Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fadding it up

There was a time when I refused to be a part of the mainstream. This was before hipsterism had returned full-force and become part of the mainstream itself. It was a time when I could barely realize that by trying to be different, I actually wasn't being different. I guess that's what middle school does to most people.

Up until the age of 12, I don't think I cared much what people thought of me or my choices. In sixth grade, I was an individual because I was such a loner that I had no one to emulate. I was careless with my personal grooming efforts, I was fine doing/watching/reading/listening to whatever I wanted, regardless of how it would have me perceived because I supposed I didn't quite notice how I was being perceived by others in the first place.

When I hit middle school, though, I started falling into the familiarity of fads. And even though I lost my eclecticism by gaining a sort of unspoken symbiosis with the rest of preteen humanity, I considered myself an individual and I prized that.

I listened to Green Day at the time - this being during their big comeback of 2004 and 2005 - and considered myself outside the norm by doing so. Their popularity was such a hot button issue at the time that being a firm supporter made you feel like you were special in some way. Standing up again those who preferred My Chemical Romance became a sport. It was fun to be "different" even if the condition only separated you from a few people, while actually bringing you close to a larger group.

That is what took me a while to actually understand. That maybe, just maybe, it's not the differentiation that does us well, but finding a niche in society that fits with our standards. When I was 12, that niche was Green Day. It was the black nail-polish sporting, band t-shirts wearing, dark eyeliner on the lower lid styling that "set me apart" even though it actually pushed me together with thousands of other girls just like me.

But it was a little bit pervasive, this relationship I had with other girls who liked Green Day and went for the punk/goth/Billie Joe Armstrong look at 12 years old. Until a few years later when I met my friend Dana, I didn't even realize that there were many other girls just like me. But I'm sure there were.

I may have had a problem with that at the time, but now I'm pleased by it.

A few years later I became a fan of the Twilight book series. Two of my good friends had read the book and become crazy about this nebulous character Edward Cullen. I wanted to know what it was they were getting so excited about, so I decided to read the book on my own.

Despite my current chagrin due to the mediocre writing style and uninspired characters of Stephenie Meyer's book, I still have a place in my heart for Twilight. It's a series that brought me together with my friends, gave us craft projects (we dressed as Cullens for one Halloween) and forced us to attend movie screenings and book releases.

Though in some way I lost my sense of individuality in my interests, being a Twi-hard was a welcome transition into a world where uniqueness isn't the order of the day. But that isn't to say conformity is either.

For a while I stayed away from fads after Twilight. Because it had become such a phenomenon, and a silly childish one at that, I wanted nothing more to do with its fame.

Then when The Hunger Games became almost as big a deal as the book series whose author had also praised The Hunger Games itself, I figured maybe I'd try it out even though I might fear becoming another mindless drone of a fan like I was with Twilight for some time.

But in due course, I was able to understand the intricacies of fads despite their short-lived, but prolific timelines. I was introduced to why to this day I don't quite mind being ushered into a particular interest because of societal pressure.

When it comes to being a fan of something, there is bound to be overlap. We like the same TV shows, movies, music, food, art, blah blah blah every other noun in the human language. If we were always striving to be different, to find something new, then many of us would be unsatisfied - searching for something and finding a result that is sub-par, or even worse not finding anything at all.

We complain so much about having to conform to what society expects of us. Teenage girls will read Twilight and The Hunger Games. Boys will watch the Batman film trilogy.

But what's wrong with subscribing to those stereotypes? Sure, when it comes to things like gender roles we have to confront the validity of pigeonholing people based on their demographics. But in the case of entertainment, why not share your interests with millions of other people?

After all, we must admit there is some merit to something if that many people appreciate it. Even Twilight for example, has its prouder points. At the very least, there is an admirable male character in Edward who, however troubled and overly brooding he may be in the movies, is an image of gentlemanliness in much of the book.

The moral of the story is that it really isn't worth it to shy away from something that is socially acceptable simply because we fear we will be labeled for partaking in it. While it's always a concern that we might fall into a groove of accepting the opinions and tastes of others and never considering our own free thought, as human beings we have just as much right to steal each other's interests as we do to create our own.

That's why I'm not so embarrassed by having enjoyed Twilight in its earliest days. Or why I'm proud to say I was a Green Day fan, even when I chose that position during a time when they were at the peak of their 21st century fame. It's why I'm proud that I will forever be an individual not because I strive to be one, but because that's just how it works out. That's pretty cool.

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