Welcome back, friends, readers, haters, and passersby for another contrarian rant on popular culture trends I avoid or otherwise can’t stand. These (sometimes) short and (always) sweet essays, titled Things You Like that I Don’t (TYLID), are an ongoing, if infrequent staple of this site, similar to my videogame and music reviews. They’re nice “side dishes” compared to this site’s main course of cinephilia essays and filmmaking analyses. In a way, they also live up to Express Elevator to Hell’s motto, “Saving the world, one rant at a time,” which I feel I don’t emphasize enough. Take these miniature rants as seriously or not so seriously as you please, then, and feel free to enlighten me as to whether you identify with these trends or not.
- Watching sitcoms on streaming platforms = Most streaming service subscribers have at least one bland, generic, feelgood sitcom in their queue; Friends (1994-2004) and The Office (2005-2013, the US one) seem to be two of the more popular choices, with the latter being one of the few non-Netflix Original staples of the Netflix platform until January 2021. While I understand the universal appeal of keeping at least some form of cinematic comfort food, old-school situational comedy is not the primary or even the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th reason why I pay money to watch Internet streamed content. I watch Netflix and/or Disney+ and/or HBO Max to watch truly cinematic television, not decades’ old multi-camera serials filmed in front of live-studio audiences for broadcast television.
- 1980s “Hair Metal” Bands = For a decade remembered for its Reagan Era excesses, violent, macho action flicks, and body-building, among other things, I find Generation X‘s nostalgia for bands like Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Poison, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Warrant, and similar acts puzzling. These bands’ obsession with slow, simplistic love ballads and flamboyant, androgynous clothing seem to clash with the 1980s aura of conservative machismo and historical revisionism. I suppose hair or “glam” metal bands’ incredible volume and braggadocios personalities fit with that decade’s general peacocking aesthetic, but little else about the movement does.
- My personal distaste for this style of music, however, is both a function of these artists’ bland, generic, repetitive choruses, flashy, hollow guitar solos, and simplistic percussion, as well as their obnoxious fan base. If you’re a millennial who came of age in the 2000s, chances are you had at least half a dozen teachers, sports coaches, babysitters, or family friends who played these bands’ obnoxious music nonstop and whined about how 1990s alternative rock (see also: grunge) ruined popular music forever.
- What irritates me the most about this subgenre of rock ‘n roll is how poorly it has aged relative to other hallmark rock movements from similar time periods, how its contemporary “revivals” — I use that word generously, mind you — seem a function of nostalgia alone, featured primarily as obtuse references in pop culture throwbacks to the 1980s in other media (e.g. Stranger Things  et al.). Unlike similar classical rock staples like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Nirvana, the Rolling Stones, The Who, etc., bands of this era and style feel distinctly “of the their time” in a bad way, lacking the timelessness of the greats of so many other, better rock movements. Every time you hear these artists in the gym, for example, you might think to yourself, “Oh, here’s another corny ’80s metal song. Must be a 45 year-old physical education teacher in charge of satellite radio today.” At least, that’s what I think to myself every time I hear the likes of “Cherry Pie,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Sister Christian,” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” in a public setting. These tiresome 1980s anthems, much like the disco movement of the 1970s, are evidence that mainstream popular music has always been bad in most every era. Catchy yet simplistic, empty songs can make mad bank for a while, but truly great music stands the test of time and can be enjoyed without feeling dated.
- Family-Friendly 3D Animation = The sheer absence of Dreamworks, Illumination, Walt Disney, and Pixar Studios 3D computer animated film reviews on this ostensible cinephilia website should indicate my lack of interest in that filmmaking style. I believe I have reviewed a grand total of one (1) 3D animated movie as of this writing (June 2021, Zootopia ), and the reason for that is most all of these movies look, sound, and feel the same. Like, exactly the same God damned movie, every time. The quality of each Despicable Me (2010, 2013, 2017), Ice Age (2002-), or How to Train Your Dragon (2010, 2014, 2019) script may vary from feature to feature, but most all of them have the same bland beats, the occasional hidden villain, obvious allegory, etc., and do nothing to differentiate themselves from each others’ identical 3D visual style.
