Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Silly Season of Lists, Lists of Lists, and Lists of Lists of Lists

A day before Christmas, and I'm already listed out. Too many rankings of best and worst movies, books, and films; most important celebrities; most influential people (often indistinguishable from most important celebrities); most important new gadgets; most significant new buzzwords; best advertisements; and the lists go on. Not only is it the end of a year, but the end of a decade. So, in addition to the best of, worst of, most interesting, least interesting, etc. lists for 2009, we also have similar lists for the decade. We also have mini-versions of rankings for various subcategories, e.g., the 50 most important Romanian films of the "noughties."

Generally speaking, I don't have much time for such lists. I think I appreciate their mass appeal, and their twin purpose of alluring and provoking readers (by what the lists exclude). I just don't find much utility in finding out what x thinks were the "best" or "most important" films, books, or anything. Nor am I inclined to publish such lists myself. My son, Stefan, sometimes attempts to engage me in such rankings, and I usually decline, saying something like,  "No, I don't have a favorite Beatles' song" or "Sorry, I can't tell you whether I like John Stewart better than Stephen Colbert." I will tell him what I like, or dislike, about any particular Beatles' song; I may even give him a short unranked list of various Beatles' songs I like a lot. I have even been known to volunteer that "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" is among my least favorite Beatles' songs. But I remain generically opposed to rankings, as if anyone could provide objective reasons for preferring "A Day in the Life" to "Something."


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