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Am I a snob?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Incanus, Sep 24, 2015.

  1. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    (Inspired by the recent Good Writing thread.)

    So I got to thinking: Maybe I’m an elitist snob after all. It’s entirely possible. And it wouldn’t be my only flaw either.

    But how can I know for sure? I’d like to explore the idea, but I’m not sure just how. Maybe some of you can pose questions and see if my answers match up this those of the quintessential elitist.

    For purposes of making this simple, we should probably just ignore the idea that there may be degrees of snobbery and just say that people come in two categories: snobs, and non-snobs.

    So what are the characteristics of a snob? Certainly they express opinions. But everyone has opinions, so it’s not just that. Is it the types of opinions? The rigidity of opinions? The manner in which they are expressed? I’m guilty of a little of this, but I think most people are. I don’t know.

    I suppose the snob thinks they know more about a subject than most other folks and likes to rub it in their faces. In that case, most occupations would have to have a snobbish element. Doctors know more about medicine than I do; Lawyers know more about law; etc., etc. Some of these folks certainly like to show off their skills. Maybe there are more snobs than previously believed?

    I picture snobs as being a little on the mean side, maybe a little aggressive, almost certainly rigid. I don’t have a lot of this going on, but I could still very well be a friendly, happy-go-lucky snob.

    One thing is for sure, I would like to see a greater number of fantasy books that are of higher quality. Concomitantly, I’d like to see a few less schlocky fantasy novels on the bookshelves. If anything qualifies me as an elitist snob, I suppose it would have to be this particular attitude of mine.

    (I should point out that despite my occasional playful tone and sarcasm, I am genuinely interested in this question. I am willing to admit that it’s possible I’m really a snob. I could even run with it: What would an elitist say about this? I don’t know, let’s ask Incanus, our resident snob.)
     
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  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I'd say the snob is someone who judges by only one metric and can't understand others. For instance, if someone is writing in a language that isn't their native tongue, they may have good insight into characters but terrible grammar. The snob may automatically reject a story with bad grammar as garbage, while the more reasonable critic can evaluate the story's overall quality. This doesn't mean the reasonable critic can't dislike the story--sufficiently terrible grammar can drag a story down--but they look at it as a whole, not just one specific aspect.
     
  3. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    I think there are presently many quality books on the market.

    Styles of writing are constantly evolving.

    If your current taste in literature is based on something written many years ago then probably a modern novel is not going to mimic what you're used to.

    Fantasy has also been carved up into so many sub-genres that it is easy to feel like you're looking for a needle in a haystack.

    I'm just happy that people are even reading at all.

    If the modern market wants some romance with their fantasy then that's what I plan on giving them.

    It's hard to self-market, I'm certainly not going to make it any harder for myself.

    You're probably not a snob, just a geek.

    Try to be happy that being a geek is now a cool thing.
     
  4. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    With regards to literature I see a snob as someone who looks down on others for their taste in stories. Usually they can only see value in works that express what they see as 'deeper intellectual value' and disregard anything that doesn't fit in with their elitist perception of what literary value is. So basically, so long as you understand that different people have different tastes and everyone has different personal criteria as to what makes something good, you're not a snob.
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Ok so I typed in snob into Google and it spat this out.

    So applying this to writing/reading, I'd ask do you think that you hold a certain type of book/story/genre above another?

    Do you believe those who like stories that you don't particularly like are some how inferior in their knowledge or taste?

    Having said that, I think we're all snobs to a certain degree. Personally, I used to wonder how other people could enjoy stories that had enormously stupid flaws in them. I mean couldn't they see that enormous load of BS sitting in front of them?

    But I realized this. If a story engages you, the flaws, no matter how large, tend to fade into the background. You may be able to see them but they aren't such a big deal. This was made evident when I watched/read and rewatched/reread and rewatched/reread some of my favorite movies/books. After a while you start to notice the countless flaws in something you thought was great, and realize nothing is perfect.
     
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  6. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Possession of standards does not a snob make.
     
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  7. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    @MineOwnKing--I'm not a geek! I'm a nerd, thank you very much!!

