We say we want a well-written story, that perfectly balances theme, character development, and plot. But is that really what we want?
When the average person says a story is good, what they mean is they enjoyed it. The story might not be very good at all. It might be perfectly fine. Or it might truly be brilliant. Whichever it is, there was something about it – a character, the action – that hooked us and wouldn’t let go.
Sometimes, there’s a story that’s considered the best of the best. It could be a hugely popular film franchise or a book considered a classic. We’ve heard only good things about it – maybe so much that it’s annoying. The hype is up. Expectations are high. And…
It’s a disappointment. We’re left wondering what all the fuss was about.
Does that mean it wasn’t good? No. Popular stories are beloved for a reason, but that reason isn’t always what we think and doesn’t always align with our tastes. Sometimes, we just can’t get into it.
Then we have guilty pleasures. Our trash. Our hot messes. Whatever your term for it, we all have them.
Kingdom Hearts is a video game franchise that began in 2002. It follows a boy called Sora as he explores worlds from several Disney and Pixar films.
This innocent-looking game has a dark, twisted, and very complicated plot that spans over 10 instalments following characters with long, detailed backstories. Add to the mix time travel, reincarnation, and clones, and that only begins to scratch the surface of this franchise.
I love Kingdom Hearts, but if you asked me about the quality of its storytelling I’d say it’s convoluted and poorly executed, with a few momentary exceptions. The franchise deserves almost every criticism it gets, but those criticisms are the some of the same reasons I love it.
Everyone has a guilty fiction pleasure. It could be a fluffy, yet silly fantasy like Twilight or something loved for how bad it is like The Room.
2018’s movie adaptation of Venom is another one of those perplexing movies of questionable quality, yet it has captured the love of so many people that it has become a box office success. Tom Hardy’s brilliant performance as both Eddie Brock and Venom makes this movie so enjoyable for so many people.
Or maybe that adorable Stitch-like face is to blame.
What can we take from this? That quality doesn’t matter? That everyone has bad taste?
The last thing I want is to discourage writers from writing the best stories they can. There is merit in creating something endearingly flawed, but it’s not a recommendation and doesn’t guarantee a fan base. The better something is, the more likely it will be enjoyed.
And there is absolutely no excuse for not editing.
For fans, this doesn’t mean that if we like something “bad quality” then we have terrible taste. It’s like food. Sure that salad has quality nutrition, but that chocolate is so good!
Besides, there is no such thing as a perfect story. There are faults to be found in everything, and that doesn’t mean the things we like are invalid. I love Kingdom Hearts for its emotion, its goofiness, its darkness, and yes, even its convoluted lore.
Not liking something for whatever reason doesn’t matter. Quality and enjoyment are two different things. Both are important and both are linked, but the details don’t matter.
We like what we like.