tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana

How does entertainment entertain you?

This is going to sound strange coming from someone who reads a bucketload of slash, but I don't actually like romance. In movies, when the couple (m/m, f/f, f/m, other/other, whatever) leans in for the big kiss, backlit by an exploding planet, I tend to be thinking, Oh my god, people, would you get out of the way? There's an EXPLODING PLANET back there! Or in a book, when the couple takes a few minutes out of saving the universe for a roll in the hay, I am generally thinking, Save the universe FIRST. Fuck in your own damn time. And you never, ever want to go see a romantic comedy with me. If you're lucky, I will just leave the theater in the first act and you'll come find me in the hallway when it's over. That's if you're lucky.

So romance novels are not the best fit for me. But Best Beloved reads a lot of them, and if she's interested in something, generally I end up interested in it, too. Some months back, we started a deal where she recommends some of the romance novels she thinks most appropriate for me, and I read them, and then we discuss them. And I find them fascinating, both as a comparison to fan fiction and in their own right; it's amazingly interesting to figure out the rules and tropes and interests and focuses of a genre that is in no way your native territory, and it is just indescribably gripping to figure out what those things say about the writers and readers of romance and the society they come from.

And of course I explain all that to Best Beloved at - well, let's be polite and simply say at great length - and she asks me questions and makes comments and provides necessary context (like the time, early on, that I noted that I felt the relationship in the book had been rushed because the protagonists got together after only six months, and she, after she stopped laughing, noted that often protagonists meet on the first day, have sex on the second, and are married by the end of the week) - and we discuss it all extensively. And then, usually right before one of us looks at the clock and realizes that we once again have lost an entire evening to the analysis of romance novels, given that it's approaching midnight and the earthling will be waking us up at six, Best Beloved says this:

"But are you enjoying the book?"

And I just stare at her in utter confusion. To me, that is a wholly nonsensical question, coming at that point in the conversation. But recently I decided she'd asked it enough that it had to have some meaning that I just was not getting, so I asked her what she meant by "enjoying the book." And she said, "Well, like, do you look forward to reading it?"

I was floored, because that would never occur to me as a possible definition or symptom of enjoying a book. I expressed, at some length, how completely alien that was to me - I mean, I can be dreading reading something and still absolutely enjoying it - and she asked me what I meant by enjoying a book. And I gave what is, to me, the obvious answer: if the book gives you something to think about, both while you're reading it and when you're not reading it, then it is an enjoyable book.

Best Beloved found that equally strange, although she noted that that explained a lot about how I deal with entertainment just generally. (It also, though she didn't actually bring this up, partly explains why I love fan fiction - fan fiction is someone writing out her thoughts about some media that she's consumed. In other words, fan fiction is a way for me to experience other people's enjoyment of some media.)

But the thing is, BB and I have been together for 18 years, and for all that time, we've been watching the same movies and reading a lot of the same books and stories. And yet we have totally different ideas of what enjoying entertainment means. So now I'm wondering what you all mean when you say you're enjoying a book or a movie or a TV show or a manga series or whatever. How does your entertainment entertain you?

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
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