Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Opinion Piece About Opinions (How meta!)

I have been told, a lot recently, that my expectations and standards for entertainment are “too high.” Sometimes this comes in the form of a criticism, sometimes it comes as a genuinely baffled reaction to my views on a given film or book, and often it comes as a misguided attempt to get me to relax and just accept what I’m given and not demand anything more. After all, it’s “just a movie.” As long as there’s something entertaining in it, who cares if it doesn’t meet my fiction-writing standards?
I cares, that’s who.

It isn’t just about quality for me. That doesn’t mean quality isn’t a factor in my opinions, but it’s also a highly subjective term that doesn’t carry much weight in the world of analysis. In fact, it’s a crutch for online shit-stirrers whose only goal is negativity for its own sake. Contrary to what some may believe, I don’t want to have negative opinions of movies and books I’ve been looking forward to seeing and reading. I actually want to like them. Unfortunately, my criteria for enjoyment is more involved than simply gaining gratification from spectacle. I have been trained to recognize story structure and characterization and plot progression. I even know the actual meaning of “plot hole.”

That’s not bragging, it’s a fact. Casual observers have no idea what goes into the act of creation and execution. They only know the finished product and, since they aren’t in a similar capacity, the represent the mainstream audience in a way I find difficult although not always impossible. Of course, this hasn't stopped hordes of know-it-all fanatics from acting as if they know how it all works, but that's a topic for a different post.

Frankly, the absolutely stupidest point anyone can make about a movie or book is that it made a lot of money and therefore that means it was good and people liked it. The implication here is that if you don't, you are the one who has a problem and should lower your lofty standards. The resounding idiocy of this reasoning lies in the fact that the person making the point is using a flawed capitalism=quality model. Remember when I mentioned the fact that quality is a subjective concept? So is the idea that the accumulation of vast sums of money automatically indicate quality. Many products or services of low quality have earned billions of dollars. One needs look no further than any fast food restaurant chain to see a real-life example. But there's another component to this silliness, and that is the human tendency to use the peer group as a weapon against differing opinions.

I've seen this line of reasoning used when someone has tried to prove a point about an entire race of people. They find one self-loathing member of that race and then use their words as justification for bigotry. It happens when people use former members of religious groups, too. Somewhere much farther down the scale, a similar rationale is employed when using the dual arguments of  "It made a whole lot of money so it must be good" and "Since it made all that money, people liked it and it was popular." Wrong. Large grosses of money are not automatic indicators of popularity. In fact, there are so many factors involved in how audiences and readers are pre-programmed to consume a finished product whether they liked it or not, it's almost obscene. I've sat in movie theaters where people acted out this programming like good little clapping seals and marveled at the power of suggestion through advertising and fabricated buzz. 

I won't bore anyone with a list of movies that made gobs of money that nobody liked. You'll either have to trust me or do your own research.

I'll let you in on a little secret: The reason I upset people with my opinions isn't because they necessarily disagree with them. There are actually three reasons they react with such knee-jerkiness:

1. I make them think about what they watched or read in ways they either never have or never wanted to.
2. I make them feel less intelligent because they don't watch or read things with a critical enough eye. (This is an entirely subjective point I'm making more from their perspectives than my own)
3. People that stray from the Group-think make them uncomfortable and threaten their perception of reality and security.

So, I rarely harbor any ill will towards people when they challenge my opinions. There's no point to it. Nor do I apologize for having a well-developed criteria for my entertainment. To expect anything less would be beneath my expectations for myself. And that's what it really boils down to, I guess.

I expect no less than the same level of  effort I demand of myself. No matter what I'm writing, I push myself to make it as good as I can. I don't always succeed but I at least make the effort. When I can sense someone else isn't doing that or, even worse, doesn't even believe it's necessary, it disgusts me and results in a hostile reactions as I feel my time has been wasted and my intelligence insulted. Without getting into specifics (I swore I wouldn't do that in this post...challenge met) my visceral reaction to a movie I recently watched was because of these reasons. I wasn't expressing some version of fanboy angst about not adhering to the source material or my favorite scene from the bookbeing absent. My objection was to inconsistent tone, flat characterizations, poor directing, laughable dramatic moments and an overall laziness in the production. I've had similar reactions to the fiction I've read.

I may not have notoriety as an author, but I still expect more of myself than many of these individuals do. So you better fucking well believe I expect the same of people with so many  resources at their disposal. 

Like the man said, "Did I bug ya? Sorry. Didn't mean to bug ya."


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