Call it good pizza or bad pizza, but not "not pizza."
Call it good art or bad art, but not "not art."
And then support your argument.
People who have known me for a long time know that I have a story about the "art/not art" version of this discussion. It involved meeting my future and soon to be former father-in-law for the very first time. We spent the day walking through the Art Institute of Chicago, including the student exhibitions, and then retiring to dinner at a fancy teppanyaki restaurant, where Father Figure, once a fairly serious artist himself who gave it all up to be a big biomedical executive instead, asked the dinner conversation question, "what is art?" as a backdoor way of defining the stuff he saw and didn't like at the student exhibition out of existence.
No fool I, I dropped out of the conversation almost immediately and chatted with his wife instead. I was Judged for this later, but whatever.
Certain kinds of people *love* the "x/not x" argument. It's an argument about classification and definition. It feels pleasingly abstract and objective. Intellectual. Smart. I saw these all the time in smart-kid circles. I kinda have permanent eyeroll as a result.
"Good/bad" is harder because it involves judgment. People try to avoid this argument with the "it's all taste" dodge. Not true. "I like/I don't like" is about taste. "Good/bad" is about quality. Alas, many people are very bad at distinguishing these concepts, so they fall back on the easier "x/not x" paradigm instead.
"x/not x" is also a really handy cover for rank snobbery. Come up with an arbitrary definition that fits your favorite thing to a T, and everything else is second-rate automatically! It's lazy, but satisfying. Like a good slice of cheap pizza.
Yes, we're back to pizza. Yes, we're heading exactly where you think we're heading, but we're not covering the usual territory. Plus we'll take a fun historical swerve at the end if you're willing to hang in there that long.
Because my family is from Chicago and I went to school there and also lived there for, eh, half a decade, I often find myself recruited for the "Chicago pizza is/is not Real Pizza" discussion, Hometown Pride Edition.
The small problem with this is that I didn't even know there was a deep-dish style of pizza that the rest of the world called "Chicago style pizza" until I went to college in Chicago. This is despite the fact that every time we visited Chicago when I was a child -- and we visited a lot, living only four hours away -- on our first day we ate White Castles for lunch and pizza for dinner. It was a ritual.
Only, see, we ate the square-cut thin-crust pizza with no rim that is apparently known as "St. Louis Pizza" to taxonomists. To me, though, that was "Chicago pizza," because it was the pizza we ate in Chicago and, at the time, could be found nowhere else I had ever been. (Still haven't been to St. Louis.)
So I am not the best partisan for the Chicago Pizza Wars. I like deep-dish pizza, but you don't have to. I like lots of other kinds of pizza, too. You can even argue that many renditions of Chicago pizza are soggy, overly heavy with cheese, and generally nasty. I won't even tease you about orange grease-stained napkins in response. I will, however, get my guff up if you say it's "not pizza." Especially if you're from New York. Yeah, Chicagoans have a chip on their shoulder about their pizza the size of the stockyards. Yeah, it's related to how they got the nickname "Second City" and the inferiority complex that accompanies it. It's not particularly sporting to keep knocking it off, though. (It took me forever to figure out that "New York style pizza" is called "pizza" where I come from, which is not Chicago. You guys won the culture wars on this one. Go rest on your laurels already.) But worse, much worse, at least in my eyes, is that it's lazy. Yeah, the iconic pizza (see above re: "New York style") has a rim, a thin crust, cheese on the top and tomato sauce underneath. Yeah, Chicago pizza has the sauce on top and looks weird. Yeah, I have friends and loved ones who think that pizza without sauce isn't pizza either, and so I call it "savory flatbread" when I cook it at home and they eat it up, yum. So whatever.
One last note: the pizza/not pizza debate also brings to mind a moment from high school, where my high school newspaper published reviews of all the major pizza joints in town. Including Bell's Greek Pizza. Can you guess what they said? "This is not really pizza" and went on to say it didn't have the iconic pizza look and that's why. I was best friends with Pete Bell, the elder son of the owner, at the time of publication. I can still see the metaphorical steam coming out of his ears. "It's *Greek* pizza," he insisted, red-faced. You could tell that this was a discussion he'd had to endure too often already, probably every other weekend from behind the counter with drunken college students, at a guess. Well, it sold well enough, and Bell's Greek Pizza is still in business, so I guess he and his family got the last laugh.