Coburn, Coburn, Coburn…
You’ve managed to drag me out of the shadows.
Anyway, I came across Coburn’s post when DrmChsr0 linked it, and to be honest it’s a subject I’ve thought a lot about. Of course that subject being favorite shows. Now I’ve didn’t read the responses, mostly because I didn’t really feel like it at the time, but I thought since this blog was the impetus for the original post, I should reply.
Okay, so how I define all time favorite shows is kind of tricky, and it’ll take more than one post. I do want to start where Coburn started because I think we need a frame for what we’re talking about when we talk about good, so I’m going to tread some tired ground and talk about rating systems.
Now Coburn opened by saying he was looking for a perfect “10” series. When he said that I started thinking: What defines a “10” anyway? Can I even classify series I watch as “10s” or without flaws. The assumption Coburn made was, I think of my all time favorite shows as “10s” and I find them flawless.
That isn’t the case.
When I see a rating system, I see a completely arbitrary set of numbers. The problem with applying a rating to anything is it isn’t just a measure of how much you enjoyed the show. It’s a measure of how much you enjoyed the show at the time and in the mental state you watched it in. So if I’m tired and feeling grouchy and don’t particularly feel like watching X giant robot show, and I watch X giant robot show I’m not going to like it as much as if I wanted to watch it. The same holds true if a show doesn’t match my tastes, or if I got into a fight at work, or if I’m just feeling unpleaseant, or if I happened to give something else a low mark right before it. Or I happened to read lolkit’s comment about how low his MAL average was before I went on a rating spree.
In fact, it’s affected by so many factors any rating is largely a useless number if taken on its own. The only time a rating is useful to the average reader is when you have a whole bunch of them so you can see what the mean rating is (this is why ANN’s encyclopedia is useful.)
Not only is a rating arbitrary, it’s a cop out. All a rating says is how much the viewer enjoyed the show at the particular time he rated it.
It doesn’t define good.
The problem with defining good
The problem we face when we start trying to define what is good probably can be summed up in a quote I’m stealing from iKnight (who stole it from someone else)
“There is a difference between something being good and liking it.”
Now, I agree there is a difference. A rating system defines how much a person liked a show. However, I don’t believe there is an empirical way to prove how “good” something is. Sure I could point out plot, character, world-building, theme, etc. and say they are “good.” But what does that really mean? What if someone disagrees? Is their opinion less valid if they offer proof I’m wrong? Isn’t any judgment on these issues simply a matter of taste?
So I’m left with a conundrum. Intuitively, I think iKnight is right, but, objectively, I can’t prove it.
But I do think there’s a solution. While I don’t believe there is an empirical “good” like this quote seems to hint at, I do believe there is a more honest “good.” The reason why I called any ratings system a cop out is because there’s no accountability. If I say a show is a seven and someone says, “Well I think it’s a nine.” All I have to do is wave my hand and say, “Well it’s just my opinion.”
But if I say, “You should watch this show because I think it’s good.” You have to take responsibility for it one way or the other and on some level that is more pressure than simply saying, “Well it’s good.” There in lies the difference between something being good and just liking a show (or at least I think so.)
Now with my favorites, in most cases, I would say they are good and people should watch them.
But that isn’t why they’re my favorites. They’re my favorites because their flaws are minor in comparison to what I like about them. Now that discussion is going to have to come later.