When I was much younger I had a school teacher, that I did not like who was really into Star Trek. He made us watch a few episodes in class and even made his own episode at Universal Studios, where he wore Vulcan ears. As a result I took a dislike to all Stars Trek. More recently, I have befriended people who are very much into Star Trek and I have watch quite a bit of the Next Generation and realized, I like the show, quite a bit and that I would probably have liked it when I was younger, if I had found it under different circumstances.
I have heard other cases of people getting turned off to a work, artists, series or group by the people that like or are identified with it. I have definitely known people who will dislike a musician or band because they dislike that their fans. For example, I personally had difficulty get into the Grateful Dead, because of the ultra-hippyish, image of their fans, but have since found that their records sound pretty good. Additionally I had a coworker who strongly disliked Jimmy Buffet because of his ability to get middle aged accountants and their wives dancing. I also once dated a woman who could not get into the music of Bob Dylan because she had once dated a failed singer/songwriter who liked him.
It seems that nearly everyone can find an example of something they cannot get into because some other person or group of people ruined it for them by liking it themselves. Something about this bothers me. Why do we let people we dislike have such a big role in determining our taste? Should we be judging all work on it’s individual merit instead?
I do acknowledge that there are quite a few cases where the artist in question is specifically identifying his or herself as part of a distinct subculture, such as in the case of much punk, gangster rap or country music, and I can see why this may not appeal to individuals that do not identify as part of that culture. But I still find that these genre all contain good stuff that people should be open to. I personally like getting glimpses into cultures I do not identify with, if the content has artistic merit.
I realize the that there are opposite cases as well, where people get into a work or artist, because people they like enjoy it. This can be just as bad, when it means letting other people determine your taste, or using your taste as a means of image crafting. At the same time though, I see nothing wrong with enjoying a musician because you identify or relate with him or her, or identifying with a subculture that shares your values. Just so long, as you are not falling into some sort aesthetic conformity where you are no longer thinking for yourself, it is all good.
There are also the related cases where people will like something because it is popular or dislike it for the same reason. I have known quite a few people who will love a work until it catches on then stop enjoying it. I have even seen some predict this happening to themselves. To some extent I can relate. If I hear a song wherever I go, I often won’t feel like hearing it when I get home. I even acknowledge that if some of my favorite artist suddenly made it big, they would be thrust upon people who do not share my appreciation for them. At the same time, there are many artists who have become extremely successful that I am a big fan of, and am glad they have given there creativity such wide exposure (and of course, I do want the creators I love to see success, so long as it does not water down their creativity). I try to avoid taking the popularity of a work, or how underrated or overrated it might be, into consideration when deciding whether I like something. How successful I am at this may be a matter of debate, as it is often hard to separate our opinions of a work from our situation at the time.
My point here is this, be open to new things, and judge them on their own merit. Don’t let other people dictate your taste to you. Don’t set out to be a conformist or contrarian, both fail for the same reasons. Remember, there are no guilty pleasure. Don’t let anyone put you down for what you enjoy.