Slagging people off is a great way to get page views, and I've got the stats to prove it. But I still try to keep my moaning to a minimum.
Of course, I’m as guilty of purely irrational negativity as much as anybody when it comes to my entertainments, and sometimes I hate everybody and everything they do, (and who doesn't?), but I’m not really that interested in bitching about things too much in my writing here at the Tearoom, where the Despair is strictly ironic in a very-1992 way.
But you shouldn’t let that stop you from complaining about a comic or a movie or a TV show or a song you don't like. After all, anyone who insists that everybody should have the same opinion as them is a bloody fascist.
I'm not the only one who can't help reading poor reviews of things they love – reading negative reviews of the new Star Trek movie is like picking at a scab, because I fucking loved that movie – but I've still read plenty of them, and can take on the criticism. I doubt they will impact on my enjoyment of the film when I do see it again, even if I agree with some of the critical points.
But there are still some specific types of lazy criticism that still annoy the piss out of me, including, but not limited to:
* People saying Grant Morrison comics are full of weirdness for weirdness' sake, as if that was a bad thing. That's been wheeled out since the late eighties, and is looking pretty fucking dusty.
* Blind parroting of critical consensus, Everyone else is saying the same thing, so why not follow the herd over a cliff?
* This is a purely personal one, and it's a Doctor Who thing, but I've seen a lot of hip young Americans complain that a programme aimed at ten-year-old British kids doesn't meet their standards over the past couple of months. I still think it's pretty funny sometimes, but it's now definitely in the world of the obvious.
* A tendency to nitpick a film to pieces over pedantic shite. It's something that is especially prevalent in dork culture., but even my favourite (and non-genre) films of all time wouldn't stand up to that kind of pissy scrutiny.
* Any review that comes soaked in 21st century entitlement, filled with but-that's-not-what-I-wanted and here's-how-I'd-do-it.
* And, most of all, I can’t stand it when it gets personal.
So I was at these drinks a few weeks ago and I’m talking to Steve, somebody who was introduced to me as “someone who likes that geek shit too”, and within 30 seconds of the conversation starting, I already knew he was a wanker, because he said Deadwood was shit, and then he confirmed it when I made the mistake of saying the ending of Lost wasn't that bad, and that started him on a rant about Damon Lindelof, (except he kept pronouncing it Damon Lindhoff), and that's always a bad sign, because bitching about plot and script is an easy way for dumb people to look smart, and because everybody thinks they can do a better job than the writer, because that's not a skill or anything, and his rant was pretty epic, and got quite personal and insulting towards artists that failed to adequately entertain Steve, and it was an internet troll attack in real life, which I'd never even seen before, and he finished it all off with the sentence – “Damon Lindhoff can suck my cock off!”, and I genuinely didn't know what to say about that, and it was a bit uncomfortable, so I just took a sip of my beer instead.
But like I said, this was something that I hadn't actually seen in real life before, because it's remarkably easy to avoid this sort of thing in our multi-media world. I don't have to listen to the same boring old arguments, or irrational hatred, or general shit stirring. It's easy enough to find people who share the same opinion as me, and can back up everything I say, and it's easy to find trusted critics who can point out the flaws without getting bogged down in the usual complaints.
But there is one other group who really get my hackles up, and that's the hater-haters who insist everyone should see things they way they do. These tiny fascists, who insist that everybody has to love the sane thing they love, are even more annoying than the laziest of lazy critics.
There is a definite strain of it in most fandoms, and I see it all the time in both the world of comics and Doctor Who (which are the only two fandoms I can bear to really follow). They're relentless cheerleaders for something dorky, who fly off the handle at any criticism. Strictly speaking, I’m on often their side, because we both love the same thing. But I’m not on their side when they refuse to even entertain the possibility that somebody else might dig it as much as us. As if the lowest common denominator, which would be necessary to gain a universal audience, was something to aspire to.
One of the things I find endlessly irritating about geek culture is the absolutism of it all. Even though 80 per cent of everything falls within the boundaries of “okay”, it has to be the best thing ever, or the worst thing ever, with no room for the vast grey area in between. Likewise, many feel that they have to absolutely love or absolutely hate some small piece of entertainment, and are outraged that others might not feel the way they do, which is a pretty fucking stupid thing to be outraged by.
I can accept that people don't like the same things I do – I've been reading comics since I was three, and I'm a life-long fan of Doctor Who, so I'm certainly used to people slagging off the things I like.
But I can still disagree with them, even if they are my favourite critics. I respect where they’re coming on, and take their comments on board. I still think they’re wrong, but they’re equally convinced that I’m wrong, so it all balances out.
I can disagree with people easily enough, and can appreciate other points of view. And I can even safely ignore the kind of lazy criticsms that just drive me crazy.But I'm certainly not saying that they shouldn't be allowed to have a different opinion from me. You're allowed to be a hater, even if you're wrong, and don't let anybody tell you anything different.