Important note: You may notice that I’m not releasing the How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Star Wars: The Force Awakens blogs sequentially. The simple reason is that the blogs are evolving as I write. As I finish each part, they will be released. No wine before its time.
I believe in positivity. We need more of it in the world.
I led the charge years ago among the fabled “convocation” that The Empire Strikes Back has a hopeful ending, a view that’s seen growing acceptance over the years. I’ve often pointed out the good in Star Trek V, and that’s even seen a rehabilitation in fan estimation over time. Granted, that’s been because they released Star Trek movies far less satisfying and thematically sound along the way, but still.
In short, I enjoy looking for the “good” in things and trying to drag out filmmaker intent as a means of absolution for missteps in execution. Someone trying to make a statement about an important topic, especially one with which I agree, is often cause to look past what they couldn’t put together quite right.
This is an attitude that’s gained acceptance online in a number of geek circles. In an inevitable reaction to hyperbolic rantings against an entertainment, there are the new champions of “looking at it from a positive angle.”
At first, it was a refreshing wave in a churning sea of negativity. But like finding yourself in the dream land of It’s a Good Life (the Twilight Zone episode with the little boy who could shape reality), the blessing turned out to be a curse.
The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. It’s becoming virtually mandated that you never offer harsh words for a comic book property, or movie, or television show, lest you be the target of crusade to remember that tastes differ and to offer token acknowledgement that your opinion can never, ever be of more value than those that like something.
The fact that you have to offer such a disclaimer, or obeisance to a fan’s sensitive defensiveness about the value of their opinion by default, is complete garbage.
Of course a person’s tastes account for what they think of something. Someone who likes Masterpiece Theatre didn’t typically enjoy the slasher flicks of the 1980s. But if they called Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers garbage, no one asked them to qualify to a 14-year-old kesseljunkie that his love for it was still a good thing.
People tangle up their identities with their entertainments so intrinsically that they’ve lost perspective. I’ve been there. I used to have so much of my personal identity wrapped up in Star Wars that I took insults directed toward any of the movies as a personal insult.
It wasn’t even a conscious thing! It led to a lot of arguments.
The lesson I learned is that you have to learn to separate yourself from the things you love. You have to separate yourself from the self-importance you assign your own opinion. Because if you’re going to force the critic to admit that no one’s opinion is better than another’s, then neither is yours, and by default you’re the bully for jumping in to shame them for their “negativity.”
If you spend time online, accept that you will see a large flood of negativity about what you love, and none of it is about you until you make it so. People don’t state negative opinions because they want to hurt anyone. They just want to declare their own opinion, the same way you want to declare yours. You have to accept that a declaration of a negative opinion, generally spoken, is not a specific critique of you.
I will take a moment to say that this is, of course, a large generalization; there are people who insult the things you love because it’s a passive-aggressive way to insult you. They may even glory in the attention they get from it. Those people can be consciously excised from your life.
So I’m calling for a new embrace of critical argument. Brutal criticism is just fine, too, as it has its place. If someone wants to go nuclear and say they hate something, more power to them.
Hate it. Throw your passion at it. Declare it dumb and say it’s the ridiculous result of an incompetent creator.
Have an argument about it.
And if it really bothers you, as Paul Anka might sing, “Just don’t look.”