My friend is Finnish, so as the conversation turned to what a bad film ‘The Hunger Games’ is/was, I learned about an interesting Finnish word. ‘Vihalukea’ is a word meaning ‘to hate-read something’, as in, ‘to read something because you know you will hate it, and want your righteous anger to be proved right’. Although we don’t have such a popular term for it, hate-reading’s a phenomenon that definitely exists in the English-speaking world, which may partly explain the success of, for example, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, the ‘Twilight’ series of books/films (maybe they were hate-watched?), and everything that Dan Brown has ever produced.
This realisation led to another: hate-reading is an absolutely bizarre thing to do. Of course, I’m no stranger to the addictive cocktail of anger, adrenaline, validation and superiority you get when reading something that is, you believe, Stupid and Wrong. It’s a great feeling, it’s as if a warm syrup synthesised from extracts of ‘being right’ and ‘everyone else being rubbish’ is being poured all over the irreproachable pancakes of your opinion. It’s why I’m writing this blog. It’s why Mail Online is the third most-visited website on my computer.
If you try to think about it logically, though, the weirdness of hate-reading is undeniable. Not only is it essentially a waste of time (remember, if you spend hours reading something that is by all accounts, shit, that’s time you’ll never get back), you’re just reinforcing your own opinions by picking weak targets to square them off against. There’s a reason that we all spend our university lives reading, reading, complaining, and then reading some more. It’s because it’s the best possible way to broaden your mind, to come to your own informed conclusions, and to earn the right to have your opinions heard. If you want to tell someone why E.L James is a Bad Writer and writes things that are Bad then great, tumblr will be delighted*. But while it’s depressing that somewhere, statistically, someone’s mum bought a ball gag because Christian Grey told her that’s what she wanted to do, if she’d bought it after a close reading of ‘The Second Sex’, and had reached the conclusion, better informed and more mindful of her own sole responsibility for her sexuality and desire, that what she really wanted was to invest in some of the things you find on naughtier parts of the internet, then isn’t that so much better a decision to have made?
When Robert Webb recently told Russell Brand to ‘read some fucking Orwell’, it illustrated the power that books hold, and why it’s so important to read things that might benefit you, rather than things that might bring you one step closer to that rage-fuelled heart attack. Webb’s objection was that, while he agreed with some sentiments of Brand’s grandiose calls for sociopolitical revolution, the fact that he didn’t appear to be aware of the realities of revolutionary discourse, as listed in various books, made it appear as if he was pulling his revolution out of his arse, rather than his mind. So, outraged people of the world, put down your Fifty Shades, your Angels and Demons, your New Moons, live free in the knowledge that the new Hunger Games film won’t revolutionise your opinions on the stratified world of social class and privilege, and that you don’t have to care if it doesn't. If you do want your opinions informed or renewed, you don’t necessarily have to read ‘some fucking Orwell’, just pick something you think will be good.
*I should point out that I understand the irony inherent in my criticism on the internet of people writing criticism on the internet, but then I never claimed I was going to win a bloody Pulitzer for this, did I?