"IF YOU FIND THE CONTENT OF THIS STORY TO BE OFFENSIVE, QUEER OR PLAIN OUT OFF THE WALL, THEN DO NOT READ ON!!!!!!!"
— Part of a particularly angry and long-winded author's note about the negative reviews skewed towards the infamously bad Legend of Zelda fan fiction My Inner Life
A storied phrase that's become popular with Internet fandoms. It appears most popularly as a generic way to bash those who start complaining about shows they don't like. Sometimes the author will say this in response to criticism in order to avoid even the most polite form of criticism, even when it's perfectly correct.
This argument is not always valid. Some people argue that the phrase is logically fallacious — how can you know you won't like a book or movie if you don't read or watch it, after all? It's not like you can "unread" something once you've read it (though God knows you'd want to, sometimes). Would they prefer that you complain about a show you don't even watch? This argument is invalid if there was no warning beforehand, if the person has already ceased to read and is just stating their opinions, or if the person is being forced to read and finish it for a school assignment. If they did not leave a review and are stating their opinions in their own personal space this argument is invalid since they aren't reading, and you have equal freedom to ignore those opinions if they bother you. If you asked the person for their opinion, or it's their job to give their opinion (e.g. they are a professional movie critic), then this argument is invalid.
Fans and creators often overlook the fact that, in reading/watching the work, they want to enjoy it, writing criticisms for the creator to improve upon. Responses to these kinds of criticisms can often be found in the comments or reviews to popular stories/videos, especially those of popular YouTubers.
It's especially unnerving when people shout "don't like don't read" when you do read it, but shout "how can you dislike something you haven't read?" if you don't (note the hypocrisy — do they want you to read it or not?). It's also especially unnerving since plenty of people who shout this won't take their own advice, and go around reading stuff clearly labeled as criticism to shout "don't like don't read" at the author, ignoring the fact they themselves just read something obviously labeled as a criticism fic.
Sometimes, however, this argument is valid. If someone leaves a review on a story, complaining about an aspect of that story which was clearly labeled on the outside packaging, it's perfectly okay to just shout this phrase in response. That won't help The Reader, but frankly he's got larger problems anyhow. A more obvious version of this trope is often used on the internet at the beginning of videos or writings that deal with specific content to warn them in advance. Very common is seeing this on the beginning of YouTube videos "WARNING: this video contains yaoi/yuri/hentai/fetishtic-content. If you do not like this sort of thing, DON'T WATCH!" (the more sarcastic-minded uploader may even point out the back-button on the page). You will often see a version on sites like deviantart.com as well "WARNING: Mature content" (usually these are restricted to someone over the age of 18... or at least someone who had the foresight to list their age as such). Generally, if someone complains of being scarred for life after being exposed to such works when warnings are given, people generally concur that this is their own fault.note This is different from complaining about the quality of the content, when it is complaining about the subject matter itself!
Furthermore, authors, and producers of entertainment content in general, must also deal with that wonderful trait called Fan Dumb. Fans can become possessive of their favorite franchises, and can have very specific ideas of where they want the story to go... ideas that, even if they aren't just legitimately bad, are simply not where the writer wants to go. When beleaugered with such requests for Character Derailment, waste of perfectly good plot or other betrayals of the story's or writer's artistic integrity, well-meaning though they may be, "Don't Like, Don't Read"—or perhaps "Won't Like, Don't Read"—can be the simplest defense at hand. Especially since the alternative is Executive Meddling at its best, Pandering to the Base at worst.
Inevitably, going beyond just matters of preference, this phrase sometimes gets raised in objection to any criticism of works, even those made by actual fans. Further, someone's "bashing" may involve perfectly valid criticisms that aren't easily blown off.
Which is happening in any given conversation? It depends, and on the net, sometimes it's a little of both.
In the case of fanfiction, if the writer gives their readers warning in the summary of interesting things like the pairings, any slash, rape or mass murdering, they have a fair defense with "Don't Like, Don't Read". If however their summaries consist of such gems as "I suck at summaries", they generally don't have any right to complain and this argument is completely invalid.
See Let's See YOU Do Better and You're Just Jealous for the complete trifecta of stock generic excuses to bad writing.
Note: Like any other example list, try to avoid Take Thats and Complaining About Shows You Don't Like. Also, please keep in mind this is about fiction, not any rebuff of criticism.
