A quick glance around the internet uncovers a ridiculous amount of lists going up or in the works right about now. It’s year’s end, and everyone is lining up to categorize and rank all the best and worst things to happen in 2012. My question is: why? What drives us to codify the entire year? Some imprinted biological drive to file and index? Boredom drives people to do some silly shit, but few things drive so many as to do something as silly as simulated spreadsheets of their interests.
Listen, I read them too. I pore over the ‘Top 12 Albums From Bands That Have A Pluralized Name, More Than Four But Less Than 8 Members (Each Of Whom Could Have Bought A Goddamn Audi For What Their Shitty Tattoos Cost)’ lists just like everyone else. I get the occasional cool find. Sometimes I raise an eyebrow at a controversial placement, maybe even fire off a way-too-serious rebuttal in the comments section about the travesty of putting that album or film or hollandaise recipe above this other one that’s so obviously better.
Next week we’ll countdown the ten best numbers to use for a top ten list! (Here’s a hint: it’s the first 10…)
Here’s the thing: how much stock do you really put in those lists you read? Does it really change your mind about anything? It’s not like you come away from a ‘best of the year’ list and think, “You know what? That really sorted me out. I thought I knew what I liked before, but now I know what the correct order of those things are. Great!” Nope, it’s usually just the same kind of muffled snort and indifference that you’d give any other complete stranger’s opinions.
Now, that’s not to say that year-end lists serve no purpose. As I said, I sometimes find cool stuff on them, and that’s why I continue to read them. The problem is in all the frivolous stuff that goes along with them. The ranking, the self-importance, the controversy. If people just put out ‘Cool Shit That Came Out This Year’ lists, that’d be one thing. But almost no one does that. Lots of year-end lists are drawn out, sensationalized filler that seem to be directed at the very people who are well-versed enough in the topic to have already formed their own opinions. Why do that?
This leads me to what a lot of these lists are basically about. And that, my friends, is showing off. Proud basement-barons mainlining Mountain Dew and mashing their Locos Tacos dust-covered keyboards in rabid anticipation of all those readers who will be so impressed by how diverse and incisive their particular list will be. That, or they want to troll the ever-living shit out of them. The authors of these lists want one of two responses: total agreement, or maniacal opposition. These lists are a rich, proud tradition of social oddity. Sad people with expensive degrees, like Leonard Maltin or Roger Ebert put out several of these lists a year. Only, theirs are in book form, hundreds of pages long and make frequent use of terms like “Orwellian.” Puhh-lease.
I’m not condemning art criticism, I’m condemning the stuffy fucks that pretend that something as trivial as ranking “the best” of anything subjective is serious business. It’s not. It’s wild conjecture that is occasionally relevant to an individual’s interest, and occasionally entertaining. Just let lists be lists.