    I think there's one pretty compelling thing that makes me NOT a snob: I lack the expertise. In this regard, I would make a more legitimate 'music snob' than a 'literary snob', since I've actually earned money at the former (not much, but it counts).

    Totally agree that there is no such thing as a perfect work. I find all kinds of problems with my favorite writers--in these cases it's that the strength of the work far, far overwhelms the defects.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  8. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    A good question with a lot of ways of looking at it. Maybe it has to do with setting unrealistically high standards and not wavering from them, even if it leads to one's own detriment? Such as having far less exposure to other works that may be of some value.

    I may or may not be a snob when it comes to contemporary art, whether it be literature, visual, etc.; however it comes mainly from me not finding any inspiration or enjoyment from what "art" has become. This can lead to my disinclination to discuss the topics with others, especially the younger generations. I just find myself taking the piss out of what a good segment of the population enjoys.

    I can't go to the movies anymore, I don't watch TV, I count myself fortunate to find any books that are enjoyable etc.
     
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  9. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    Standards.

    Now why didn't I think of that? Thanks, Guy. So, I'm someone with some standards and a few snobbish leanings. I think I'm getting closer to seeing where I fit into all this mess.

    @Miskatonic--great points. I think that's part of the equation as well: I'm a bit older than the average, around here anyway. There is a lot of newer stuff that doesn't resonate with me very much too. And having unrealistically high standards is what prevented me from finishing so much of my writing in the past (which was pretty poor). I've loosened up a bit, and its helped enormously.

    (Tried issuing a few 'thanks', but it's not letting me for some reason. Will try again later.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Anyone who uses "concomitantly" so casually anywhere in an Internet discussion is most definitely a snob.

    Or not.
     
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Snob is a name you call someone around whom you are uncomfortable; specifically, someone who makes you feel inferior.

    Not sure why this is a writing question.
     
  12. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    To be brutally honest, when you read the literature from the early 20th century on back you are pretty much given a standard of quality that is hard to find an equivalent to these days. The same goes for painting, sculpture, etc.

    Art took a bizarre twist during the latter half of the 20th century. It became less about working hard to become skilled at your craft, having at least some modicum of respect for what came before you and taking pride in using art to celebrate the beauty and complexity of culture and life in general. Now it's almost like an anti-art mentality where talent and hard work is laughed at and anybody can slap together some amateurish mess and be celebrated as a genius.

    Having an appreciation for anything pre counter culture is no longer fashionable. It's all about "expressing feelings", regardless of what kind of crap is produced. There's no need to lay a foundation for yourself based on what has worked time and again. Tradition is a dirty word.

    I have a bachelor's in humanities (worthless degree for the real world) and my experience at university had one common theme, the works of the past are just historical footnotes and very little time needs to be spent on them. Most classes spent the first week flipping through a couple hundred years of literary works, just so the instructor could get to what had been produced in the past few decades. It was really sad, especially when I was looking forward to discussing the classics with other students. The same was true for a lot of my creative writing type classes. I hadn't developed an exceptionally original style, but I was focused on, taking poetry as an example, learning the old school rhyme and meter and building on that. I'm not saying what I was writing was anything spectacular, but it at least was solid in its structure. But because I wasn't trying to be a hipster or had a taste for that type of material, everything I wrote was pretty much "meh" to most of the other kids and even the instructors. It was more the subject matter than anything else. Of course everyone has their own taste, but it became pretty obvious that those students that aped what the teacher liked most were getting the most praise.

    To put it simply; I want to appreciate the hard work and love of the craft that a writer, painter or cinematographer puts into his or her work, not some emotional ejaculation completely devoid of thought or purpose behind it other than to get a reaction.

    I seem to find myself the minority where my POV is concerned but that's just the way things go.
     
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  13. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    I think a snob is someone who is unwilling to to change their opinion no matter the debate. A snob is someone who is only out to prove they're right. They are willing to judge someone because of what they don't known or that very reason.
     
  14. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    Agreed. Probably belongs in chit chat.
     
  15. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I think every person born into this world is born with an inner snob.

