On the Matter of Being Called Pretentious

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is some people have a sincere problem with interpreting sarcasm. This contributed to a recent event.

Upon watching the trailer for the new, animated Addams Family adaptation of all things, a friend was commenting on how he didn’t like the character design. He hated the character design. He rolled out examples of an art school that he thought they were attempting to match, and failing.

From my perspective, it looked fine. My opinion is that it looks like “Charles Addams-meets-Minions.” I told him he was being too uptight about it. I teased him openly, as I often do with friends, for being a hipster doofus about it.

This spurred an insult from someone else who was also participating in the discussion. They interjected that I should keep quiet because my “movie reviews are so pretentious.”

While you could contextualize it as “part of the fun,” the tone of voice revealed there was an eager anticipation to say finally what they thought of me. And so, you get a blog post about it.

There’s no particular reason for me to share this, except that I make myself laugh with it.

Did You Say Pretentious?

I don’t really care that the person said it. You may fairly wonder why I’m writing about it, then.

The primary reason is that I need topics for my current blogging streak. That’s not glamorous, but it’s part of the truth.

The secondary reason is that I enjoy the opportunity to offer some personal opinion on something. So long as I’ve got the platform, I may as well.

To continue explaining the train of thought, I analyze insults to see if there’s some grain of truth to them. Sometimes a random comment can be a great motivation toward self-reflection and eventual improvement.

I may not agree with the comment in the moment, but I always to want to understand why someone would have offered it.

I suppose that’s a rarity in the current age, where all conclusions are to be considered final and authoritative. Some even view arguments and insults as “violent” in and of themselves. Most of those people have never been in an actual fight, but that’s beside the point.

woman punching the hand of man wearing training gloves
Actual violence. Photo by Sabel Blanco on Pexels.com

Analyzing the Insult

For the record, I think that the word “pretentious” in this case was thrown out not with its proper definition in mind, but as a way to take a cheap dig. It’s why the insult doesn’t work particularly well. I’d argue that it’s likely that a lot of words we use as cheap, quick insults don’t work well if we take a moment to consider the actual definition.

At a baseline, in order for a person to be pretentious about their movie opinions, they’d have to care enough about what people think of their intellectual standing to put on airs. Honestly, I don’t care about that stuff too much. While I’m happy to discuss my opinions and why I hold them, I don’t truly care if anyone shares them.

I’m not sure if I’ve been called pretentious before this point, but probably I have. I know the likely culprits who rolled it out to “show me up.”

Ironically, they were a group of acquaintances in past years who were pretentious themselves. Among them is the same guy explained to me that I didn’t like the book The Road just because I didn’t understand what it was really about.

I think that’s another key aspect to a pretentious person. They presume that you’d agree with them if only you had the same level of knowledge they did. This is fairly common among nerds, and often leads to charges of gatekeeping. (I’d offer it’s much more commonly a case of grandstanding, but let’s not quibble about terminology.)

I’ve made myself conscious of those tendencies, and consciously avoid them when I can. I’ve found that the trick is to rejoice when someone can teach you something. Diversity of opinion is an important thing that can only be good. Ideological conformity is insanity. It lets me know that no matter how much Google and Facebook can hypnotize us into being their revenue generators, there’s still a shot for humanity.

I regularly cohost a movie-focused podcast with someone who knows so much about film, I’m still learning from him after many years of friendship. I’d never think to call him pretentious just because he has a deep knowledge of everything from aspect ratios and film stocks, to why Steven Soderbergh is an important filmmaker. These are things he simply knows. Of course they inform his opinions; the types of knowledge he has can’t exist in a bubble.

As a final note, people seem to take their movie/franchise/sports opinions far too personally for their own good. I’m not going to belabor that point. I’ve opined about it enough.

Beyond Caring

I can hazard a guess as to how seriously the person meant the comment. It’s not enough of a “thing” to me to keep after it, and I doubt it is for them, either.

If someone “scores a point,” and I’m not playing the game, then I don’t care. If it makes them feel good, then I’m glad that they found happiness. It doesn’t impact or lessen mine.

If someone has a low opinion of me, the only reason I would care is if they’re important to me. There’s nothing to be gained by engaging over it unless I want to grow a beard and tweet at the world about what a victim I am, every time someone insults me.

If someone says something about you, it shouldn’t bother you if as it’s not true. The worst it can say, if it isn’t, is something about them…not you.