"Don't like, don't read" is a standard response to criticism of a work of fiction, particularly on the Internet. It raises the basic question of why the critic bothered to read or finish the work if it turned out they didn't like it.
The trope is most commonly used by Fan Fic authors who Can't Take Criticism and try to silence critics with this line (as part of a trifecta with Let's See YOU Do Better! and You're Just Jealous). When "don't like, don't read" is used this way, the problem is immediately obvious: how is the audience supposed to know they don't like it if they haven't read it? The alternative would presumably be for the critic to not read the work and complain about it anyway. It's also often seen in comment sections on places like YouTube, where the work may be so short that by the time the viewer decides they didn't like it, it's already over.
A reader doesn't necessarily have to enjoy everything they read. They might be able to provide Constructive Criticism in an effort to allow the author to improve their work in the future. They might be a professional critic who doesn't have a choice in what they read or watch; no good critic is going to limit their reviews to things they think they will enjoy. They might even be seeking out things that they don't like, because that allows them to build a persona as a Caustic Critic. Or they might actually like it, but only because it's So Bad, It's Good. "Don't like, don't read" is thus not a particularly useful criticism here.
That said, Tropes Are Tools, and there are legitimate reasons to use this line. No work can be all things to all people, and the line allows the author to be up-front about what's in the work. This allows readers to know, even before they start reading, that they might encounter something they won't like. When used most productively, it can serve as more of a Content Warning than an admonition. It's helpful for certain readers, given that it's impossible to "unread" something (as much as people would really like to). It's particularly useful for things like Dark Fic, which provides an unexpected and often disturbing twist to something people will be familiar with, which is definitely not to everyone's taste. It's also useful to warn people of spoilers if they haven't finished the parent work yet. More often, though, Fan Fiction writers will drop this line to fend off their fandom's interminable Ship-to-Ship Combat.
Which brings us to another legitimate reason to use the line: to deal with Fan Dumb. Some fans like to see very specific things happen — e.g. a specific Ship, a happy ending, a focus on a particular character — and when they don't see it, they fly off the handle. Still others, and even many critics, simply don't like the common tropes of certain genres, like high fantasy or sci-fi, and complain about the presence of things like soft magic systems, benevolent monarchs, faster-than-light travel, etc that are simply staples of that genre rather than actual cliches. In such situations, the only thing to tell a reader really is "don't like, don't read", because criticism of the work along these lines doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the writing. Some fanfic writers have taken to stating in advance which pairings will appear in the work, so nobody who objects to them has any excuse to keep reading.
Sometimes the line is said in response to readers who seem to be forcing themselves to read or watch something they don't enjoy just so that they can keep criticizing it, such as fanfic readers who leave entirely negative feedback on multiple subsequent chapters. When the work is put up in installments, especially if it's free, it costs nothing to quit while you're ahead. It can seem remarkably petty to keep reading a Long Runner you hate just to criticize it. But this doesn't make constructive criticism invalid on its own, so it cuts both ways. At the same time, many Fan Fiction writers point out that their writing is a hobby, and view unsolicited constructive criticism as incredibly rude due to the fact that this is something they're doing for fun and for free rather than a product for which they are accountable to their audience.
A subtrope of Dear Negative Reader, where this is one of many tools a writer might use to counter criticism of their work.
Note: Examples should be limited to responses to criticism of works of fiction, rather than any rebuff of criticism. As always, play nice, and try to avoid Take Thats and Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.
- Used In-Universe in Book Girl, an animated short based on a series of light novels about a girl who literally eats books, and a boy whom she makes write books for her. She complains about the Ass Pull ending of one of the stories, leading him to reply, "Hey, if you don't like it, don't eat it."
- Kubo Tite, author of Bleach, tweeted in early 2010, in response to criticism, that:
"Sometimes some children 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."
- Comic books, especially the mainstream titles from Marvel and DC, are part of a peculiar phenomenon where fans routinely complain about comics they don't like, but buy them anyway because they want the complete collection. They thus feel particularly entitled to complain about them, because if they're buying them one way or another, they would rather like them to be worth reading. Comic writers hit back with Morton's Fork: if you buy it, you can't criticise it because the best way to incentivise writers to improve is to withhold your money, but if you don't buy it, you still can't criticise it because you haven't read it!
