Low expectations allow for more surprises


There’s a saying a wise man once said that goes, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” I think it might’ve been Tyrion.

OK, he didn’t say that, but it sounds like something he’d say, right?

Anyway, that’s a sentiment I’ve believed for years when it comes to pop culture and entertainment. This notion was at the forefront of my mind shortly after “The Last Jedi” came out.

I’m sure many of you have seen “The Last Jedi,” but since it’s only been out for roughly a month, there are probably still a number of people who have yet to see it. So I’ll refrain from spoiling anything. But it’s safe to say it’s been an incredibly polarizing movie for a few reasons, one of which is that there are certain expectations that come along with a “Star Wars” movie, and “The Last Jedi” didn’t really meet them, to put it mildly.

Overall, I generally liked it for a number of reasons, but the movie’s not without its flaws, and there are legitimate criticisms people have. There are also a number of complaints about it that I believe stem from people being led astray by their own expectations of what may or may not happen in the movie. For instance, what fate will befall Luke and Leia? Who are Rey’s biological parents? Did Chewie eat Lando at some point between trilogies in a fit of hangry rage? These concerns are fair and, to a degree, are understandable (except that last one: Lando just simply disappeared), but many people were left with a lingering disappointment.

When “The Force Awakens” came out, I wasn’t expecting much because I thought, “Who’s asking for another trilogy?” So the fact that it didn’t suck was a welcome surprise to me. I had no expectations for Episode 8 – no idea what’ll happen to Luke and co. – other than Rian Johnson is a good director who should make things interesting, and, on that note, he did not disappoint. When I was younger – I know I’m dating myself here big time – I let myself get carried away with the potential greatness Episode 1 would bring to the fold. Oh, how young and naive of me. It’s hard to think of a bigger gulf between expectations and disappointing reality than “The Phantom Menace.” Many people got burned by that one.

I know it sounds pessimistic and perhaps even borderline nihilistic to say, “Oh hey, that thing that you’ve been looking forward to, yeah, cool your jets on that!” And, framed like that, I can see how that’s not appealing.

But tempering expectations for the entertainment one consumes can be a good precaution against pop culture after-burn. I mean, think about the number of times you’ve expected greatness from something – be it a TV show, a movie, a book, an album – only to be hit with a crushing wave of disappointment.

For some reason, I didn’t rein in my expectations back when season four of “Arrested Development” came out, and I spent that time wallowing in the bitter taste of disappointment (I’ll proceed with extreme caution with season five).

On the flip side of the coin, when I heard FX was adapting a television series based on the movie “Fargo,” my expectations were way more dubious about the prospects of that endeavor (Why would you? How?). The first two seasons of that show have been some of the most exciting and riveting television I’ve seen in quite some time – which, of course, came as a huge surprise and not at all something I would’ve expected.

I think it’s an unavoidable aspect of human nature to let our imaginations run wild with expectations and possibilities, which is perfectly normal and fine for many things in life. But, at least for me, when it comes to the entertainment I engage in, I’ve taken a more detached, stoic approach.

That’s not to say I’m an emotionless killjoy about everything. I really do look forward to the final season of “Game of Thrones” next year, for instance. Engaging in speculation about what’ll happen can be fun, but I won’t get caught in the trap of expecting a particular outcome to occur, “or else.” The showrunners will stick the landing or they won’t; either way, it’ll be intriguing.

Sometimes, expectations will be dashed. Sometimes, they’ll be exceeded. Sometimes, they’ll be a “Goldilocks-level” of just right. I opt to keep them lowered regardless because I’d much rather be surprised by something being “better than expected” rather than be disappointed by something I expected to be goo