I started watching King Arthur: Legend of the Sword yesterday. The intro was fine, if unexciting. The growing up montage that followed went on way too long and actively frustrated me. The next sequence wasn’t much more exciting. After all this, I did something I’ve rarely done in the past: I stopped watching.
I’m not saying this as a slight against Guy Ritchie or anyone else involved in making King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I’m positive, even from just the first eighth or so of the movie, that they made exactly the movie they wanted to make. It just isn’t a movie I care to watch.
And that’s okay.
For a long time, I’ve adhered to the frankly idiotic belief that starting to watch a movie means I need to finish watching that movie. But life’s too short and there are too many other options out there to enjoy to put up with something you’re not enjoying, even for a couple hours. And I don’t just mean that there are other movies I might enjoy more, or TV shows I could be watching instead, or more video games than I know what to do with.
There are plenty of ways to spend time, in front of screens or more importantly out in the real world, and to devote any more time than necessary to something that’s not really bringing me joy is a waste of it.
It’s why I don’t play a lot of RPGs, particularly those that the general consensus says require a dozen or more hours to really get good. It’s why I’ve walked away from games after a few hours instead of powering through them.
It’s why I’ve stopped watching TV shows when their first seasons don’t really do it for me (though I try to give them a minimum of six or seven episodes before making that call), or in the extreme case of The Walking Dead, when I realize two episodes into the sixth season that I haven’t really enjoyed watching in a very long time and I’ve just been keeping up with it out of an almost masochistic sense of requirement.
It’s why I’ve stopped reading certain books, even those that are highly recommended and objectively excellent. Beloved and Infinite Jest are phenomenal works of art, but neither made me want to keep reading. So I didn’t.
I’m not saying that everything needs to provide a certain amount of entertainment or allow easy entry to its content; it just needs to do something for me. And in the case of everything I’ve mentioned in here so far, that simply wasn’t the case and I wasn’t enjoying my time with the work in question. Note that enjoyment is not equal to fun here. I’m all for challenging stories that may be tough to get through for any number of reasons, but they still have to be making some sort of impact on me, be it emotional, intellectual, or otherwise.
It took me a long time to transfer this lesson to movies, largely because the price paid is a lot lower with movies than with TV shows, video games, or books. Even the longest movies are maybe three hours long, and it’s possible to spend that much time with a video game and barely have a feel for what it really is. It’s possible to spend that much time watching a show before it really starts to show its true potential.
But time is important and there’s always something else it could be used for, be it another piece of entertainment, family, friends, personal creative endeavors or just about anything else. The lesson here is that you’re under no obligation to the creators of the work in question, and chances are they’re not going to be offended if their thing just isn’t for you and you move on to something else.
At the end of the day, movies, games, shows, and books are entertainment first and foremost. If they’re not doing that for you, it’s okay to walk away and move on to something else, anything else, that will. Don’t feel obligated to see whatever you’re giving your time and attention to through its end. There’s no shame in setting something aside, temporarily or permanently, and there’s no shame in focusing your time and attention on things that enrich your life in some way, however important or superfluous that way may be.
If something isn’t working out for you, you don’t need to stick with it. It’s okay to walk away if things aren’t working out, and it’d be best to embrace that notion as soon as possible. You’ll be better off.