    It's just that we develop as human beings accumulating sensory experience and we assume that our sensory experience is an accurate representation of reality. After all, we are taught from the earliest age to trust our senses and only our senses. What this ignores though is that while the sensory input that our brains receive might be the same for everyone, the way each person's brain interprets the sensory input and relays its messages to our bodies is completely individual. No two people experience anything in exactly the same way.

    A lot of the time, this make no appreciable difference when dealing with actual objects. You and I may look at the same red rose and experience it in slightly different ways (we may have slightly different opinions about the smell or instance) but still agree that it is a red rose. It's when it comes to more subjective things that this difference rears its head. The most prevalent example is of course taste in food. I love pizza. My husband hates pizza. My daughter loves pizza, but disagrees with me about what is the best part of pizza. She likes lots of sauce, I like lots of cheese. Because this difference of experience when eating food is so fundamental to human life, we've all come to accept it. Though there is generally a time when we don't. My daughter had to be taught when she was little that "everyone has different tastes and that's ok" so she would stop shoving her goldfish crackers in my mouth.

    For some reason, people have a harder time accepting this reality when it comes to taste in other things, including taste in entertainment. Perhaps it is that the more we are personally invested in something the harder it is to accept that other people don't experience it like we do. People generally don't care if they have differing opinions about something they don't really care about. But either loving or hating something passionately will suddenly make them fly into a rage if even their best friend vehemently disagrees with their opinion. But whether or not we really care about something doesn't change the fact that other people still experience it differently than we do.

    This is all true of books as well. My experience of, for instance, Gormenghast is totally different than Incanus or Steerpike's experience of it. The exact same words affected our brains and our bodies in completely different ways. Neither of our experiences are correct or incorrect in an objective sense. But there is a human tendency (because we can only experience our own reaction to a thing and not someone else's) to see our own reaction as more valid than someone else's.

    This tendency is made all the worse by the fact that our culture decided that books are important in an objective sense and by all the literary criticism embraced and promulgated by our education system that treats itself as objective. This in turn breeds a class of literary snobs who think they can identify the really really important books and that their opinions are much more valid than the plebs who would rather enjoy books than dissect them for their important elements. Yes, we all know the type. Publishing has also embraced this class which leads to authors trying to please them which makes them even more puffed up and insufferable.

    But pretty much all of us are them in one way or another. We look down on the romance genre or scoff at "hacks" who "churn" out 6 books a year or insist that writing is an art that must always be pushing boundaries and exploring difficult issues and never be reduced to just entertainment, etc. I've had enough of these discussions in the chat here to think that even the most open-minded person comes to a point where there's some kind of book they look down on whether it's "poorly written" books that sell millions of copies or books that don't meet their particular standards for content or something else, everyone tends to fall into this kind of snobbery.

    And I do think it's snobbery, because of what I talked about above. You're essentially judging a piece of media made to be experienced by large audiences by only your own sensory reaction to it. And I know because I'm totally guilty of this. I have in the past been one of the most judgmental people around when it comes to books and wasn't afraid to tell anyone what I thought. But some time back I sat down with myself and really thought this issue through and realized that 1. I was being an insufferable snob and 2. it makes no sense to judge books by my personal sensory experience alone.

    And yes, even when you think you're making a judgement about something objective, you're almost certainly not. For instance, most people think of "quality of prose" as an objective thing, but it's not at all. Not long ago there was a thread about Christopher Paolini and a bunch of people were ragging on the quality of Paolini's writing and posting examples of this horrible writing. In particular a lot of people were scoffing at this line: "The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living." I remember because I thought the line was actually very well crafted and surprisingly deep. I like the line, though I've never read the book it's from. But several people were insisting that it and other lines plucked from out of context were objectively bad writing. Well, this was one of the catalysts that made me realize how stupid that idea, that there is objectively good and objectively bad writing, really is. No, there's simply writing that conveys itself to you in ways that you response positively to and writing that doesn't. But writing that doesn't make you respond positively almost certainly will make someone else response positively. Realistically, a piece of writing would have to be absolute gibberish to not be able to make someone react positively to experiencing it. Theoretically, I'm sure there are people out there who write so badly that not even their mother would read their book. Practically speaking, if you write that badly you're probably not delusional enough to think you can write books and those that are would be such a small number of writers over all that they are statistically meaningless and negligible.

