I'm still on this negativity thing because it doesn't seem to be going away!
Over the past few months, I've had discussions with other people who have noticed this turn towards negativity and don't like it. I get that everyone's tired of being marketed to by corporations, but just because something is served to you on a corporate platter doesn't mean it's automatically terrible, just as something produced and made completely independently doesn't mean it's automatically wonderful. It's pretty ironic that people are tweeting and blogging and texting about how awful corporate fare is from their corporate devices. This stuff is here to stay. And yeah, it'll probably become more prevalent. It's a miracle anything good comes out of anywhere, given how many moving parts there are to movies and TV shows. So when something is good, when I like something, I celebrate it no matter where it comes from.
The latest cynical piece of movie-going shit (according to the critics) is The Lone Ranger. The reviews have been pretty nasty. I haven't seen the movie so I don't know if it's any good but judging by the reviews, it's a physically painful enterprise. The way many of the critics tell it, the movie was made just to make them miserable. That seems like A LOT of money to pump into something that could be achieved much more cheaply, no? I did see one quite interesting and well written negative review, however. Having spent most of the summer bashing all of the summer movies as, again, cynical pieces of movie-going shit, the folks who are enjoying Pacific Rim are terrified that their favorite summer movie is going to be given the same treatment they've been giving all the other summer movies. I can't help but feel that some of these folks are getting a taste of their own medicine. Look, guys... it's possible to enjoy one thing without bashing another, or making up dumbshit reasons for why you hate something that hide the real dumbshit reason.
INTERLUDE/ There's no scenario in which Pacific Rim is a movie for me. But not because I think it's bad. It's just not my thing. So when I say I'm not going to see it, don't get offended and don't try to convince me otherwise. There's no point. Anyway. To me, I don't care if a movie is original, a sequel or a remake. If I like it, I like it. Pacific Rim is being held up as the last great hope of getting original movies made. Which, if you know anything about the film business, you'd realize is absolutely ridiculous. Try to do what I do - separate out all the dross and just enjoy your movie. You won't be as tortured that way. I do hope the tracking is wrong on this movie, mostly because I'm sick of movies being considered hits or bombs before anyone has even seen them. That's not cool. It's not cool with TV shows either, which is why I find an awful lot of TV critics wickedly irresponsible. I think a lot of TV critics need a lesson in how television shows are made, actually. But that's probably a whole other rant. /INTERLUDE
There's a negativity effect going on here: Those who are critical about something are taken more seriously than those who have positive opinions. This is simply a fact, which you can see in evidence anytime you go on the Internet or talk to people. A "no" has to be defended substantially less than a "yes." People are rarely put on the spot to defend a negative point of view. But a positive one? We've all been there, especially in the genre world. We've all loved something that our friends hated. And the lover is usually ridiculed for being emotional, for not being critical, and for being, well, childish. "Sure, I guess you can like that if you turn your brain off." This doesn't just go for movies and television shows. It's EVERYWHERE. It's a pre-emptive strike against being attacked. Because if you attack first through negativity, you've already put the other person on the defensive. You've already won.
This does put people in a kind of sad position, though -- it makes them unable to see the good in something they're already decided is bad. I say this, BTW, as someone who's done it. The most notable time it happened I was challenged and immediately knew I'd been stupid. That wound up working out very well, but I've been conscious of the negativity effect ever since. Just to show my good intentions, I'm working on a blog post of movies that I absolutely love. I'm thinking that some of them will shock people, but fuck it. I'm not defending shit anymore.
This negativity effect, this attitude of pre-emptive strikes, has just been getting worse. My previous posts on summer movies came because of that. Instead of reviewing the movies, these critic bloggers bemoan the state of the business, refusing to see the reality of it, wanting to live in a fantasy world where only the movies they love get made, and completely refusing to take off their hate-colored glasses and WATCH THE FREAKING MOVIE. And also, funnily enough, when they talk about what they would like to see instead, they either mention movies they liked when they were younger or they are incredibly nonspecific. "Just. Not. That." All kinds of cynical motivations are assigned to the people who make these horrible movies. Because they do interviews, cons or have Twitter accounts, we somehow "know" them. To be sure, there's a very fine line between this and interpreting content, but the people who do it well are worth reading. The others? Meh.
See, there are all kinds of critical checks and balances in place to make sure the creative folk behind movies, television shows and comic book materiel are kept in their place. There are not similar checks and balances for the critics. While there are some exceptionally diligent and terrific critical writers out there, the Interwebs need to be fed every second of every day so a lot of shit gets through. And a lot of shit, especially inflammatory and negative and sensational shit, gets a lot of hits, so these critics are thought of as influential even though they're actually destructive knobheads.
I say this, BTW, without having been reviewed in either a positive or a negative light by any of these folks.
Because we're getting close to the fall TV season, television critic/bloggers have been watching pilots. AND OH THEY ARE EXHAUSTED because they have to (do their jobs) slog through a mountain of fall TV pilots. That MUST be JUST as hard as actually pitching, selling and making a pilot! Or at least that's the sense I get from the whinging. I would think this an isolated incident if it had happened just with one person. But it's pretty much a crowd of them now. The critics have really become content providers. They aren't maintaining that distance from their readers anymore, mostly because we live in a social media world. They interact with their readers. Unfortunately, I think it messes with some of their critical faculties. This shouldn't be allowed with real, full-blown professional critics. But there aren't many of them anymore. Now, most of them seem to be hybrid critic/bloggers.