- Kelly Sue DeConnick put it more succinctly when she said, "If you don't like my politics, don't buy my books."
- Fan Fiction is notorious for authors who use this excuse as a way of deflecting any and all criticism of their work, essentially implying that coherent writing, characterization, and spelling are just a matter of personal taste. That said, given how often readers complain about things like pairings and other story elements, it's also common to use the line as part of a Fanfic Header warning readers about what they can expect to find:
- Fanfiction Dot Net and sites like it will indicate every romantic pairing in the fic before it starts, warning fans not to read it if they don't like what they see (which, since this is fanfic, can range from Ho Yay to Foe Yay to Incest to just not a Fan-Preferred Couple).
- Archive of Our Own supplements this with an elaborate Content Warning system that requires writers to warn readers of pretty much anything. They can warn of certain pairings or focus on certain characters. They can warn of certain objectionable plot points (e.g. graphic violence, rape, major character death, or any sexual relationship involving minors). They can list any plot elements the readers might not like, which leads some short fics to have tags so extensive that they basically summarise the fic in its entirety. They can even use a tag saying they won't tag anything specific, basically meaning "read at your own risk", occasionally summed up memetically with the phrase "Dead Dove, Do Not Eat"note
- Parodied in Harry Potter and the Something Something:
Don't like? Read anyway. And then bitch to me about it when you're done. It's not like you have anything better to do with your time, right?
- Prolific fanfic author (and likely troll) Hans Von Hozel, known for his extremely tenuous grasp of English, used this line when he re-hosted his NUMB3RS fic after it was reported and deleted.
- After the last Harry Potter book was released and the pairings were settled, fanfiction which did not conform to the canon pairings (especially Harry/Hermione fics) would add headings like this as a matter of course to ward off the Ship-to-Ship Combat.
- My Inner Life, a The Legend of Zelda fanfic that's supposedly an account of the author's lucid dreams, begins with an "Author's Note" which is really a multi-page Author Tract, consisting mostly of repeatedly throwing this excuse at any readers who may be questioning whether writing all that down was such a good idea.
- Cori Falls has these disclaimers in the form of long-winded rants on both her Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! pages.
- The fictional fanfic authors included in Bleach: Fan Works do this quite often. Jolene Meyers possibly has the most succinct example:
If you don't like my character, then fucking don't read.
- iCarly was notorious for its insane shipping wars (to the point that the show itself dedicated an hour-long episode to parodying the conflict), such that pretty much any fanfic of the series required the author to give away the end pairing with a warning like this just to head off criticism.
- Nick Scipio, a highly-acclaimed X-rated fanfic writer best known for the million-plus word sex drama Summer Camp, has been known to give this response to critics of his work. The problem is that some of those critics also include fans burned by his Schedule Slip who feel particularly slighted when a new long-awaited installment isn't up to their standard.
- In chapter 36 of Ghosts of the Past, Nimbus Llewelyn told a group of annoyingly persistent anonymous reviewers that if they didn't like the more grounded direction the fic was taking, they should go and find - or write - one more to their taste. Given that this was five years, 116 chapters (118 counting the Chaos Reigns two-shot), and 1.4 million words into the series, with the approach of explicitly avoiding most Super!Harry tropes being made crystal clear from the beginning, it was an entirely justified reaction after several less emphatic responses were ignored.
- My Immortal's writer Tara has a tendency to do this when snapping at the "prepz" who criticise the story. It gets to the point that every time she makes a Shout-Out, she interrupts the story with a series of "author's notes" to yell at anyone who doesn't get the reference and yet is still reading, ostensibly because they're only there to bitch about the story's quality.
- When the Star Trek reboot movie was released, producer J. J. Abrams flat-out told Star Trek fans that it would make things more accessible to non-fans, and the die-hards probably weren't going to like it and probably shouldn't watch it.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen demonstrated the problem with responding like this to professional reviewers, as fans will point to the film's Critical Dissonance; clearly, only the critics don't like it, so their opinions are meaningless and they shouldn't watch it. The problem is that they get paid to watch it, whether they particularly want to or not.
- This phrase seems to be Kevin Smith's mentality. As years have passed, he's gotten nastier and nastier towards critics, and seems to resent them. The idea is "don't like, don't watch" because he makes movies for himself, not for critics.
