Apologetics, or Just Apologizing?

I’ve noticed a trend recently, and it’s one I’ve often participated in myself, so please don’t read this as accusatory. When naming a favorite thing (book, movie, band, author, etc.) many of us feel compelled to use a disclaimer, to apologize for our feelings towards it. We say things like, “I know this movie isn’t perfect, but I really liked it…” and “I’m not claiming that X is the best author who ever lived, or anything, but his/her books are some of my favorites…”, etc., etc.

Why do we do this? Is there some unspoken understanding that to forego the disclaimer is to assert that a beloved work of art IS perfect? Last I checked this wasn’t the case, and yet I find myself contributing to this phenomenon as if it were. Only a few days ago, in discussion of beloved and influential sci-fi and fantasy books, I felt compelled to (what can only be described as) apologize for having read and enjoyed The Hunger Games. It’s amazing how someone else’s disapproval (or mere disagreement) can quickly transform our unabashed love of something into embarrassment, sap enthusiasm to be replaced by a feeling of insecurity.

Now (here comes the disclaimer!) I’m not claiming that The Hunger Games is perfect. Far from it. But is any book, really? Is there such a thing as a perfect work of art, by any standards? If not, then why the compulsive, knee-jerk apology? Does aligning myself with any one piece of art automatically imply my allegience to every decision the creator made? I don’t think so, or at least I don’t think it should.

I recognize this impulse a sign of insecurity in myself, and I would encourage others to do so as well. We need to put away this compulsive need to all have the same taste, and to justify that taste for others. As CS Lewis said about those who would be embarrassed to read “children’s literature,” the most truly childish thing is the desperate desire to seem adult:

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”    

The apologizing, frankly, is becoming a little tiresome. Instead, let’s replace it with apologetics –  with the engaged and passionate defense of an artwork’s varied meanings, values, and merits. Leave out the awkward, self-protective disclaimers and declare openly what you love and why, all the while being open to debate and disagreement from others. Even the best works will always be hated by someone, so we should all stop worrying about our reputations and jump into the discussion.

Has anyone else had this experience? Agree or disagree? Have at it in the comments section!

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About Katherine Sas

I graduated from Messiah College in 2009 with a B.A. in English Literature. I'm a student of all things arts and humanities, in particular Tolkien, the Inklings, and the fantastic and imaginative tradition in storytelling.
This entry was posted in Literature, Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Apologetics, or Just Apologizing?

  1. Mary Doane says:

    Well said. I’ll remember this next time I sort-of-recommend a read I enjoyed.

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