I’m a highly critical person. I think many writers are, especially when it comes to their own work. It takes a certain obsessive mindset to pick apart a 90,000 word document over and over and over and over again. (I even counted the “overs” and decided there weren’t enough, but I’ll leave it as is.)
When I watch movies or read books, I usually stumble across one flaw or another. Like all critical observations, the flaw is based on my own personal perceptions. Hell, what I see as a flaw might be a shining moment for others. But I always feel like I have a decent justification for my judgment. I try to be thoughtful.
Often, I get stuck on issues of craft. Story structure, plot or characterization. It’s a hazard of the trade. Every so often, a social issue will rear its head as well – whether the story intends it or not. Those can be fascinating discussions and can really open people up to new ideas.
Lately though, as I look at my social media feeds, as I watch the death spiral of the Hugos, see the ridiculous flap over Mad Max and Avengers: Age of Ultron, I’m starting to wonder if people haven’t completely lost their fucking minds.
Sometimes, a movie or a story is just a movie or a story.
I write what I like to think are thoughtful works. My books and stories are specifically made to be commentaries on deeper subjects. If anyone wants to discuss those or even call me out on problems portraying those issues, I’m game. I welcome healthy criticism.
However, a few of my fellow netizens seem intent on proving that sort of healthy debate can’t happen.
In fact, they seem set on completely skipping rational thought and flying right into assigning blame. They’re becoming the prejudging jackasses they all claim to be fighting against.
For those crusading netizens, let me spell it out: not everything is a fight. Unless you’re in a war rig barrelling across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, there’s no need to start lobbing incendiary devices and trying to BURN EVERY MOTHERFUCKER TO THE GROUND with your Fender flamethrower.
Reality is you’re most likely a Guitar Hero “medium” player with a bic lighter. About the only thing you’ll burn is your own thumb.
When people stop being thoughtful and just blunder into a story specifically looking for evidence of whatever internet-ized agenda they’ve got eating at their brain, that’s when their critiques stop being even remotely useful. Sure, like I said, we all flavor our critical thinking with personal biases. But when those biases overrun your logic, you’re drifting into spray paint huffing territory.
I have a quick and easy cure for this: Shut up and watch the damn film. And get off the internet – it has poisoned you. Made you delusional. Still have burning, righteous issues you want to discuss? Find a member of the “enemy” group and chat them up face to face. You just might learn something aside from hearing your own echo in the digital void.