I remember high school. We didn’t have required reading lists for English/lit classes, but there are invariably a series of things we had to read for class. Why? Because we would talk about the things we read for class, to analyze and learn to think of the things we read critically. We would be taught to construct arguments and learn how to find support for those arguments. We were kids who didn’t know what to read, anyways. The familiarity of the canon of English literature among American kids, even the studious ones, is something mostly ingrained from their teachers and curriculum and rarely something self-taught.
The work wasn’t fun. Sometimes it’s just mind-numbing. Sometimes it was easier to crank out words to fulfill limits of assignments than really try to enjoy what I was doing. And maybe that’s the better way to approach it–I didn’t want to develop a knack for all-nighters; relying on them is a fool’s errand after all. Having the due date expressed in terms of minutes instead of days can be exhilarating! I learned the taste of caffeine and how to get by without it at 5am, but I never learned how to get by without sleep. It made for interesting memories, but I would rather have something else instead.
Those are not the things you want to learn to like, anyway. It shouldn’t be the thing that makes studying 18th c. British lit exciting. It makes more sense to make required reading lists to be meaningful in the context of the education you were going to get.
In a nutshell, I don’t think enjoyment has anything to do with required viewing lists. If the titles on a list happen to be enjoyable, great. If not, no big deal. Just like how you have or haven’t seen or read on the list has anything to do with anything, besides having a head start on the curriculum. If you watched all the shows I would like you to watch, great! The sun still rises next morning. If not, it just means now you have something to check out or debate about. I mean it seems like the only problem with those lists is by implicitly leaving things out you’re saying something about those things. It’s like being a jerk, walking around with a “your [favorite band] sucks” T-shirt. And that’s more a jerk being a jerk than anything about lists or implicitly or explicitly leaving something out. N-list based blog posts are all about that, and they tend to be popular partly for those reasons.
What is absolutely right is that creating the list is couched in a context. High school English lit is the context of my example, for example. Today, such lists typically come out from some kind of reason related to being able to communicate with some shared basis of understanding. I mean, it’s kind of like having some passing familiarity with the Bible if you want to talk shop at a seminary. Or how can I make references to boats and cabbages without you having passing familiarity with Yoakena or School Days? How can we talk about Gundam without, well, a passing familiarity of the various timelines and settings? Or being able to talk well for Mawapen and not having seen Utena? I suppose you could do all of those, but it just doesn’t seem like you could do just as well as a version of you that has seen them. So “required viewing” lists are more like “if you watched all this, you are my kind of fan, you belong in my church of /whatever/.”
Now if you just want a list of anime to wank off to, may it be for /m/ech freaks or disgusting moe otaku, you want to ask for a “wanking viewing list” or some such. Problem solved! As long as whoever curates such a list make it meaningful and presents it in a way where that meaning is taken the right way, I think people can knock themselves out.