it isn’t some classic by a dead white man, I am ridiculed, and I sometimes feel embarrassed enough that I now have two answers to that question, depending on who is asking. I hate that I feel that way, and I wish people would stop making people feel bad for things that they love!

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