- Laurell K. Hamilton gave this line in a Dear Negative Reader letter to fans of her Anita Blake series, who complained of increasing Sue-ishness of the title character and emphasis on IKEA Erotica over an actual plot.
- Terry Goodkind, when talking about people who didn't enjoy the Sword of Truth books but still read them, 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. Fans of early books who hated Naked Empire took this to mean that even Goodkind thinks it's like slamming your hand in a car door.
- Twilight fans tend to use this excuse when dealing with the series' Hatedom. It never works, as the hatedom is particularly focused on studying the series because they believe it promotes dangerous ideals such as Stalking Is Love; they're working very hard to try and turn fans against the series. That, and they also keep hearing that they can't criticize it unless they've read it.
- Anti-Shur'tugal, a now-defunct anti-fansite for Inheritance Cycle, was founded reportedly because certain individuals received this (and the other two Stock Phrases in the Holy Trinity along with forum bans and death threats) every time they'd post something critical on an Inheritance fansite. Its Spiritual Successor, Impishidea, received a number of ugly comments along the lines of this trope when it was critical of Inheritance Cycle or Twilight. It also accidentally attracted the author of Bitterwood.
- J. K. Rowling used this line productively; she explained in an interview that when she encountered a fan who did not react well to a character's death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she told this fan not to read the other books because it wasn't going to get any better.
- Douglas Adams got so fed up of people telling him "You could put a Zaphod bit in there" when he was writing So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, that there's a lengthy section in the book itself saying that if you don't want to read the novel he's writing, you should skip to the last chapter, which has Marvin in it.
- This has been heard like a mantra on Doctor Who fan sites since the new series began airing (and in all kinds of fan venues even before then), to the point where there are certain areas where expressing any criticism of the new series will invoke this response.
- MTV reality show Jersey Shore has been accused of reinforcing negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans as nothing but loud-mouthed party animal guidos. Cast member "Snooki" responded with this line, which made her look like a stereotypical loud-mouthed guido:
FUCK YOU! If you don't want to watch, don't watch. Just shut the hell up! I'm serious. FUCK YOU!
- Co-creator of Seinfeld Larry David would often state in response to criticism of the show, "If you don't like it, please don't watch."
- In a press conference before the Battlestar Galactica (2003) series premiere, Edward Olmos was asked about the reaction of Battlestar Galactica (1978) 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's mere existence. Ron Moore would later admit that it turned into better publicity than they could have paid for with people tuning in just to see why Olmos thought they would hate it.
- In a pre-series interview, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight's producer Steve Wang commented on fans who automatically hate any US adaptation without giving it a fair shot, saying (in so many words) that Dragon Knight wasn't for them, and that he'd be the first to suggest they just not bother watching the show at all to save themselves the trouble of going to the fan forums and bitching about it. Wang is, however, 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 and Waldorf, who buy tickets to see the show every week even though they hate it. They even lampshade this fact in the Title Sequence.
- In an interview promoting Preacher, Joseph Gilgun was asked to address the show's possibly offensive nature towards Christians. Gilgun's response was to say "fuck them" and that they shouldn't watch the show if they think it won't be nice to their religion.
- When someone on Twitter said they'd switched off Good Omens as soon as they saw Adam and Eve were black, Neil Gaiman commented that if they had a problem with that, they really wouldn't have liked anything that followed, so it was probably just as well.
- Jay-Z's attitude toward his critics can be encompassed in "99 Problems":
If y'all don't like my lyrics / You can press fast forward
- From 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."
- Roman Reigns is without question the most unpopular babyface wrestler of all time, even winning Pro Wrestling Illustrated's "Most Hated Wrestler of the Year" award despite that being almost exclusively reserved for the bad guys. Wrestling fans booed him relentlessly and begged for him to go. The executives, though, audaciously declared there to be No Such Thing as Bad Publicity and that if the fans really hated him, they wouldn't even bother to turn up and boo him; they'd just not buy tickets, or just stay completely silent. That would send quite a message, but it's completely implausible to expect thousands of fans to spontaneously decide to do that.
