Daniel Kline: Inconsistency may not be the path to famePublished 12:03pm Friday, February 5, 2010
The easiest path to popularity would be to have clear views that fit alongside the accepted norms. Most people like to have their opinions reinforced by others who think the same way. The public also seems to crave consistency.
That’s why “Two and a Half Men” gets away with telling the same jokes every week. And, it’s probably why Jay Leno gets more viewers with his mild, but consistent humor than Conan O’Brien did with his sometimes unpredictable act.
The obvious path to increased readership, more fans and the inevitable riches that would follow involves picking a side and sticking with it. Gaining this popularity would also require avoiding criticism of things most people like and instead focusing on stuff everyone already dislikes.
Unfortunately, just to name a few, I’ve never cared for Michael Jackson’s music, have no interest in seeing “Avatar” – probably because I disliked “Titanic” – and I do not enjoy “American Idol” in any fashion. I’m also not a fan of either Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama and, come to think of it, I’m pretty much not a fan of anyone who rigidly defines themselves as a conservative or a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican.
The list of stuff I don’t like and people I find hard to listen to runs a lot deeper than the list of things I find enjoyable. This greatly hampers my ability to be a nationally known, widely beloved columnist because while people pretend they like to be challenged, most just want to be told their ideas are correct.
I could play Glen Beck or Rachel Maddow if I wanted to. Having clearly defined, unwavering beliefs makes it a lot easier to write because you always know your opinion. Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly never have to think about what to say because anyone could tell you their opinions on any issue.
The same can be said when it comes to entertainment. It would be much easier if I disliked everything popular and could preach to the indie crowd about how I only watch IFC, listen to unsigned bands and see movies in art houses.
Unfortunately, I like Tom Petty and Buffalo Tom. I love gritty coffeehouses with menus written on blackboards but I also love Starbucks. Sure, I like some entertainment outside the popular mainstream, but I also cry every time Bill Pullman gives his big speech at the end of “Independence Day” and I’ve seen every episode of every “Law & Order” series.
In general, people like reading, watching and listening to people who either think like them or think exactly the opposite of them. With the battle lines clearly drawn, it’s easy to have a rooting interest. When the columnist you agree with on the economy disagrees with you on gay marriage – well, then it gets tougher for most people.
I, however, prefer when people have complex opinions and aren’t so easily pigeonholed. I also enjoy when people passionately defend something they like that I don’t (Pixar movies being the most recent example).
I’ve loved books by P.J. O’Rourke (a middle-aged male, conservative humorist) and just finished reading a book I liked by Cheryl Peck (a 50-something, overweight lesbian humorist). I don’t agree with either one on everything and I would not be that interested in them if I did.
Sometimes it’s fun to read someone who agrees with you and sometimes it’s fun to be outraged by what someone says. I read and watch opinion givers with hopes of experiencing both and I would never flip the channel or turn the page just because the view expressed was not the same as mine.
Daniel B. Kline’s work appears in over 100 papers weekly. When he is not writing, Kline serves as general manager of Time Machine Hobby New England’s largest hobby and toy store, www.timemachine hob by.com.