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Anime and Manga
Bungaku Shoujo; As an in-universe example of sorts, in the animated short (based on a series of light novels about a girl who literally eats books and the boy she makes write for her), the eponymous "literature girl" complains about the out-of-nowhere ending of a story the boy has written for her, leading him to reply "Hey, if you don't like it, don't eat it."
"Sometimes somechildren get the wrong idea, so I guess I'll explain. It's not the reader's right to change the story of a work. Their only right is to choose whether or not to read it. If they can't stomach it, they should stop reading.
There's a peculiar phenomenon amongst readers of comics, especially mainstream titles such as those published by Marvel or DC, that if a title they enjoy takes a turn they disapprove of, perhaps a new writer with a new vision, or a particular bad plot twist, they will continue to purchase every new issue that comes out every month, but go on the Internet and gripe about how horrible it is. Often you'll hear the excuse that they're only buying it because, quote, "I don't want any holes in my collection," and then they'll also buy all the alt covers for the same. This was especially noticeable during the controversial One More Day storyline for Marvel's Spider-Man; the internet lit up with readers blasting the direction the story was going, blasting Marvel for what they were doing to Spider-Man, blasting Joe Quesada personally for being the ringleader of it... but still buying all the books and wondering why Marvel doesn't realize how much they dislike a direction that "all the fans" hate, but are still financially supporting.
They might be buying simply in the hopes that what they didn't liked will be changed in the next issue.
This is a bit of a double edged sword, however. If a fan does stop reading because they dislike the direction, they are then told that their opinion has no merit because they aren't buying therefore their opinion has no merit. So, in other words, you aren't allowed to buy and then complain, because if you don't like it you should just stop buying, and therefore your criticism has no merit. But if you do stop buying, your opinion doesn't count because you don't know what is going on and therefore your criticism has no merit. Somehow, a fan needs to find a way to buy, but not buy, and read, but not read, in order for their criticisms to have any validity.
Fanfic authors and artists/writers will use this as their defense on occasion, even when they're responding to mockery from websites specifically dedicated to seeking out and mocking the "worst examples" of both. Unfortuately, this phrase is also used as a defense in regard to real criticism, such as comments on a writer's lack of proper grammar, or incorrect spelling, or some other example of what is, to be honest, simply a lack of writing talent or skill.
After the advent of the seventh Harry Potter book, any author that did not follow canon couples ( notably Harry/Hermione shippers)were almost forced to put this at the head of every fanfic to ward off the "But it ended Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny" comments.
As mentioned in Web Comics below, fan fic writers can, to an extent, get away with this. Because the stories are uploaded chapter by chapter and don't cost anything to view, there's no reason for readers to keep reading if they don't like it. A negative review on the first few chapters, while readers are trying to see if it's worth continuing with, make sense, but if it's on chapter thirty and people are still commenting that they've hated it since the beginning, you have to wonder why they're still reading.
Producer J.J. Abrams flat out told Trek fans not to bother watching his re-working of Star Trek if they weren't going to like it.
Terry Goodkind, when talking about people who didn't enjoy his books but still read them (they might have started out as fans, for example), said that their complaining was like someone slamming their hand in a car door, screaming about how much it hurts, and then doing it over and over again, saying how much they didn't like it all the while. Which is to say, even Terry Goodkind thinks Naked Empire is like slamming your hand in a car door.
Twilight fans tend to use this excuse when dealing with the series' hatedom. It never works. Partially because antis want to know what they're talking about. It really doesn't help the fans case when they also use the polar opposite excuse: "You can't hate it unless you've read it."
Its Spiritual Successor, www.impishidea.com, has also received a number of ugly comments along the lines of this trope when it was critical of Twilight or Inheritance Cycle. It also accidentally attracted the author of Bitterwood.
J. K. Rowling explained in an interview that she has told at least one person, who did not react well to a certain character's death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, not to read the rest of the books. Given the direction the series took after that, it was probably for the best.
Live Action TV
Has been heard like a mantra on Doctor Who fan sites since the new series began airing, to the point where there are certain areas where expressing any criticism of the new series will invoke this response.
Jersey Shore (one of MTV's reality shows) cast member "Snooki"'s response that the show reinforced negative stereotype that Italian-Americans were nothing but loud-mouthed partying guidos: ""FUCK YOU! If you don't want to watch, don't watch. Just shut the hell up! I'm serious. FUCK YOU!"