    So, this long rambling rant is all meant to say, we're all snobs, but we don't have to be. We can choose to acknowledge that our personal experience of a book is NOT a standard of quality. That every experience every person who reads a book has is valid no matter how different it is from our own. And that we'll get a lot more out of taking all those experiences into consideration that we will from scoffing at them.
     
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  16. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    My experience is the exact opposite when it comes to college. The liberal arts teachers don't want any type of objective way to examine art, because it might offend or hurt someone's feelings. This is university political correctness in action and it's not uncommon by any stretch of the imagination.
     
  17. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I think that a snob* truly believes that their opinion is the ultimate judge of quality--that they like things that are superior and dislike things that are inferior, so anything that they don't like becomes inferior, in their eyes. This is rather a natural human condition, but one that can be mitigated by thought and experience, I think.

    I've got some snob in me, but it used to be more severe when I was a teenager. Experience and broadened horizons have taught me that there is, in fact, value to many opinions other than my own. And I am neither that intelligent nor that special, heh. At the end of the day I have to be honest with myself, that I often like things because of silly, non-objective reasons, and often dislike things because for petty reasons. There are a lot of deep books and classic films that I have no interest in looking at, and a lot of shallow, pretty movies or dumb indulgent fantasy books that I love. So I think I've gravitated over the years to saying that something isn't my cup of tea, rather than dismissing it as crappy. Obviously there are limits of generosity to this, though. Looking at you, Battlefield Earth.



    *This is my own, internal definition for this... Like most insults, it's often thrown around more as a barb than a reasoned judgment, as skip.knox pointed out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  18. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    The daily usage of the word geek has changed since I was young.

    Modern slang has warped it to imply a sort of aficionado, and therefore cool.

    In my mind, a person is a snob when they believe that another person is not worthy of acknowledgment regardless of ability. This way of thinking stems back to the nobility and their ways of remaining separate and above the masses.

    I do not think that snob is the right word, I would use taste.
     
  19. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Is there an objective way to examine art?

    In university, not college because there's a difference up here in the Great White North *lifts up nose*, I took a philosophy course on the Philosophy of Art. It was one of those courses that made my brain hurt. But one of the take-aways was standards are arbitrary.

    Applying this to writing and story telling, there's a significant difference in between what is considered good story telling between Eastern and Western cultures. The movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon won an Academy award and was nominated for many others, but when shown to an Eastern culture, people didn't much care for it and called out what they considered significant flaws in the film that made it, for them, hooey.

    I'm not an expert by any means, but part of the discrepancy between Western and Eastern audiences, is probably because the West is a low context culture and the East is a high context culture. In the East the context of a situation carries a significant amount of unsaid cultural baggage/expectations with it. The West carries little to/none of such baggage/expectations.
     
  20. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I don't think there can be objective viewpoints on a lot of stuff, other than math and some of the sciences. Even then they can only exist that way because a set of rules was agreed upon so that communicating ideas became possible.

    Schools of thought come to be because they create a system or at least some basic guidelines that describe how they are approaching the subject.

    You have to come up with some "rules" (for lack of a better term) by which you are judging the material (doesn't mean it's a moral judgement) in order to discuss it. Otherwise there's no point. If we just say "well everything is subjective" and "nothing is better than anything else" then there's no point in even discussing the subject.

    If someone wants to argue that Winnie the Pooh is on par with The Great Gatsby or 1984, so be it. I won't take what they say seriously as I believe there are varying levels of artistic genius and quality of work. Dilbert isn't in the same league as Botticelli's "Birth of Venus". You can argue that it is but I'm going to assume you are a moron.

    If that makes me a snob or an elitist then that is fine by me.

    I believe people are drawn to certain standards when it comes to beauty (and I don't mean physical beauty, though some argue that certain face shapes are more attractive to more people). The golden mean is a perfect example. You can find it everywhere, even in nature. I don't think it's mere coincidence that this ratio is appealing to a lot of people in it's various forms, whether its paintings or architecture.
     
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