- Video game fans tend to complain about optional Downloadable Content, to which they're told just not to buy it if they don't like it. That would work if that were the sole problem, but the content is also taking up space on the disk that could be used to make the game they do like better. In other cases, they're not complaining about the content itself, but the fact that they have to pay for it when it should have been part of the game all along (a particular issue with Atlus games), meaning that even if you didn't buy it, you're left feeling like the game is incomplete.
- Publishers and developers try to justify the inclusion of microtransactions on the grounds that they are "providing player choice" and fans don't have to buy if they don't want to. However, some pundits like Jim Sterling have pointed out that the inclusion of microtransactions alters game progression; players are forced to either pay up or endure an unrewarding grind, which makes player agency seem meaningless.
- Video game fans also tend to prefer specific genres over others, so reviewers might find themselves criticizing a game just because it's a genre they're not really into. "Don't like, don't play" can be a valid response when it's just some guy on GameFAQs who's probably trolling. It's less valid when the reviewer is being told to play it by his superiors and says right up front he doesn't like the genre because he has to let the readers know he probably can't provide an objective review of the game. And it warps right back to valid when those reviewers start to cater to the fans' entitlement complexes and demand only games in genres they like.
- Later Pokémon games have side contests that only really give out Cosmetic Awards and have no impact on the game itself. When fans complain that this isn't like the early games, they're reminded that almost all of these side contests are completely avoidable; don't like, don't play.
- Invoked by the developers of Spec Ops: The Line, which forces the player character to commit war crimes. The game is written in such a way as to encourage the player to quit in disgust at that point. Those who continued playing were reminded of how horrible they're being, which they didn't appreciate; when they complained, the game effectively told them, "don't like, don't play." It didn't resonate well with fans who just wanted to play the whole game they paid for, only to be told the best way to play was to give up halfway through. As for the plotline itself, lead writer Walt Williams was much more responsive to criticism.
- MMORPGs occasionally attract players who complain about how much the game sucks as a whole, in spite of the fact that they've clearly been playing it for a lot longer than it should take them to make that determination; "don't like, don't play" is the only appropriate response.
- Video game franchises that specialize in a certain genre tend to receive complaints about games that dabble in a different genre; for example, fans of Sonic Chronicles complained that it was an RPG and not a platformer like other Sonic games (or the opposite when Super Paper Mario turned out to be a platformer and not an RPG). But since the games were upfront about the genre, this seems to imply that such fans are completionists who have to buy every game in the franchise, and thus have to be reminded, "don't like, don't play".
- Minecraft has issues with players who don't like a certain play style or technique and demand that Notch overhaul the entire game's mechanics to fit their tastes. The response "don't like, don't play" is very apt here, because they don't have to worry about this at all in single-player, and you're free to set up a multiplayer server with House Rules disallowing that particular technique or play style (especially because it's considered bad form to destroy other people's creations). Sometimes it stops there, but if the complainer is feeling particularly ornery, they'll demand that everyone else form their own server.
- Used In-Universe 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.
- Final Fantasy XIV has a weird case regarding the cash shop, where every item is a Cosmetic Award with no effect on gameplay. It's completely optional to use the cash shop anyway, so players who complain about this are told "don't like, don't buy". Some complainers will shoot back that Square Enix is milking players for money and priming them for Bribing Your Way to Victory — i.e., suggesting the developers are secretly planning to sell real power, so no one should have access to cosmetic items.
- Jim Sterling of Jimquisition points out the illogic of complaining about how the Water Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which was made easier in Master Quest, was restored to its original tough layout for the 3DS version — nothing was stopping you from just hanging on to Master Quest and continuing to play that. They were similarly befuddled by complaints about Zelda games before they even came out.
- This is actually one of the rules on Nexusmods, a site hosting many Game Mods, particularly of The Elder Scrolls games. If someone thinks a mod does not correspond to their vision of the game, they are required to just move on, instead of voicing their discontent in the mod's comment section.
- "Accept it or don't buy the game" has been EA's catch cry for Battlefield V towards anyone who didn't like the creative direction that the game was going in. This strategy backfired on them, as the game failed to meet EA's sales targets.