...which is, ironically (intentionally so, it is to be hoped), just what a stereotypical loud-mouthed guido would say.
iCarly: Seddie is Seddie, Creddie is Creddie, and never the twain shall meet. This also applies to the fanfic. You could tell everyone straight up from word 1, shouting up and down your story will end as Creddie, the readers would happily read 50 chapters of Carly/OC, Freddie/Wendy or Carly/Griffin until they finally get together, but you put Freddie with Sam for a couple chapters, and you'll get complaints.
Co-creator of Seinfeld Larry David would often state "If you don't like it, please don't watch" in response to various criticisms of the show
In a press conference before the Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) series premiere, Edward Olmos was asked about the reaction of Battlestar Galactica (Classic) fans to the reimagining. He said, flatly, "if you're a fan of the original, don't watch the new one. You won't like it, turn it off." This made some minor entertainment headlines ("Eddie Olmos doesn't want you to watch his new show!") and was probably the result of Olmos seeing one too many complaints from the original show's fans about the new show just existing. Ron Moore would later admit that it turned into better publicity than they could've paid for with people tuning in just to see why Olmos thought they would hate it.
It helps that Wang is, himself, a huge Kamen Rider fan, and in said interview he also points out that "the original Japanese versions will always be there for them to enjoy and, despite what they believe, no one can ever take that away".
Happens in-universe on The Muppet Show with Statler & Waldorf, who buy tickets to see the show every week even though they hate it. They even lampshade this fact in the opening credits.
Casper Milquetoast: "While wading through the second installment of a tiresome serial, Mr. Milquetoast suddenly realizes that there is no town, state, or federal law compelling him to finish it."
Specific features of video games have this happen to them:
Downloadable Content. There are good ones, there are bad ones, but everyone seems to forget that they are completely optional purchases. Pointing this out doesn't seem to stop the Hate Dom though.
In the Pokémon franchise, they have side contests that really don't do that much and only give aesthetic awards that, again, don't do that much. Yeah, they're different than the main gameplay, but that hasn't stopped the Chicken Littles in the fanbase and the Hate Dumb from screaming "This is gonna suck!" and "See? This is why I quit at Yellow!" respectively. Pointing out that they are completely and entirely avoidable and that you have yet to be stopped until you win a contest doesn't really do anything - they ain't listening.
Pokémon gets this a lot. A lot of people seem to have claimed that every single game since Red, Blue, and Yellow have sucked yet for some reason, have managed to buy every single game since, only to complain about how much it sucks and "Nintendo can't do anything right with these games" - despite that they and GameFreak must be doing something right - since they've still bought them all.
Easy mode. People complaining about easy mode existing (Not just the game itself being easy, that's a different story entirely) are often told "Don't like easy mode? Play HARD!". Course it's hard to tell what's not just Flame Bait.
And Nintendo even put the Super guide in New Super Mario Brothers Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Even when it was announced, the forums were full of screaming that it's being dumbed down and that gamers wouldn't even have to look up at GameFAQs. But guess what? Five of us were pointing out that the use of this technology is completely optional - And even using it becomes an Easy-Mode Mockery and blocks one hundred percent completion. Naturally, they are just complaining that it EXISTS - It's less tedious to not use it because you have to die eight times before it's offered. Most of the time, you'd run out of lives.
There's even an apparent super guide in Ocarina of Time 3D offering solutions to puzzles for people who have not played the game or any of its hundreds of rereleases and remakes before (all sixteen of us). According to reviewers, in order to view these videos, you have to go back to Kokiri village. It's actually less tedious to just figure the puzzle out yourself or, since it's for a portable system, go to GameFAQs or load up a video on YouTube showing how it's done.
The help guide is in the form of a special Gossip Stone near your house in Kokiri Village. There's also one in the Temple of Time.
Or you can just hit the HOME button, which freezes the game at where you are at, open the built in web browser go to the guide on the internet and then look up how it's done. The web browser even keeps your spot, so if you want to look at the next thing, you can just repeat these actions.
Many people seem to hate the MMORPG genre as a whole, and then complain on the MMORPG forums that it's not enough like single-player RPGs, FPSes, platformers, puzzles, multiplayer FPSes, MMOFPSes, etc...Meanwhile here come games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars and guess what they get criticized about? That's right...for being like an MMORPG, whereas ironically, the fans of MMORPGs (yes, they exist) often sneer at games like those for not being MMORPGenough.
The people who've been saying the game was ruined since Day two of games like Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, and EverQuest fit this trope. For some odd reason, many of them will complain how it was ruined for awhile, yet have obviously not quit yet - especially when they claim they have found better games.
