I’m going to make a controversial statement here. I don’t think it’s wrong to make assumptions about people from their tastes. I do it all the time.
Let me clarify this statement. I do think it’s wrong, of course, to make negative assumptions about people just because of what they like. Threads like this make me feel very sad, even as I get a chuckle out of them. It’s not cool to be judgmental of others just because they disagree with you. In fact, calling someone’s taste “shit” in the first place is an incredibly presumptuous act – never mind what other personal insults you heap on top of that.
At the same time, I actually do think a person’s tastes says a lot about them, and I mean that in no negative sense. All sorts of factors ranging from cultural, social and even religious influences go into shaping one’s personal values, and these tend to reflect on one’s tastes in stories. I can’t speak for others, but when I look through other people’s anime lists, I tend to build up a picture of what they might be like, just from what anime they like and how they rate things. I guess it’s like judging people from how they dress or what their body language is like. You conjure up an immediate gut impression before the other person even opens their mouth.
Is making those sort of assumptions wrong from a moral standpoint?
I actually have no idea. If I am a bad person for doing so, then so be it. I can’t help but make an initial impression of other people based on various cues, and since interaction on the Internet is unnatural compared to real life, sometimes taste is all I have to go on. At the same time, I’m perfectly aware that taste should not be the only way of understanding another person and I’m under no illusions that my gut impression is always correct. In fact, I would argue the fun of getting to know people is having your assumptions challenged as you learn more about them. People always have a way of surprising you.
So, as a way of trying to answer the titular question of this post in an open-ended manner, I’ll walk you readers through the deductive process I use when I make my assumptions. With permission, I picked one of my MAL pals for a guinea pig for this experiment. Now you’ll all get to see what a bigoted pig I am as I cast my narrow-minded judgments, hurr hurr.
Draggle has watched a lot of anime. He also keeps a cool blog, which you should probably read. The first thing I did when I friended him was look at the five favourite anime he chose on the sidebar: Simoun, Haibane Renmei, Baccano!, Mouryou no Hako and Dennou Coil.
These are all seinen-oriented anime, which immediately suggested to me that Draggle is probably older than I am. (I personally tend to rate shonen anime very highly.) The second thing I noticed about Draggle’s favourite anime is that they show very strong internal thematic consistency and are driven by their setting and the ideas created from the setting. In short, they’re very intellectually engaging anime. For Draggle to like this kind of anime, I figured he must be a nerd. A literature enthusiast, perhaps? In my mind, he had to be someone with a university education, at the very least.
…But he must also be a nerd with a sense of fun, because why else would Baccano! be on his list of favourites? The thing with Baccano! is that there is a sense of intellectual engagement because the story is anachronological – so it is more than just mindless gore. At the same time, once you actually figure out the timeline, it turns out not to be that complicated after all, so Draggle probably likes Baccano! because of its strong sense of style and for being appreciable on multiple levels.
With that in mind, I turn to his actual list and try to figure out his personal rating system. His scores tend to cluster around the 6-7 range, with outliers. Considering that his favourites are considered “elitist” anime (I hate to use this term, though, it implies a kind of snobbery) he’s actually pretty lenient on anime that isn’t purely intellectual. For instance, he gave both Angel Beats! and Minami-ke a 9. My perception of Draggle as someone who doesn’t take himself or anime too seriously is strengthened.
The next thing I do is look up his ratings of popular and polarising anime. He gave Sword Art Online a 2. That means he’s a dickhead. I kid, what that really says is that he’s not the type of person to be taken in by hype. I observe that Guilty Crown is rated a meagre 3 and Cowboy Bebop has a surprisingly mediocre rating of 5. This latter score throws me for a bit, so I check out Samurai Champloo’s score. It’s a 6. Looks like Draggle and Shinichiro Watanabe don’t click, but he is capable of acknowledging objective merits. If Draggle were “just” a hipster, he would have rated these two anime much lower. It’s hard to tell this for certain from just a rating, though.
As for the anime which Draggle absolutely hates, we’ve got Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II, Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan (I got a good laugh from the title), Medaka Box Abnormal and Hagure Yuusha no Estetica, all of which were given a 1 by his rating system. It’s clear that (among other things) Draggle doesn’t like fanservice for the sake of fanservice. Well, that’s no big surprise. It also makes me wonder if he’s a feminist.
Okay, that should cover my thought process with enough detail. Hopefully, you could follow my logic there. Equally as hopefully, my assumptions about Draggle weren’t totally off-base and I didn’t step on anyone’s toes in writing this.
So, readers, if you’re curious what kind of person I think you are from your tastes, why not leave a comment with a short list of your favourite anime (between 5-10 titles would be ideal) and I’ll tell you what my assumptions are? Then you’d be able to see for yourself how right or wrong it is to make assumptions about people from their tastes. Even if I’m completely wrong, think of it as some kind of palm-reading exercise. It’s all just a bit of fun and part of my ongoing effort to get to know you readers a little better.
Alternatively, you could judge me from my tastes. I am no guardian of good taste, after all! I am simply me. Here’s a quick list of favourite anime:
Hunter x Hunter
Kuroko no Basuke
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
Hikaru no Go
So what do you say? As long as you keep the discussion civil, learning about people from their tastes isn’t such a bad thing, right?