Hype Aversion/Backlash as an Immune Response?

by lucidfox 1 min read4th Jul 201112 comments


"Check out this book/movie/show! It's got everything! Everyone and their mother is talking about it, and it seems just your type!"

Sounds familiar? Chances are, more than once such hype made you, if anything, more reluctant to approach the work in question, and if you do, you may be up for bitter disappointment; the work may not even be that bad per se, and fairly enjoyable if you just heard about it on your own, but it simply fails in your mind to live up to the massive hype that positions it as the best thing to happen to the universe since the Big Bang.

I know that in such situations, my mental energy is often channeled in the opposite direction: into venting bitter disappointment, into arguing that it's not as great as everyone seems to think it is, into looking for just about anything critical anyone has to say about it, anywhere. Finding refuge in knowing that at least I'm not lonely in my dissent. Except when I apparently am.

Typically, I expect any work of fiction, community, or social movement to have its share of praisers and critics. When a healthy balance of positive and negative opinions is preserved, I'm calm about it, regardless of my personal opinion on the subject. When something is universally critically panned, it sometimes sparks my curiosity. ("Come on, it can't possibly be that bad!" Except when it occasionally is.) But when something is unanimously liked, and criticism is next to nonexistant, and I just plain "don't get it"... then things get ugly.

"What in the blazes did everyone find in it? Why am I not affected by this outbreak of unanimous praise?" I've had this feeling before about Neon Genesis Evangelion (which by now has got its own share of skepticism and criticism), about the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise (which I now actually like, although its obsessive fandom still rubs me the wrong way); the current contenders are Twitter, Steven Moffat's grip over Doctor Who, and My Little Pony.

I suspect that in my case, the backlash is an automatic response that is a part of my "defense mechanism", so to speak, against hostile memes. I can usually detect not-so-subtle attempts at mind manipulation, such as loaded questions, biased presentation and dodging inconvenient subjects; this is why, for example, I don't watch TV news and feel uncomfortable when someone else does, as if I can feel it trying to invade my brain.

I suspect, thus, that such an "allergic" reaction to hype is my attempt to balance the equation. The more universal the praise is, the less criticism there is (and the more quickly critics are shunned), the more my mind treats it as some kind of infection of the collective conscious, a malignant meme that it needs to repel. I don't, of course, seriously believe there is some kind of mind control at work, but it feels like it, and so I subconsciously try to distance myself from the event, trying to maintain integrity even in the face of apparently the entire world going mad. Hoping, perhaps, to slow down the spread, even if it might seem as hopeless as trying to survive in the middle of an ocean in a trough during a thunderstorm.

Perhaps it represents a bias, perhaps it's not a big deal, and I should just learn not to let such things bother me, even when I feel like a lonely dissenter?