While Sonic Chronicles got some positive reviews and people who actually liked it, there were people who, for some incredibly odd reason, said that the game sucked because it wasn't a platformer. They didn't seem to have been informed that an RPG is not a platformer, which seemed odd as nearly every single advertisement was saying, "It's a Sonic RPG" or "It's not a platformer!"
Similar complaints were given to Super Paper Mario (people expecting an RPG, and getting a platformer) and Rabbids Go Home (people expecting a mini-game fest and getting a...well...whatever Rabbids Go Home is). You'd think people would research the game a little before buying.
Targeted at reviewing websites and magazines who ask reviewers who hate entire genres to review games in that genre. Naturally, some immediately complain in their reviews how it's "just another RPG/FPS/Platformer/Sports game, can I please play the games in the genre I like NOW?!"
Justified with Game Pro given that they were an utter factory of misinformation due to their lack of caring towards RPGs, to the level where they would not even do the research and wind up printing stuff of the Cowboy Bebop at His Computer variety.
Also targeted (And often justified) at user-reviews in places like GameFAQs. Granted, these are treated as incredibly amateur reviews, especially since one will probably see someone complaining at a game for simply being made by one company in at least one review, or reviews that are probably bordering on the lines of Flame Bait or Trolling.
A bizarre twist on this has cropped up among M.U.G.E.N players. As you can add characters to the game's roster, some people have taken to complaining about certain characters. The response has been, to a word, "If you don't like the character, don't download it!"
For some reason, people love to complain about games that aren't made with them in mind. This has something to do with the "Entitlement Culture" of gaming that magazines and websites enforce by complaining that they don't have enough of what ''they'' want out.
Happens on the Minecraft forums all the time. Generally, it follows a pretty recognizable pattern: First, someone will complain about a play style or technique they don't like and demand that Notch overhaul the game mechanics so that said play style no longer worksnote No Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement here; they almost always demand that Notch actually change things to their liking. Then, some people who either use that play style, or have realistic expectations about the amount of attention Notch is paying people who are complaining about how people arrange dirt, come along and invoke this trope, pointing out that in singleplayer games, it's not actually affecting other people, and in multiplayer servers, it's considered bad form to destroy other peoples' creations, so the best they can suggest is finding/creating a server where those playstyles are houseruled out. Sometimes it stops there, but if the original poster and their supporters are feeling ornery, they'll come back and invoke this trope right back, claiming that if you don't agree with the OP, you don't have any place contributing to the circlejerk discussion.
In Mass Effect 3, in one argument between Specialist Copeland and Tagalong Reporter Diana Allers, Copeland will object to an opinion piece advocating abandoning Terra Nova, appalled that Allers would even think of writing something like that despite being on the Normandy, and Allers tells Copeland that if he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to download it. You can choose whom to support in this argument.
Left 4 Dead 2 is this trope in spades. Comparisons to the original game are inevitable, but the complaints about how the sequel ruined so many elements that made the first game so great or how the new survivors are not as interesting pop up so much that it makes people wonder why don't the complainers just stick to playing the first game if it's that much better than the sequel rather than keep on playing the sequel and complain about everything all the time.
Any sequel in general will fall into the trope at some point where fans of the original cry and whine about how inferior the sequel of a game is compared to the first one, yet they still keep playing the game and wonder why people tell them to go back to playing the first game.
A common reaction to negative comments to musical YouTube videos. "If you hate Artist X so much, don't watch their music videos!" "Don't watch them and then complain about it!"
Also, Mike Mozart (A product guru who reviews fail toys, but also gives plenty of positive reviews to good toys) has a warning before some videos, specifically because he didn't wanna see anything in the comments section about how inappropriate the toy is or how he's pointing out what it looks like.
Also related; you often look like a troll for going onto a video marked "Spoilers" and complaining that it has spoilers. Especially some rather obvious videos like say the Final Boss of a video game. It's also the same with spoiler tags in some forums. Really, it's marked "Spoilers", why would you highlight it if you don't want spoilers?
It also happens with comments left on a video, where some complain about comments containing spoilers. Nevermind that comments are supposed to be about the content of a video (making spoilers kind of hard to avoid), and that comments can fairly easily be avoided until one has finished watching the video.
The phrase is quite common within many art gallery type sites — although it's used in either fair situations, or it's just a downright excuse from artists trying to shoo off any criticism.
