I had a conversation with a visiting friend the other day about the movies I'd been watching, and she jumped all over me about Twilight, which I very soon gathered she disapproved of massively. She had quite a lot to say on the subject from the Twilight books being one long Mary Sue to all pop-culture examinations of the vampire theme being flawed because we project our modern-day conceits onto an ancient myth that was created in the days when people were much less educated and much more simple in their outlooks and really did believe in demons and vampires as a legitimate explanations for the travails that befell them.
I tried in vain to point out that all kinds of modern stories have their grounding in myths, legends or folk tales. Each generation seems to want to explore the same themes over and over again with new and modern takes on them, but... I was not actually permitted to speak. This was one of those conversations where no give and take discussion was allowed. Each time I tried to say something, I never got more than half a sentence out before being interrupted and lectured some more on how foolish, trivial and boring my latest interest was. Paragraph after paragraph of passionate denunciation poured out of her, in her efforts to steamroller the subject of vampires as flat as possible. As soon as I realized that we weren't actually going to have a discussion, and that absolutely no input was going to be required or welcomed from me except perhaps an eventual apology for being interested in vampires, I waited for her to pause for breath and then quickly changed the subject so that we could talk about something else.
I swear, when I introduced the subject, I was not gushing or monologuing. I'm very sensitive about not boring people with long speeches on the things I'm interested in. I don't appreciate it when other people do that to me, you see. Usually I throw a topic out there along with whether I'm pro or con and then gauge the level of interest before I pursue it any further.
Unfortunately, however, this was one of those situations where we would have had an argument and gotten mad at each other if I had responded in anything like the same vein.
I remember going through something similar with my father when we went to see that last Star Trek movie. I loved it and he hated it. Oh, how he hated it. He hated it because it was, among other things, 'juvenile and unrealistic'. In vain, I attempted to point out that science fiction and realism were all elbows and knees in bed (okay, I didn't put it quite that way, but you get my drift), and if one went to see a Hollywood blockbuster that was part of the Star Trek franchise and expected something mature, serious and realistic, one was destined to be disappointed. But a discussion wasn't possible. His disappointment with the movie was as big as my enjoyment of it, so there was really no point in we two discussing it. I have since found other people to discuss the movie with, but I don't think he has because everyone we know liked it.
Anyway, what bothers me about this kind of behavior is a lack of live and let live. If I don't like something that someone else likes, the last thing I'm going to do is try to ruin it for them or belittle their choice. To what end? Am I saving them from some horrible consequence of their actions? Am I improving my relationship with them? Am I helping them to build character in the face of adversity by trying to suck the joy out of something that gives them pleasure? Does it somehow empower me to express my opinion to someone I call a friend in a derisive and tactless way?
To clarify, I'm not against discussion or debate. In fact, I'm quite interested in discussing issues with people whose viewpoints and opinions are different from my own. But both parties should be respectful and should let the other person speak, too. I'm not talking about a fight or an argument where two people are feeling antagonistic toward each other and each person is trying to defeat the other. I'm talking about friends or family members (the kind that like each other) being able to say to each other, "I tried para-sailing the other day and I really liked it," or "I'm thinking about getting a cat," or "I like gladiator movies," without their good friend expressing contempt and disgust vehemently at length while refusing to allow the original speaker to get a word in edgewise.
It's also not like I've never done this myself. I've done exactly the same thing in the past (in my youth), without questioning or being fully cognizant of my motives in sneering at someone's interest or opinion. I know I did it more than once. All I remember about how I felt while doing it was that my focus was entirely on ME and MY clever, barbed point-by-point condemnation. I did actually feel sort of powerful while doing it. Eventually, however, there came an occasion when I noticed the somewhat crestfallen expression on the face of my friend/victim, and became aware that in my zeal to display my cleverness, I had just trampled all over their happiness in their hobby or passtime. I remember feeling ashamed of myself and regretful that I had gone so far and said so much. After all, I could have said it differently and much more briefly; for example, "No thank-you, I truly don't enjoy fruitcake but I'm happy for you that you love it and that you have some to enjoy."
The girl with whom I had this vampire 'conver-slapdown-tion' is an otherwise kind, helpful and compassionate person who is about 8 times smarter than me, and in fact, anyone else I know. In fact, I honestly think she's brilliant. She knows a great deal about an astonishing variety of subjects, and she has lots of opinions. I'm not mad at her and my enthusiasm for Twilight remains undimmed. We've had give and take discussions before, so I know she's capable of it. I guess there was something about the subject of vampires that makes it a hot-button subject for her. I'm certainly not going to say the 'V'-word in her presence again for at least a year!
I'm confident that one day she'll notice mid-rant what she's doing and she'll ask herself why she needs to excoriate someone for having an opinion, hobby or interest that is different from hers. I may or may not bring it up the next time I talk to her, if an opportunity presents itself. This experience reminded me of a mistake I used to make.
Live and let live, people! It's okay for us to disagree with each other. But leave the hate at the door. It never makes things better.