I just finished off Netflix's stellar original series, Bojack Horseman. But when I got to thinking about it and how much I thought it was good, I just kept thinking about how it relates to many other things I liked by virtue of having similar tropes. When Sarah Lynn called Diane "Asian Daria", I had already thought of her as that, and part of why I liked her as a character was because she reminded me of Daria. In fact, she seemed like my estimation of what kind of person Daria would likely grow up to be. Bojack reminded me of House, and Princess Carolyn was basically his Cuddy. Sarah Lynn reminded me of Toot from Drawn Together, but was less humorously exaggerated and more real, which made her life more depressing than funny.
I got to thinking about Pink Floyd's The Wall too, because that movie has similar tropes and explores similar themes. That movie doesn't seem to me to be a "good" film in the sense that I could recommend it to anyone, but I like it, and it's one of my favorite movies because it has things in it I like. Things that appeal to me specifically. The movie has this edgy, rebellious individualism some people are put off by, but I liked. It's about not letting society make you into someone you don't want to be. It's about trying to stay sane in an insane world. It speaks to my experiences.
The problem is, not everyone has my experiences. In fact, certain things in my life seem rather unique. But then again, everyone's life struggles are unique to them. So, naturally, my taste in movies is colored by the fact that I just plain like certain things, and just don't like others. I can study all the theory and learn all the college words I want to about film criticism, familiarize myself with what everyone says are classics and shun everything stuffy, pretentious people say is garbage. But that's not me. What is me? Well, I made a list of 50 things that, if they're present in a movie (or another work of fiction), it will draw my interest. And having many of these things will probably make me like something, even if critics think it's crap.
Also, a review of Bojack Horseman is coming soon, I just need time to process it all emotionally.
50. Weird Science Experiments
49. Predator Animals
48. Whales & Dolphins: Put them on screen and I'm glued to the tube. It's really the only reason I liked Fantasia 2000. And who could forget the epic, awesome, flying white whale monster in Re:Zero? I sure can't!
47. Space Exploration: The final frontier.
46. Space Anomalies: I love Star Trek for this mostly. Also like hearing about real ones, like on PBS shows.
45. Prehistoric Animals: I put up with Ice Age 2 and that one about dinosaur Moses for this. Not only is everything better with dinosaurs, but they need to update it and make one with feathered dinos. And more prehistoric mammals in films!
43. Elaborate Torture Devices: Let's get dangerous.
42. Royal Insanity: Royal brats are funny, and evil royals reinforce my belief in democracy. Plus it's interesting to see how much it's true that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
41. The Wacky Professor/Scientist/Inventor: Science cannot move forward without heaps!
40. Crazy Women: I feel sexist for thinking this, but I see a crazy man as threatening and a crazy woman as hot, or funny. Just how my brain works.
38. Blood: Give me gallons of the stuff, give me all that I can drink and it will never be enough.
37. Psychic Children: Or just especially sharp, sensitive, or magically gifted kids. I was a mentally gifted kid, and I always kind of hoped that meant I would be magic or special in some way. Curse you, Harry Potter.
36. Pirates: They're like the historical, watery, non-robotic version of Bender from Futurama. Maybe I just like the ocean and think of it as an exotic magical place full of whimsy because I live so far from it.
35. Standard Horror Monsters: Zombies, vampires, werewolves, I like them all. Bonus points if they're called something else and their condition is thoroughly explained, like Elantris' not-zombies and Peeps' not-vampires. I also like them if they're sort of human-looking or humanoid in shape. I guess that makes them easier to relate to and even feel sorry for.
34. People Transforming Into Things: Kind of goes with the above. I like it if they were once human and still have ties to their human past. I'm sick of the anime trope of half-human half-something fighting those somethings, though. Overused plot.
33. Witches and Wizards
In the primordial days before my country was a country, being accused of witchcraft was as serious as being accused of rape or murder today. The old farming towns were communal, and the town was obligated to take care of the old and weak. However, if they could accuse someone feeble, unpopular, alone, and old of witchcraft, they could get rid of her (and it was usually a woman). Thus, the town would have fewer unproductive mouths to feed. And, since a woman's primary role was to bear children, a barren or post-menopause woman was seen as a nuisance/liability. Some philosophers have also theorized that people need scapegoats or common enemies to strengthen the norms of society and form important social cohesion. If everybody hates someone, they all get along.
Needless to say, the idea of a witch has evolved since that time. Now, we tend to think of them as magical badasses, who fly around, cast awesome spells, and get help from powerful mythical beasties. Wizards are simply the male equivalent of this. To me, magical humans embody the search for knowledge (fantasy science, you could say) and the struggle to not use one's power for evil or greedy purposes. Many of my favorite story lines in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic have to do with this, because Twilight is a mage similar to witches and wizards in other stories.
