Aaron R. Davis
It’s a source of constant embarrassment to me how predictable nerd rage is.
I remember when I was in junior high and it was constantly impressed in me how childish it was to take your opinion of something so seriously that you took differing opinions as a personal attack. If you couldn’t take someone disagreeing with you about the merits of some piece of entertainment or another, then why should your opinion even be considered? An opinion so easily punctured is an opinion unconsidered and unworthy of note.
Flash forward to decades later, where the ever-fragile concept of Western Civilization has impressed into our brains the purposeless self-esteem builder that everyone’s opinion is equally valid. Now children are apparently so nurtured, so inculcated in their little nests, that the second they — as ostensibly grown individuals — encounter a differing opinion from their own on something as inconsequential as a movie or a television show, they crumble into puddles that can only scream slurs and weep as though they’ve been physically beaten. It’s a pathetic spectacle: something that we used to not tolerate from three year-olds, but which apparently is some sort of virtue on the Internet.
What I’m referring to this time is the outpouring of fanboy tears and predictable sexism towards Amy Nicholson, whose three-star review of The Avengers garnered a lot of nerd rage. In a typically embarrassing display, people who seem to actually have jobs and adult responsibilities got all butt hurt by the idea that a woman — a WOMAN — could give a professional, well-reasoned, interesting-but-not-100-percent-enthusiastic review to a film they were excited about seeing. And one based on a comic book with Joss Whedon at the helm. A flurry of comments followed that do a great job of illustrating why no one should ever read the comments section on anything on the Internet.
Read the review. I’ll wait. It’s a pretty good review and worth the read. Nicholson says one thing that I think is really insightful about superhero movies: “We know the villains of earth. Give us more about the villains — and heroes — of our imagination.” It’s good writing.
What really seems to be missed in most of the bizarrely wounded and disturbingly personal comments is that she liked the movie. She didn’t give it a bad review. She just didn’t adore it and give it the glowing, fault-overlooking knob-slob that apparently is all the fanboys want to read about this month’s pet nerd flick. She does the job of a film critic: she discusses what she thinks are the strong and weak points of the movie and whether it works as a whole. That’s what she’s paid to do.
What seems to bother so many fandamentalists is that she’s not a Marvel zombie, and so isn’t qualified somehow to review it. That’s a desperately pathetic argument that, like most arguments in comments sections, is designed to both soothe the commenter’s ego and make him feel smarter than the person he disagrees with. She seems as qualified as film critics get, though the idea that there are qualifications for film criticism has always seemed pretty nebulous to me. There is some little fuckwit in the comments who tries to take her to task for being “bias” (a hilarious misuse of grammar considering one the things he decides to take as an insult is her accidentally calling a character the wrong name), without actually noticing his own bias, which is that she’s biased in the wrong way or something. Apparently her stated preference for DC Comics over Marvel Comics somehow means her even being allowed to SEE The Avengers is some sort of crime. Or something.
Are there still people falling for this idiot idea that honest criticism of a subjective experience can possibly be objective? And if it was, why would you even want to read something so middle-of-the-road? There’s no useful objective criticism because it’s so gutless; it amounts to little more than “The people who would like this movie will like it and the people who wouldn’t will not.” Wow, what a bold stance.
But there are two bigger issues here for me.
The first is that the people rushing to the defense of this movie have yet to actually see it. There are some people in the comments who have seen the movie, but the majority have not. And they’re actually mad that someone who has seen The Avengers is somehow wrecking their enthusiasm for a movie they’ve already decided they love more than anything in the world ever. It’s the logic of a particularly stupid child: I love this thing I don’t have because I’m so incredibly happy with my idea of it, and everyone that ruins it for me is a booger-head.
These are the kind of people who are so desperate to have their arrested adolescences rewarded that the thought of a possible disappointment essentially shuts down their ability to reason. You know exactly who I mean; they’re probably that friend you have who is still upset over how Boba Fett died.
Remember back in 2008 when David Edelstein in New York Magazine didn’t like The Dark Knight and people who had not even seen the film were issuing death threats at him and calling for him to be fired? This is the exact same thing: if you don’t share the opinion I think I’m going to have, I’m just going to sit here and scream about it because somehow the idea that everyone’s uninformed opinion is equally valid really means that only mine is valid and anyone who disagrees with me is doing it to be mean.
It’s actually kind of scary the number of commenters who seem to think that The Avengers having a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes instead of 100 percent is threatening to them personally.
The other problem, of course, is the rampant sexism.
Once again, the fantards go right to their default setting: women don’t love comics and action movies, therefore women should keep their mouths shut and let me enjoy my shit without trying to make me feel bad about it.
It’s a pathetic spectacle, made no less disturbing by its routine predictability.
I could go on in a whole second column about this point, but Christ, grow up. You already know it’s asshole behavior; you’re well aware of it, it’s the year 2012. The appropriate response to “I wish this film was more ambitious” is not “Stick to rom-coms, bitch” or “You have no business being a film critic if you’re going to act like this” (especially considering that the way she was acting was like a film critic). We all know this. All of us. There is no excuse for that behavior. You’d never respond to someone like that face to face, where you’d have to be held accountable for what you say, and you fucking know it. You. Know. It. It’s pathetic and sad, and it makes everyone who is a fan of anything genre look pathetic and sad by association. If this is really how you respond to a woman just for not liking something you don’t even know if you like yet, then you really just need to stick your head in a gas oven and breathe deeply until your head clears, because society does not need you in order to function.
Get over yourselves. It’s just a movie. Love it or don’t. You don’t need the validation of others. If you think you do, your problems run deeper than some critic didn’t love a movie you haven’t even seen yet.
But I like to think that’s why we have comments sections now. Because everyone stopped expecting them to yield actual discussion so long ago, they’re really only effective as a place for your inner toddler to vent his useless, ridiculous, hilarious, impotent anger. And those comments deserve to be ignored, like a toddler crying in the corner that he can’t play with his favorite toy just now. And the response of the reasonable should be the same as they would be to the toddler: just ignore it and let him cry; he’ll wear himself out soon enough.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org