- YouTube is a funny animal, as it's known for its nonsensical and vitriolic comment sections. A common reaction to negative comments is "don't like, don't watch". This wouldn't be particularly valid if the video is so short that the viewer doesn't have much of a chance to stop watching before realizing he didn't like it, or if the viewer is expected to trawl the comment section to see if anyone mentioned that the video contained something he didn't like. It's more valid for complaints that "Artist X sucks!", because you probably did know beforehand that this was an Artist X video, or for complaints about spoilers if the video is tagged as such. Some reviewers will even start videos with a "don't like, don't watch" warning if they're about to criticize something people generally like.
- Dana of Reasoning With Vampires, a blog criticizing the Twilight books, often hears this from irritated fans who read her blog. She says it right back.
- The phrase is quite common within many art gallery-type sites — sometimes it's fair criticism, sometimes it's an artist who just Can't Take Criticism. Some artists don't want to hear constructive criticism, despite the fact that the only reliable way for them to improve their artwork is for others to point out what they need to work on. Some critics don't understand the concept of constructive criticism and think "stop drawing anime-style" is an example of such improvement. The Internet can be a stupid place sometimes.
- Newgrounds has its share of Hatedumb fans who go around looking for videos in a genre they don't like and complaining basically about their existence. It's particularly common with the site's many hentai videos, or for parodies of works the haters were fans of.
- Miranda Sings tells this repeatedly to her "haters".
- This episode of Mr Deity hangs a lampshade on the phenomenon; it 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 attracts at least one or two comments saying that they don't have to 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 complain about the quality of the series keep watching every new episode that is released just so that they can justify their constant complaining.
- Greg Farshtey, writer of LEGO's now canceled BIONICLE line, has offered this suggestion on the BZPower forums regarding his online serials that have gotten mixed reviews.
- Deconstructed by PIEGUYRULZ in 6 Reasons Why the "Don't Like, Don't Watch" Argument is Hilariously Idiotic.
- Many Go Animate videos will have videos or descriptions proclaiming that one should "respect [their] opinions", essentially saying that those who complain about their videos are "baby show lovers".
- Said In-Universe by Scott The Woz's therapist in the Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash episode; he's saying that Scott shouldn't play the game if he hates it so much. Scott retaliates by asking how would he know that he hates the game if he's never played it to begin with.
- Given the amount of vitriol the Red vs. Blue season he directed got, along with how the follow-ups based on that were not being welcomed based on a trailer alone, Torrian Crawford lashed out the fanbase with "Stop watching the fucking show." The fandom didn't take it kindly. However, this is arguably not an example of the trope; in context, Torrian's comment was explicitly targeting toxic harassment levelled at creators and saying that open vitriol on cast and crew members' personal accounts, not general fan criticism in appropriate venues, should be cut from the community.
- Webcomic writers are among the authors best suited to this response; their works are almost always totally free and released in installments, so readers lose almost nothing by just quitting once they realize they don't like it.
- In Concerned, 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.
- Jeffrey Darlington, creator of General Protection Fault, has been known to advise complainers to take a vacation from the comic for a number of months — i.e., until the current arc is over.
- Entries in challenges like NaNoWriMo, which are based on quantity over quality, are occasionally criticized for their quality nonetheless; "don't like, don't read" is basically the only rational response to these people. The fiercest users of this trope are the community members at the Daily Grind, a comic-drawing contest that demands a 2+ panel comic every weekday with the prize going to the artist who lasts the longest without missing an update; some commenters will pressure artists whose work they don't like into dropping out so that someone more "deserving" will win, completely missing the point of the contest.
- Andrew Hussie of MS Paint Adventures has responded to people not liking Homestuck because it is not like Problem Sleuth with several essays' worth of rant that all boil down to "I'm doing it the way I want. If you don't like Homestuck, don't read it." "Go read Problem Sleuth" has become a stock fan response to complaints, which apparently implies that the fans are all incredibly dogmatic. Hussie also threw in a Take That! in Act 6, as many of the new trolls are avatars of these fans, and they're not portrayed sympathetically.
- 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 "Boys Do Cry" of Family Guy ends with Peter Griffin giving a Take That! to Moral Guardians which takes this form.
- 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 Murphynote , they can go watch anime instead.
- Thundercats Roar: Monkian has some choice words on Cheetara's livestream.
Monkian: Oh, Cheetara thinks she's so great, but she's totally not.
Vultureman: Ah, you know, you don't have to watch her videos.
Monkian: But then what will I complain about?!