I was watching Jamie Kennedy’s movie Heckler last night, something I still think is a brilliant response to the savage critiques he received after Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask. I think it’s a great bit of revenge to, in the face of cruel and inhuman criticism, show a comedian (and interview many others) ingesting said criticism, wincing at personal slights, and looking hurt at the extent of the savagery.
And, yes, I absolutely agree that, if you don’t like a movie or comedy show, you should just leave. Change the channel. I let Carlos Mencia be Carlos Mencia, and I just go have a cocktail at the bar. Done.
It was when the documentary got into savaging critics and bloggers that I (predictably) began to lose some of my sympathy for the characters. I concede that I also yearn for the days of serious film/dramatic criticism (where are today’s Dorothy Parkers, who are knowledgeable and empathetic enough to the performers and writers to know just how to slice them up, without actually breaking them down?). Gene Shalit, Leonard Maltin, the staff of the NY Times these days…feh. And, yes, I think they should all be replaced by people who actually make movies for a living, much as the book reviews that are always the most spot-on and interesting are essayed by fellow writers.
And yet…well, the thing is…I couldn’t help but think of that line from Godfather II: “This is the business [you’ve] chosen.” It’s not like you made this movie, then released it, only to find that the entire world of film criticism had changed from an erudite circle of polite former screenwriters, into a gaggle of snarling beasts. And, in order to put up with said snarling beasts, you got paid. Well. Better than said snarling beasts, and sure as shit better than most of the country.
And, as far as mean “fans” go, while I think it’s rude that people go up to celebrities and tell them their movies suck when the poor people are just trying to enjoy a meal, I also think it’s enormously arrogant to think that people will never have unfavorable opinions about your work, and will instead just sit in slack-jawed wonderment at the talking pictures proferred for their enjoyment. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that the most likely response you will get will be the most negative, with the most positive following behind. It’s just how our psyches work; many studies have confirmed that we humans like to bitch about things we hate more than admire things we love.
As for the blogosphere: Yes, the internet is home to the meannest of the mean, in both senses of the word. However, it is written by the general public, and these are all people who, unlike “real critics,” paid to see your movie. If you don’t want to listen to their opinions, fine: Don’t log on and Google yourself. But don’t bitch because they have opinions that are contrary to your own, and say so.
As far as the language of online reviews goes, it has indeed gotten more and more violent and crude, especially when writing reviews of things and/or celebrities. Why, you wonder, the animosity? The answer is: It has nothing to do with animosity, and everything to do with anonymity. The internet is huge, and the blogosphere is chock-a-block with people who like to write their opinions. In order to differentiate yourself, you have to make something in your headline or tags stand out. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that any headline of mine that includes cursing and/or references to various sorts of perversions gets TONS of hits; those that are more thoughtful get almost none.
I don’t blame readers for this. There are myriad ways to get news and information these days, and civil discourses can get lost in the shuffle. Take the awesome postings at synthesis: They are well-thought-out, highly intellectual, and, above all, well-written. That blog, along with other similar ones, consistently gets rated among the top of the internet. And yet, I will bet all my savings that Gawker beats them in page hits and ad sales. So, there’s that: Blame human nature and its love of watching brutality, but don’t blame the people trying to be heard.
And, while I’m on the subject, there is absolutely no difference between a blogger cruelly mocking a movie, and said movie star saying that the blogger is some basement-dwelling fatass who’s never held a job or gotten laid. Except the amount of people who get to see/hear the movie star say that, versus the small number of people who read the snarky blog. That balances out the comparative anonymity (and security) bloggers feel, yes? And when they lose said anonymity (like Andrew Sullivan, or others), they get well compensated for it. Just like other public figures. So they can buy bigger pillows to cushion the blows of public criticism.
So, in conclusion, here’s my advice to Jamie Kennedy:
1. Just as you say to hecklers in comedy clubs: If you don’t like what you read on the Internet about yourself, don’t look.
2. Buck up, buttercup. Those meanies out there don’t really hate you; they just love colorful language and page views.
3. Go take a look around your nice house, cuddle up to your pretty girlfriend, and remind yourself that you’re doing alright, regardless.
Thus endeth the lesson. Dick jokes soon!