josh hadley | the shadow of pop culture | july 2017
With the current (and deserved) critical drubbing of the new Transformers film, “Alien: Covenant" and even “The Mummy"... do critics matter?
Why does it seem that anything remotely critical of geek culture is seen as “an attack" or not being “open minded" or even having a pre-existing bias for some kind of persecution complex? Go to 90 percent of geek culture websites and you will find that they instill a mandate with their writers, their news gatherers and even their critics that everything in geek culture has equal merit and must be shown the respect that simply being part of geek culture engenders.
There is one site (and I won't be mentioning the actual names/addresses of sites) that I know for a fact pushes the clear and spelled out directive, which I will quote.
“Writing about something you love as a geek. You have the opportunity to connect with readers and possibly introduce them to something they aren't aware of. We try not to waste our time on digging up the bad stuff about geekdom. We want to gush over the great stuff."
What they are saying is that you must avoid negativity, which in turn means “Do not be critical in any way," of something in geek culture. If you think I am exaggerating that then let's look at the definition of what it means to criticize:
1. indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way.
synonyms: find fault with, censure, denounce, condemn, attack,
lambaste, pillory, rail against, inveigh against, arraign, cast
aspersions on, pour scorn on, disparage, denigrate, give bad press to,
run down; informal: knock, pan, maul, slam, roast, hammer, lay
into, lace into, flay, crucify, take apart, pull to pieces, pick holes
in, pummel, trash, nitpick; formal: excoriate
“must you criticize everything she does?"
2. form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work).
“a literary text may be criticized on two grounds: the semantic and the expressive"
That said, isn't it the point of criticism to analyze and therefore look for the fault within whereas fawning over something is the exact opposite of criticism? To laud otherworldly praise on something is dangerously close to propagandist and this is an area I feel far too many avenues within geek culture tread. The new “Wonder Woman" film is a critical darling and yet, I did not like it and my (honest) criticisms have been minimized as some kind of assault on the film. I hate women, I am a right wing troll or that I just don't know quality then I see it are the oft-lobbed deflections. Look, the movie was too long, the final battle went on forever, Gal Gadot can't act in scenes that don't require her to fight, the story was bland, the cinematography was bland, the CGI was dodgy, the huge "dun dun dun" reveal could be seen a mile away and ... you get the point. The film is not above criticism despite what the media may lead you to believe.
When you just tell people how much you love something you are not being critical, you are praising, which seems innocent enough at first but quickly turns into blind adherence and let's face it, reading/viewing something negative is much more interesting than a bland world of primary colors and everyone getting along. Also, being critical in a negative way should, in theory, keep the products being spoken about from being mindlessly consumed in an inferior format and should force higher quality levels. Let's face it, when you read a review of a movie that is just exploding from the seams with praise does it not strike you as a tad disingenuous and perhaps even like that of a planted review or something in the vein of David Manning? David Manning, by the way, was a fake movie critic that Sony Pictures created to give very strong positive praise to some of their more-maligned films some years back. David Manning is the first thing that comes to my mind when I see massive praise for anything.
Now, when you read a review of a movie that points out the faults (yes, there are always faults) don't you get the overall feeling that this lands closer to being critical; it's not shilling or hating. Take something like a favorite Marvel movie, throw out how much you enjoyed the movie and look at the film critically to see the plot holes, the audience pandering and the unnecessary bits. One can do this and, at the same time, still enjoy and even relish the experience of the film. But movies like those put out by Marvel are what is often called “critic proof" since if you find any fault at all then you are just “unable to have a good time at the movies" or are “just looking for something to bitch about."
It does not matter that they do have plot holes, that they do pander and that you also did have a great time at them, you are not allowed to criticize them without being a nit-picky creep. Being a critic does not mean hating something, it means honestly finding the fault within something; if you don't believe me, re-read the dictionary definition above. I loved “Prometheus" but it has massive plot holes, lapses in logic and treats its own audience like they are monkeys with a day pass from the disturbed ward of the zoo and yet I liked the movie. I am being critical of the film in the way that a critic should.
Geek websites seem to want to avoid any kind of actual critical thinking. They are happy to just say it's geek so that makes it awesome. I see far too many sites that cover everything in geek culture with the same zeal. This may seem good, but it is not journalism. We need more critics and fewer attacks, as well as fewer fanboys. When that new geek culture movie comes out it usually embraced with the mindset that this is “the most amazingist [sic] thing ever" by the layman even as the critical community points out the flaws.
Another trait found by far too many geek culture sites is that anything geek culture is good, even if it's not. There is this almost ravenous desire for geek culture to spread itself and convert the “norms" like some kind of infectious plague with every name drop or reference being some non-existent battle won. Just because something mainstream referenced Superman or “Game of Thrones" does not make it part of geek culture.
Why is geek culture not happy to just be itself without the self-righteous indignation of a brash outsider fighting the world? Can't geek culture just live and breathe while also being honest with itself?
I was told by the head of one “everything must be positive" site that the reason they pushed that sanction so hard was that geek culture was already (somehow) under constant attack from the outside and the last thing it needed was internal conflicts as well.
It should surprise no one that I have many issues with this.
Perhaps it is far easier to sell advertising on a site that is already pre-disposed to exalt your product than it is a site that might point out the faults of your product.
A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.