- Does nobody else care that every mainstream computer animated feature made in Hollywood since 1995 copies the groundbreaking work of Toy Story (1995), beat-for-beat, down to the lighting, character models, and overall artistic design? At least the works of classical hand-drawn animation (i.e. “2D” animation) from Don Bluth, the 1990s Disney “Renaissance Era,” and others had some sort of identifiable, distinct style to them. Computer animated films like A Scanner Darkly (2006), Beowulf (2007), Advent Children (2005), and others have their problems, but they, like 2D animation from generations past, committed to unique, creative animation styles and color palettes that fitted their tone and stories rather than resting on the laurels of animators from decades ago.
- I am hopeful that 3D animation, much like other trends in contemporary cinema, may change for the better given the relative creative freedom many filmmakers now enjoy in popular streaming networks like Netflix. New animated shows like Love, Death + Robots (2019, 2021) and The Liberator (2020) appear to breathe life into this filmmaking style and offer ways for artists to break free from the suffocating confines of the family friendly, mainstream computer animation popularized by Pixar.
- Tattoos = I don’t have much to say about the art of skin ink other than I just don’t get the appeal. Both those who hate and love tattoo artistry acknowledge that tattooing is (a) painful as well as (b) semi-permanent, so why would I want a “sick,” “awesome” — or alternatively, “beautiful,” “stunning” — piece of art stabbed into my skin over and over again that I could never change without great cost? Unless I enter a religious convent or join an organized crime syndicate, I’ll never understand the allure of this ancient technique in the lives of normal, boring people.
Watching sitcoms on (our) Netflix has got to be the most intellectually bankrupt form of passive entertainment one can conceive or engage in. On the few and rare occasions a year my brother’s in town on a holiday, walking in on him while he has shit like Friends on makes me want to grab his neck and scream at him to expand his horizons with something like The Witch (playing only until June 30, 🤮) or Midsommar, Fincher, an A24 film, 2010s independent cinema or the odd 90s nostalgia dive a la disaster or action film or something with Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones. It’s not the nostalgia per se but the safe path of least resistance for entertainment (and food choices!). 😤
What’s your position on GnR and grunge? What’s wrong with Pearl Jam? Seattle? The Pacific northwest? My position on the lyricism of 90s rock movements is that I can’t make out the lyrics and tend to go for the aural assault and in turn miss out on the ethos and angst spoken in those works (I do however partake of underground/non-mainstream hip-hop music for the similies and word play).
I need to fix my (only) tat.
Guns N’ Roses feels similar to most of the 1980s hair metal crowd to me given the era of their inception, but many rock historians and musicians assured me their 1987 Appetite for Destruction helped kill off the showboat-y glam metal movement thanks to their more “hard rock” aesthetic. Their 3 immortal tracks, Sweet Child O Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, and Paradise City feel like a riff on the likes of Motley Crue or Twisted Sister, but with much better songwriting. Following their debut album, however, I feel like they burned out and am not a fan of Use Your Illusion (1991), though I listened to 2008’s Chinese Democracy for fun.
Grunge and early 1990s alternative, however, connect with me much better. I had a close friend in high school who was a huge fan of Nirvana in particular, and during my college years, Soundgarden became (and remains) one of my favorite artists. I like that movement’s heavy, “sludge”-like sound and complex mixture of songwriting formulas; the 1990-1995 grunge stuff had the heavy, aggressive texture of 1970s bands (e.g. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who) with a more somber, morose overtone. That identifiable style is similar in certain ways to my favorite artist of all time, Nine Inch Nails, which formed around the same time.
With regards to situational comedies in general, I’m afraid their ubiquity is something cinephiles will have to endure, even if a given title (e.g. Everybody Loves Raymond for me) manages to connect with us once in a while. Most of them, however, are little more than background noise, as you describe.