32. Leather Pants: Reason I tolerated Yu-Gi-Oh! . I can tolerate anything with a leather catsuit, leggings, pants, jackets, whatever. I love the look, feel, and smell of leather anything really.
31. Boots: They make your feet look 20% cooler.
30. Horses: Such a fun, free, adventurous way to get around. They're pretty, and their whinnies and the sound of their hooves is nice. This might be part of the appeal of both Bojack and My Little Pony for me.
29. Medieval Dresses: Oh. My. God. Fabulous! Why don't they make gowns like those anymore? WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY!
28. Unusual Hair Color, Hairstyles, and Eye Colors
27. Magical Beings and Mythical Creatures: Felt like covering the lesser ones who didn't get their own list entry here.
25. Flirtation: I like witty banter back and forth between boy and girl. Always cute.
24. Violent Deaths and/or Gory Injuries: Don't be afraid to show me the squicky.
21. Cuss Words at the Right Moment: TV Tropes calls it the "Precision F Strike", when a character uses a bad word at a good moment. Epic comedy every time, if done right. It's also satisfying to me, because sometimes I get exhausted with repeating my polite scripts and wish that I, too, would give people bothering me a less polite utterance so they'd just leave me alone.
20. Motorcycles and/or Sports Cars: I'll watch anything for the cars or bikes. Vroom!
19. Pretty Lesbians: I like women, and I like seeing women with women, but only if they look like women. What I don't get are women who are into women who look like guys. But hey, if that is your preference, that's cool. I'm just saying it's not mine.
18. Male to Female Crossdressers: I like dudes who look like ladies, too. I guess you could say I'm attracted to feminine behavior, looks, and clothing styles, generally speaking.
17. Stupid People to Laugh At: Makes me feel superior.
16. Smart People to Feel With: Makes me feel less alone.
15. Isolation: I can relate.
14. Nuanced Morality: Nothing is more boring to me than an obvious good guy and an obvious bad guy, where the good guy is never challenged to change, grow, learn, or rethink their preconceived beliefs.
13. Characters With Fake Personas vs. Their Real Selves: Multi-faceted characters are more interesting. I like Paprika because it explores a character with a warped, confused sense of identity.
12. Fame Ruining People: Ties in with the above. I like being reassured that being rich and famous would not necessarily make me happier.
11. Rich People's Epic Benders
There's nothing quite like the psychological meltdown of the very elite. For one thing, they can afford and access all the cool drugs. They get to crash their cool cars, helicopters, motorcycles, yachts, or what have you. Poor people having a breakdown? Who cares, just throw them in jail and then stick them in a hospital to mellow out for two days and then release them and send them an outrageous bill for the hospital stay (in the U.S.). Rich people on the other hand, can party themselves into resort rehab in a way that makes watching their meltdown super compelling, like watching fireworks or cherry blossom trees. It's beautiful destruction.
10. Shallow Consumerism: Poking fun at the banality of our existence, but also at our hypocrisy as consumers who criticize consuming.
9. Pale Depressed Girls: Nothing is hotter.
8. Boobies: My preference is for the top half of the female anatomy. It's a simple thing, but it does draw me in. Sex sells!
7. Drugs and/or Alcohol: Can't have a good psychological breakdown without it. Also, I feel like it's cool as a narrative device. You see who someone really is when they're drunk or high or both. And the struggle of temptation and for an addict to try to find meaning in life outside their addictions and self-destructive cycles of behavior makes a story interesting. Plus, let's face it, they're fun. They're thrilling. They make people less predictable. And they cause conflict, which is the essential ingredient in a story. (Don't take this to mean I advocate their use in real life, party responsibly and don't break the law and all that.)
6. Depression, Suffering, Suicide: Since I've struggled with PTSD and depression, I relate quickly to characters that struggle with it as well.
5. Sarcasm/ Dark Humor: It's the best way to cope with life, right?
4. Live Action and Animation Interaction: Or just being in the same movie, like how The Wall uses animated scenes for mental imagery in the character's head.
3. Trippy Animation: Again, The Wall.
2. Stickin' It To The Man: Sensing a pattern here?
1. Rock Music
So what are your 50 things that would define your tastes? Is there something that could make you watch any movie at all with that thing, regardless of how good (or not) the plot is? Is there anything where you just feel compelled to watch every movie with that thing in it? Have you ever thought, "I wish they had more movies with X"? I think there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are as susceptible to "fan service" or pandering as anyone else. Nothing to be ashamed of.