One of the best things about culture, whether it’s books, music, theatre, or any other medium, is the way that people can enjoy the same thing in different ways.
The exercise bikes at my gym overlook the swimming pool. The other day, as I strained to push my unhealthy body into action, I saw an aquarobics lesson. The instructor stood on the side, while a dozen older ladies and gentlemen followed her motions in the water. They were all enjoying the satisfaction of exercise.
And behind the instructor, in the shallow pool, four young kids were enjoying this in a different way. One was watching the instructor in silent fascination, taking in her surreal, dance-like performance. Two more were trying to join in, imitating the movements like the people in the class. And the last one was inventing her own aquarobics, spinning round to the music in her head.
Everyone in those pools was enjoying aquarobics, and so was I, taking pleasure in the joy on others’ faces – frankly, any distraction from the aches of exercise was a pleasure. Most of it wasn’t what the instructor intended, but it all made the world a richer place.
It’s easy for creators to get protective over their work. To feel defensive when others take pleasure from it in ways they hadn’t intended, whether spoof, or imitation, or subversive readings of the meaning of the text. But none of us see the world in exactly the same way, and as a creator, isn’t it better to be misunderstood than to be ignored?
I like to think that, if someone got a different meaning than I intended from one of my stories, I’d enjoy knowing that. After all, it shows interaction with the text, it shows thought, it shows intellectual pleasure.
It’s someone acting like those kids at the pool, and who’s to tell them that they’re wrong?