Last night, I got stuck on the word “overrated.” I was trying to plan out a story arc in my head, but instead I spent 85%* of my time in the shower thinking about “overrated” and why the term irritates me to the depths of my admittedly short-tempered soul. This song is overrated. That movie is overrated. Here’s an overrated book series. But that’s just my opinion (comes the impartial defense).
In fact, “overrated” is snobbery at its most obliquely snide. By nature, arrogance is not a subtle characteristic. It’s one that thrives on knowing – and making sure that everyone else knows – that it’s worthier than everything it sees as inferior. But as an adjective, “overrated” gets a pass under the protective umbrella of personal opinion. Only it’s not a personal opinion about the song, movie, or book itself; it’s a personal opinion about the people who like the song, movie, or book. At best, you’re suggesting that your opinion is superior while pretending to be objective**. But worse – and more pointed – is the dig about popular opinion: that a person only likes something because it’s popular.
This may well be true. But is it possible – just possible, mind you – that I like the song, movie, or book for its own sake? Is that conceivably within my ability to judge things for myself? Despite your conflicting view?
I have no idea why this crawled up my craw last night and made a nest somewhere between my amygdala and cerebral cortex (in that non-existent junction between emotion and logic). Actually, thinking back, it probably started with an after-dinner discussion about Shia Labeouf and the practice of jumping on the hate bandwagon (particularly when hitched to high-grossing movies and/or popular singers); but why it percolated through an old memory of getting insulted for liking “Summer of ’69” and came back around a couple of hours later is beyond me. Like I don’t have enough things to think about while I wash my hair. I love getting mad at nothing right before bed.
*Possibly an estimation.
**At least own it. If you want to have a debate about whether popularity is earned or just a matter of momentum, let’s go for it. Just be upfront about what it is we’re actually discussing.