Sunday, March 06, 2011

Words of Hate: Marmite

A new cliche is perhaps a contradiction in terms, but there is certainly one coined phrase that seems to be rising to prominence and really gets on my tits. And that is BLANK marmite, as in “it’s musical marmite’ or ‘movie marmite’. Basically what the sayer is describing is something that provokes an equally strong reaction of love or hate depending on who you ask, with few sitting inbetween. It’s popularly associated with music, because that also begins with an M, but it is also commonly used when discussing movies, for the same reason.

The Marmite comparison has taken a long time to weave its way into common usage, the Marmite Love It or Hate It campaign began back in the 90s. What I find particularly irritating about this phrase is that those who employ it always seem to use it with a sense of smugness and cleverness, as if they have discovered a clever way to encapsulate the feeling of ‘love or hate’ in one phrase. A complete defining and profound description of the subject.

Well it's not big or clever. There is something particularly irritating about the marmite thing. Is it because it has sprung from an advertising campaign? It was actually quite well employed there, amusingly capitolising on that fact that we all know people who both love and hate marmite. Of course that was a bit of fun, it wasn't until later it was used to describe certain art forms, and being employed lazily to describe the way something can devide an opinion. It smacks of a lack of imagination and an obviously vague understanding of one’s subject, and how an audience relates to it.

The reaction we have to a food or drink cannot really be explained, our tastebuds react to produce a positive or negative sensation. But why one group of people might like a piece of music or a movie can actually mostly be explained, can't it. You can break music and films down in to elements: instruments, vocals, visuals, attitude, words, lighting etc, any one of which may de singled out for criticism. You can also look at the times in which something is created. Foodstuffs don’t really tend to go in and out of fashion, with some exceptions of course. But music and film is very much attached to the time in which it is made. Consider punk, and who that impacted on other genres of music, drastically reducing their popularity, turning tides of people against bands who were once remarkably popular.

Consider also the fact that types of music and film considered ‘Marmite’ are not usually available easily available to the general public. They are generally unusual in some way and not considered desirable to the general public. Therefore, to enjoy it, you must search for it. And only if you really like something, are you likely to spend any great time seeking it out.

For those who dislike something in the extreme, they may not have taken fiercely to it at least to begin with, but may have taken more against in response to those who love it passionately. Music and movie fanatic travel in packs, and often the only way to discover fringe or new artists is to pass them on to try and covert more to the faithful. And there’s nothing like someone who likes something too much to put you really off it.

Let’s face it, there are actually plenty of people in the world who will sit in the middle, maybe neither loving or hating something. Thinking again of music and movies, you are not usually loving or hating something individually, you have feelings about a band, genre, director. Therefore you may find you love certain bits, eras of facets of a performance piece. In fact the more you love something, the more angry you are bound to get when it disappoints you.

The BLANK marmite thing just doesn’t really do anything justice. If something is divisive then explain why. If you can’t explain why, that maybe you don’t understand its appeal, negative or otherwise. And if you don’t understand it, then maybe you shouldn’t write about it!

In summary – I hate the marmite cliché comparison. It's tedious, dull and vague. Please, please don’t use it; It’s rubbish.