People like what they like and they don’t need anybody’s permission or blessing to enjoy it.
Still, sometimes we get the idea that some things are “too juvenile” for adults, or “beneath” spiritual people, or “improper” for people who are seriously devoted to their religious traditions.
Is it hurting anybody? Does it keep you from your commitments? No? Then enjoy it, and don’t worry about trying to justify your fandom to anyone else – including yourself.
It’s OK to enjoy stuff just because you enjoy it.
Some entertainment is seriously meaningful
I rarely pay much attention to celebrity deaths. Last year I had to think hard to come up with six celebrity deaths that had a real impact on me. Most times I’ll say something like “sorry to hear that” and then go back to what I was doing. Occasionally – as with Betty White – I’ll take a moment to reflect on a life well lived. But only a moment.
When Anne Rice died back in December, I felt the need to say something more. Her work was very important to me at two critical times in my life. It wasn’t inspiring or life-changing or anything of the sort. It was entertainment, but it was good entertainment, at a time when I needed it. That made it meaningful.
RIP Meat Loaf (1947 – 2022)
Meat Loaf died on Thursday – I found out about it on Friday. I was working from home – when I wasn’t in meetings I had YouTube playing “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” “Bat Out of Hell” “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and of course, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”
The music felt good.
And then, me being me, I started trying to figure out why it felt good. Nostalgia? Maybe, but nostalgia for what?
I was a high school sophomore when Bat Out of Hell was released in 1977. But it wasn’t an instant hit, it didn’t get much radio play, and I have no memories of hearing it until much later. We were all listening to Kansas, the Doobie Brothers, and the Eagles. Especially the Eagles. The kids who were trying to be cool were listening to Pink Floyd (yes, I have Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, although I didn’t buy it till after high school).
Nobody was listening to Meat Loaf.
Whatever I was feeling on Friday wasn’t nostalgia. But I still enjoyed the music.
Adults writing idealized teenage romance
Bat Out of Hell reflects what I remember as common attitudes on teenage romance in the post-sexual revolution / pre-AIDS era of the mid-60s through the 70s. Its emphasis on male persistence and female reluctance is no longer acceptable now that we’re trying to build a true consent culture (and rightly so), but it has its own integrity. That integrity carried over into Bat Out of Hell II in 1993 (which I bought on CD when it first came out) and its biggest single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.
But Bat Out of Hell didn’t reflect my own experiences. Those were both more awkward and more tame than anything Meat Loaf sang about.
And let’s remember: Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday) was born in 1947. So was Jim Steinman, who wrote all the songs on Bat Out of Hell and most of Meat Loaf’s other hits. They both graduated high school in 1965. Adults writing idealized versions of teenage romance has been going on at least since William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in 1595.
Perhaps I was nostalgic for the teenage romance I wish I’d had? Dear Gods no. High school was hell and I have no desire to revisit any part of it.
But I still enjoy Meat Loaf’s music.
Separating the art from the artist
It wasn’t until Friday that I learned Meat Loaf was an anti-vaxxer who said “if I die, I die.” I haven’t been able to find an official cause of death. Some sources say he died from Covid. Others say he died from cancer. Some of his political views were problematic. He was friends with Donald Trump, though I can’t find any sources that clearly show he supported him for President, and some that indicate he didn’t.
When I mentioned his passing on Facebook, several people had angry reactions. Our inability to form a consensus on Covid-19 continues to be a source of division, one that political operatives continue to exploit.
I never felt like I “knew” Meat Loaf, even in a fannish sense. So I don’t have strong feelings about this one way or another.
I can appreciate the art, even if the artist did things I wish he hadn’t.
People like what they like
The critics were right. Bat Out of Hell was derivative, clichéd, and over the top. Way over the top. It still sold 43 million copies.
If I have any nostalgia for Meat Loaf, it’s for rediscovering him in the early 90s when Bat Out of Hell II came out. But if I do it’s a very minor thing. His music isn’t deep and meaningful. It didn’t help me through a bad time in the way that Anne Rice’s books did.
After all this thinking, I realized that I just enjoyed it, because I did.
And I still do.
I don’t need a reason beyond that – and neither do you.
Keep your priorities in order and enjoy what you like
It’s ironic. Over my 13-year blogging career I’ve done plenty of ranting against people who spend their lives obsessed with popular culture and the celebrities who make it. And here I am defending it.
It’s one thing to enjoy popular music, entertainment, and sports – it’s another thing to take your values from them. It’s one thing to enjoy fiction – it’s another thing to confuse it with folklore.
Keep your priorities in order. Maintain your spiritual practice. Take care of yourself, your family, and your community.
But everything in your life doesn’t have to be sanctified. Everything you read or watch or listen to doesn’t have to have a deep meaning or purpose. There’s a place for mindless entertainment and for guilty pleasures for which we should feel absolutely no guilt.
You like what you like.
And you don’t need anybody’s permission to enjoy it.
If you don’t like what I like, that’s fine – there’s plenty more out there. If you can’t separate the art from a problematic artist, that’s fine – pick something else. Just realize that other people may come to other conclusions.
We all like what we like.
And we don’t need anybody’s permission to enjoy it.
And now, if you’re so inclined, enjoy Meat Loaf and Karla DeVito (with vocals by Ellen Foley) in “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”