Semi-stupid Tuesday questions, Aimee Mann edition

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?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. 1) When I was in 3rd grade, I developed a visceral hatred of the entire Beach Boys oeuvre during the summer it was used to incessantly market a new water park in my town. Took me 20 years and much cajoling to finally listen to the masterpiece that is “Pet Sounds”, because of this.

    2) Also will not listen to any “pop” Christmas songs after working retail for a Christmas in college where it was constantly playing from the muzak. Years later when i was running a retail operation, I refused to play that channel in my own stores.

    To this day, the mere mention of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” will send me into apoplexy.

  2. wes anderson. saw bottle rocket at a screening for free, walked out two hours later feeling like i’d been robbed of mind, money, and soul. i’d never wanted to punch a movie in the face before. haven’t seen anything else by him. now, i don’t know if he deserves a fairer shake or not, but he ain’t gonna get it no how.

  3. Sum41’s second album (I believe entitled “Does This Look Infected?”). Loved it when I got it. Listened to it a ton.

    Then came the summer after my sophomore year of college. A college roommate stopped by my hometown and we went to a local bar for karaoke, thinking we’d just watch and sing. Turned out I knew a waiter and we drank hard and for free that night. But my car was there. Stupidly, OH SO STUPIDLY, I drove home. About half a mile. Somehow, miraculously, I made it home without anyone or anything getting hurt or damaged. Seemed like a great idea at the time and I was impressed with how well I did it. In the morning, I woke up and couldn’t believe I had done something so utterly stupid, and thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t in jail or dead or on trial for manslaughter. Of course, we were blasting that Sum41 album, which I really haven’t listened to since then since it reminds me of one of the straight up stupidest things I did and, in many ways, how I’m undeserving of where I am today.

  4. I have to second the ‘pop’ Christmas music. After having worked at a famous casino for 10 years, having to endure 8-9 hours of non-stop Christmas tunes beginning the day after Thanksgiving… I still cringe when I hear Madonna start in with “Santa, Baby”.

    We used to sing ‘alternative’ lyrics to the songs all the time. My personal favourite was changing “Winter Wonderland”around a bit.

    “Later on, we’ll conspire, as we drink by the fire..
    A cheap bottle of gin, and we will begin
    Drinking in our winter wonderland….”

      • If I said “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, that probably wouldn’t clear anything up, would it?

        • When I was in High School, one of the things we discussed was essays and the types of essays (yet another something that didn’t even come close to sinking in until I was in my 20’s) and one of the essays they had us read for the “Descriptive Essay” session was an essay my teacher positively swooned over before she handed it out to us. It was the essay where Dillard talked about the copperhead.

          A couple of years passed. I went to college. English 102. We studied “The Narrative/Descriptive Essay”. The professor gushed. It was that damn snake on that damn rock. I went off to Ohio, then came back to Colorado. I needed 3 more English Credits and there was a class on storytelling. Eh, why not. Day one? THAT ACCURSED SNAKE.

          I felt like the people in Numbers.

  5. Anything by the Grateful Dead. Working in Yellowstone in 1989, half our crew quit and took off to see the Dead. The last 3 weeks we were wretchedly short-staffed. And every time they’d come to San Francisco, the place would be crowded with Deadheads asking me for my hard-earned money so they could avoid paying their own way to follow their gods around. I can’t hear a Dead song without wanting to find some hippie to beat up. Or at least force to take a shower.

      • OK, my first draft said, “I can’t hear a Dead song without going punk and wanting to bash some hippie’s head against the curb.”


        I hate the Dead.

        • Ditto. {{Except for when I’m listening to one of their radio songs}}

  6. Putting aside all the tunes I hate to play in the context of my idiot friends’ bar bands, I reserve a special hatred for Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Also Elvis’ version of “Danny Boy”, a song I hate no matter who sings it, but Elvis is by far the worst.

    Matter o’ fact, pretty much anything by Elvis.

  7. I don’t find myself hating anything because of an association. But I do find myself *wanting* to hate certain artists for reasons I don’t quite understand. Mariah Carey – mentioned above – is a good example. When I see her perform on teevee I only reluctantly admit that it ‘wasn’t that bad’, when in fact I enjoyed it.

    Another artist is the Doors. When they’re not playing, I hate them. But when they’re on the radio, I sing along, snap my fingers, tap my feet. Sometimes I even play air-keys.

    When the songs over I go right back to hating them. Passionately.

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