This week’s Question is the flipside of a question I asked a little while ago, which was about songs or other artistic expressions readers liked, not because of the intrinsic quality of the work, but solely based upon the context in which they first experienced it. My example was the wretched-yet-strangely-beloved song “Steal My Sunshine” by Len, which tells you all you need to know about how divorced from merit such affection is capable of being.
Today I ask the converse Question — instead of loving the song or show or book or whatever, which do you dislike for reasons you understand to be totally unrelated to their quality? Which have been caught up in someone else’s blame, tarred by someone else’s brush?
I have two examples.
In the NPR listening area where I live, every Sunday night they play “Selected Shorts,” a lovely show wherein acclaimed actors read pieces of short fiction before an audience. There is nothing about it that would make me dislike it, and indeed I have come to enjoy the program again more recently. But when I lived in my previous home (which is within the same listening area) while working at my old job, “Selected Shorts” was often what was playing as my weekend wound down and I prepared to face the coming work week. It became psychologically associated with the transition between recreation and returning to a job I hated. ( Having found a job I truly enjoy, it’s funny how obvious it now is that I was miserable in a way that wasn’t even clear to me then.) After a while, I started having a visceral, vaguely nauseated feeling when I’d hear the theme song start, and I stopped listening to the show. Which is really unfair to the perfectly nice program.
The other is to a song on the soundtrack to the movie “Magnolia,” almost all of which comprises tunes by Aimee Mann. (For the record, my beloved co-blogger does a very amusing impression of Ms. Mann at the end of the “Voices Carry” video, which I now think of every time the song comes on the radio.) I think Aimee Mann is totally cool. She has a short but hilarious cameo in a later episode of “Buffy,” which makes me adore her all the more. And I’m sure I’d like the song just fine if I had become acquainted with it under different circumstances. Alas, it was used by an ex-boyfriend to help explain how he was feeling at the end of our completely ridiculous, histrionic, brief romance, which then prompted me to listen to it over and over again with steadily-mounting feelings of loathing and contempt. It’s been ages since this all happened, and so I could probably listen to it now without feeling the need to strangle someone. But for years I have refused to even see the movie because I hated the song so much. Which is really unfair to Aimee Mann and Paul Thomas Anderson, who is otherwise one of my favorite directors.
So there are my two. What are yours? Who deserves a fairer shake than you can give due to circumstances beyond its control?