(I will say that there are some wonderfully talented television critics out there who do some excellent, thought-provoking writing and I read them religiously. They are completely exempt from this particular complaint)
What's odd (but sadly not surprising) is that when any of these critic bloggers are themselves criticized, they get defensive. I suppose the idea is that they're immune to criticism based on the fact that they are critics. What a fantastic position that must be! Able to say whatever you want because you are Above the Fray. And having lots of folks agree with you because that's how Internet comments generally work? Cool! Because there's no way their words are getting to the people actually creating any of this content. Right?
What really pushed me over the edge was this post titled Why is Batman so red in the Beware the Batman opening? on io9, a great, wide-ranging blog of All Kinds of Interesting Things. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote two episodes of the show and have seen the pilot. And sure, not everyone will like it because not everyone likes things, and apparently Batman fandom is, well... a difficult place to be, strong opinions being what they are. But dude, you're not just a fan here. Don't you have some responsibility? Any? At all? Anyway, since it's so brief, here's the entire content of the post:
Yes, red. That's... that's all I got from the upcoming Batman cartoon's opening credits, other than Katana wants to attack the viewer with a sword and Alfred wants to punch us in the face. Is Batman a Soviet Communist in this? Is this an Elseworlds tale starring Red Son Batman? I'm skeptical, but man he's red.
I usually avoid the bulk of the snark, unless there's some affection built in. But for the love of God, WTF? This is a viable post on a very popular site? Shouldn't it be an AICN comment or something?
(I'm sure it already is)
Here's his prior post on the show. Again, the sheer brevity of this dude (I am long-windedly jealous) makes it easy to just post the whole thing:
first look at Cartoon Network's new CG Batman cartoon, Beware the Batman, isn't terrible. The CG animation is all right, the fights seems well-choreographed, and the new villains look fun. Although since Batman's oddly shaped skull indicates he's apparently a member of Homo Erectus. I'd say Bat-Mite is also involved.
Actually, the best part of this trailer is that it contains zero evidence that Batman will be patrolling with a gun-toting Alfred as per the original poster. It still might happen, but I'll happily welcome any shred of hope that they've changed that insanity before the show starts airing.
Goody. He's judged the trailer and doesn't think it's terrible. Front-page news, that. Nice bit of pre-judging, though. Really well done, Sir. What both of these posts share is a negativity grab. "Beware the Batman isn't terrible" has the same effect as "I'm skeptical." He gets to maintain his cool ironic distance without committing to actually liking something. He takes both stands simultaneously. How effing brave, right? Batman fans are insane, he thinks, so if he snarks about the upcoming show, he'll drive up traffic by going, "Right on! Yeah! Screw this show that I also haven't seen and probably won't watch because I'm so mad! Screw this show for making the other show I like get canceled!"
I understand that blogs like io9 aren't just there to be critics. There's a hefty dose of nerd/geek there, and that's most of why I read it. It's entertaining, and witty. And most of the time, it's one of my favorite blogs. But because they have to deliver SO much content, there are going to be times when they're casting about for things to discuss and full-blown snark erupts. We do live in a post-Television Without Pity/AICN universe now, and snark is seen as infinitely more cool than earnestness. It's easier, too, to maintain that snarky ironic distance than to fully commit. But darn it, I like when blogs like io9 fully commit, when they forget about the irony and just LOVE something, even if they are affectionately poking fun at it. They recently did a Worst Episodes of Star Trek blog that was just a lot of fun, and the comments were great, too. It wasn't angry or bitter. And there's something tiresome about total earnestness, which I find on other blogs that also have to deliver a lot of content. This is where the see the bemoaning of the film business because there are too many sequels or remakes, or too many explosions, or too many or too few fill-in-the-blank, words that are vomited forth simply because a post needs to be made. They are Important Pieces About Important Things. It's a frustrating road to self-righteousness.
But an awful lot of these folks seem to consider themselves above reproach. They may scrap about in their comments section but they don't seem to believe that they should be held accountable for their words the way THEY hold creative folk accountable, the way they can just snark and bitch but at the same time line up at Hall H for a panel featuring these same people they bashed in a blog entry just the day before. And for the most part -- which is basically all the time -- the people who make the content that these critic bloggers are covering are expected to hold their tongues. If they object, argue, complain or even explain, they are deemed combative. They are expected to just shut up and take their "you wasted my time and stole my money" medicine.
Hardcore fanboys will always be negatively driven psychopaths. I don't see that ever changing. And AICN certainly gave rise to their voices being seen as valid. But smart people who write commentary on entertainment? They're not even close to being hopeless. I wish they'd just take a breath and realize that if they put words out there, those words may be judged.
It'd be nice if there was a Critic Overlord who was writing the same stuff about them, snarking about their silly reviews without having even read them. That would be an interesting thing to see.
I totally agree that superhero movies aren't dominating the box office like some would have you believe. Part of it is that Marvel has already scheduled their slate of movies for the next five years - more or less. And for the record, I'd also count Kick-Ass 2 as a superhero movie, even though the characters don't have super powers, with the costumes and over the top action, they're like a more stylized Batman with humor.
I almost included it but I know what these people mean and Kick Ass doesn't quite fit. I mean, there was still a whole other article about how superhero movies are making pathetic commentary on drone strikes and included was Star Trek, which is NOT a superhero movie. The thing literally had "superhero movie" in the title. So it's just a veiled "we hate all big budget genre movies" thing.
And another part of the feeling of the superhero oversaturation is the increase in straight-to-video superhero movies, fan films, and TV shows, but that's something that's never mentioned in any of the articles that I know of. And thank you for sharing my list, I've put a lot of work into it and hope to continue to make it as comprehensive a list as I possibly can.
It's really great! Thanks for putting it out there! I'd agree with you if any of these blogs or commentary actually mentioned straight-to-video (animation seems to elude them) or TV but they focused only on movies, which is why I thought the whole thing was silly.