"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 Bad Writing trifecta with Lets 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. And a reader doesn't necessarily have to enjoy everything they read, especially if they think they can provide Constructive Criticism that will make the author's future work better, they find it So Bad, It's Good, or they can derive money or laughs by being a Caustic Critic. And just because you don't like the premise doesn't mean that you can't overlook that bias and comment on how well executed the work is. It's not as if professional critics can just read/watch media that they will probably enjoy, weakening this line of attack. Expect to see this as a response to any criticism in a comment section for the work, especially on YouTube (where the work may be so short that it's already over by the time the viewer decides they didn't like it).
That said, Tropes Are Tools, and there are legitimate reasons to use this line. Not everything has to cast a wide net and nothing will be to everyone's taste, and if the author is up-front about some of the things in the work before it starts, they can indicate to the audience that they might encounter something in it that they won't like. This is actually helpful to certain readers, given that it's impossible to "unread" something (as much as people would really like to). It's particularly useful for Dark Fic and the like as a sort of Content Warning. It's also useful to warn people of spoilers if they haven't finished the parent work yet. That said, many fanfic writers' headings don't warn of what's actually in the fic because they suck at summaries.
While many Fan Fic authors have issues with assessing their own talent, fans can be equally stupid. "Don't like, don't read" serves as a standard warning for fans who like to see very specific things happen and won't accept plot threads going where they don't want, romantic pairings they don't agree with, or any weird experimentation with the parent work. In such situations, the only thing to tell such a reader really is "don't like, don't read", since such criticism doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the writing. Other times, the work is put up in free installments, so it costs nothing to quit while you're ahead, and it can seem remarkably petty to keep forcing yourself to read a Long Runner just to criticize it. (That said, this doesn't make constructive criticism less valid on its own, so it cuts both ways.)
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 the boy she makes write them 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:
- 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 the fans don't like it, they shouldn't buy it (which, if nothing else, will incentivize writers to actually make all their comics worth reading), but if the fans don't buy it, they don't have the right to criticize it anyway.
- 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, characterizing, and spelling are just a matter of personal taste. That said, it's also common to use the line as part of a Fanfic Header warning readers of what they may expect to find in the fic:
- 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 will let you know of anything remotely objectionable in the fic, enough to approximate an MPAA rating. Funnily enough, some fics are so short that the tags basically summarize them in their entirety.
- 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 that amounts to repeatedly throwing this excuse at anyone who questioned 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 is notorious for its insane shipping wars, such that pretty much any fanfic of the series requires 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.
- 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, they probably weren't going to like it, and they 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 as meaning that it's just not to critics' taste and they thus 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.
- 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 & Waldorf, who buy tickets to see the show every week even though they hate it. They even lampshade this fact in the opening credits.
- 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 to not watch the show if they think it won't be nice to their religion.
- 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. It's as if they expected the fans already there to universally just remain silent — which 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, or else should have been part of the main game to begin with.
- 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 was 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".
- This 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 works (or more cynically, to cater to their own preferences). Then, other players 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 single-player 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 or creating a server where those playstyles are disallowed by House Rules. 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 can go make your 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. He was 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.
- 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, "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 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 GoAnimate 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".
- 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.
- 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 Murphy, they can go watch anime instead.