It also should be noted that there are people who request that you do not give them negative feedback (constructive criticism included, e.g. Things like "you should work on your proportions" or "practice drawing hands more") on any of their works. Sure, the first or second time at a particular subject is okay, but if you're wanting to actually develop artistically, you have to be able to learn from negative critiques and comments (not as much as flaming though) as much as you can. (Sincere artists have learned to accept this.) It's important to note that this started to punish Destructive criticism. (See below.)
And to give constructive criticism, simply being told "Don't draw anime or write fanfiction" really isn't very constructive in terms of criticism. It doesn't matter if you don't like Anime art or fanfiction stories— we want to know if we drew it or wrote it good. If you're mocking it in the comments (ie, finding a grammatical mistake and cracking jokes about how bad it is) or pulling the "This is not True Art because True Art is..." cards, we won't take you as anything but a Troll or a part of Hate Dumb.
Which is also bad advice because the only way to perfect your craft is to practice it. Anime style still requires you to have a basic understanding of art elements, and fanfic writing still requires you to have basic writing skills. Copying other styles is how you find your own so you can find your limitations and strengths to grow.
Some forums can be quite bad about it. Some people who never liked * Insert production here* in the first place will somehow post in every single thread related to them. Mention Twilight in any way and you'll surely get a lot of people coming in and bashing you.
There is an author of NSFW fiction named Nick Scipio who is probably the best writer in the genre, having the rare ability to do justice to both the "sex" part and the "story" part of a sex story. He's also thin-skinned, and gives out this phrase to anyone who complains about his work. (The fact that his magnum opus has developed a case of both Cerebus SyndromeandSchedule Slip isn't helping matters. Not only are some readers complaining about the main character's self-admitted behavior in recent chapters, but others have genuinely bonded with him and want to know the ending. Both types of readers get the GTFO if they complain too much.)
Newgrounds had some of this stuff happen, mostly it was because Trolls were going into parodies, complaining about it being a parody (of something they don't like), or complaining that it's using sprites and trashing the video on basis of using sprites. Or going into hentai / X-rated videos and downrating them for being X-rated.
This episode of Mr Deity ends with a begging segment explaining that if you hate the show, loathe the begging segments and are still watching anyway, there are trained psychiatric professionals who can help you.
On The Angry Video Game Nerd website, people frequently come into unrelated videos (such as "Board James") and bash them because they aren't AVGN. This usually has at least one or two comments saying "Just don't watch the non AVGN-videos."
A web series based on the sequel for PAYDAY: The Heist is constantly harped on for being "bad", yet most of the people who are complaining about the quality of the series keep watching every new episode that is released just so they can justify their constant complaining.
Webcomic creators in general are the writers most able to justify this response, due to two things - their works being incremental, so you can simply stop reading at any point, and their being completely free so that you haven't actually wasted any money on something you don't like.
The Webcomic Concerned lampshades the second case. Gordon Frohman is in the world of Counter-Strike, and the players complain about all sorts of stuff promised to them.
Frohman: So, let me get this straight. You basically complain about every single aspect of this game. Yet you've been playing it over and over since 1999. Terrorist: Yes! So I complain on teh Steam forums every day.
A mild example: Jeffrey Darlington, creator of General Protection Fault, has been known to advise complainers to take a vacation from the comic until after however many months. Basically, don't read the current arc, but come back when it's over.
There is a comic drawing contest called the Daily Grind. The rules are simple. Post a 2+ panel comic each day, Mon-Fri and never miss a day. Each person put in twenty bucks when the contest started and the artist who goes the longest without missing an update wins. The winner takes the entire pot. The basic concept behind this contest was to provide an incentive for people to post regularly, and thus draw more frequently and improve their skills. Despite "improving your skills!" being the primary purpose of the contest, many of the lower quality comic strips were blatantly attacked for being low quality by people attempting to shame them into dropping out and letting somebody who "deserves" to win continue. The entire Daily Grind community would invariably all join forces to yell this trope at them.
Gets said almost daily to one XKCD troll/hater or another on the fora.
In the first MegaTokyo compilation book, one of Piro's commentaries mentions that after an early strip that broke away from the gag-a-day norm for the sake of the story, a reader said that he would stop reading if Piro did something like that again. The author's response was basically, "go ahead, I'm not forcing you to read it."
The episode of Sealab 2021 that introduces Shanks had him note that if the crew (and by extension the audience) didn't like that he was replacing the much beloved Captain Murphy, they can go watch anime instead.