I find Chardonnay in general to be bland and tasteless. It takes secondary malolactic fermentation and oak aging to give it any taste, but that is usually over the top in the cheaper bottles from California and to a lesser degree in bottles from Southern Australia. Cheap bottles are typically aged with oak chips verses new barrels and they all taste like a stick of butter to me. About the only Chard I can tolerate is White Oak. They use oak barrels and a very mild malolactic fermentation.
The conversion of lactic to malic acid is a common process. Yes, many people are not fans of the 'fatness' this can construe upon a chardonnay and too much diacetyl (the buttery smelling compound) can make the wine bitter if not controlled but the malolactic fermentation IS also used in the production of red wines!
Some say the process bastardizes the wine from what is otherwise a good tasting grape. However, i am a fan of the smooth mouthful and texture that it provides and i like the heavy oak flavours. My least favorite chardonnays are French b/c as you say, they taste bland.
Unoaked chardonnays are far more like rieslings and gewurztraminers IMO, but if you are not a white wine fan, and find them all generally the 'same' without character, you may not see the point of discerning between these grapes.
Compared to red wines whites are indeed more subtle, but if you ever tasted a Germany riesling that smelled like cat urine and compared it to a BC region style riesling, there is NO way you would ever say that white wines are generally all bland and the same.
One of our wine tasters last evening stated he only has "white or red" at home, but mostly drinks reds. He's never done a wine tasting before. By the time we ran him through some things consider during the tasting (alot of the basics we've all heard before...first you look at the colour of the wine, then you swirl the wine, etc. etc.), he discovered differences all on his own just from the bouquet. He simply never paid attention to such details before and also lumped all red or white wines as tasting pretty much the same. Now he realizes what is meant by closed bouquet. He tried the oaked and unoaked chardonnays and understands what is meant by "smooth" texture. There was a marked interest in trying some more tastings again and i would not be surprised if he takes a slower glance at wine descriptions the next time he heads to the store.