To Hiss or Not to Hiss

Americans love competition – from presidential poll numbers down to the Oscars.  But as both these debates heat up (and I’ll leave it to you to decide which one you think is most important), we might want to remember that our opponents and their supporters are not necessarily untalented or idiots or even untalented idiots.   Yet if you sincerely believe they are, consider whether you really need to say it in the many live or written forms now available to us.

Oh sure, you can mask your critiques with intellectual language, as I often do.  Or you can be especially insulting and right out there with it, as, well, anyone who disagrees with me often is.   Case in point —

Several weeks ago I was lured into the appealing Facebook trap of commenting on a post about a film.  Yeah, I loved “Black Swan” for its daring outrageousness.  But a whole group of people who I later found out were mostly feminist film scholars didn’t, and actually hated and were offended by it.   After biting my lip I had to weigh in with my two cents (okay, maybe three and a half).  I tried to be even handed and respectful.  Until one woman turned her nose up (can you do that on Facebook?) at my post and blithely wrote that people in San Francisco and Manhattan were specifically going out to the film to laugh at it, the implication being it was that bad, that insipid.  She then turned her nose up even more and chortled ,“I don’t think serious filmgoers take it seriously at all.”  Really?  Well, luckily, I wasn’t armed.  I made my case again, but not without first writing indignantly – “Excuse me, I’m a serious filmgoer who just happens to…”  Okay, so you get it.  And on and on it went…

I didn’t care that all those people disagreed with me, I thought.   Can’t we just have an intelligent argument and examine our differences without my opinions being minimized and insulted?  Why were these people so small-minded?  Then this year’s Writer’s Guild nominations were announced and “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” a film I’ve proclaimed was retro and offensive in its representation of gay men to more than one…, okay many people, received a nod as best adapted screenplay.   How can my fellow writers nominate that homophobic piece of crap, I thought (well, shouted) to myself?   As a gay man, I’m mortally offended.  Anyone who’d like that film is a cretin, an idiot.  And worse yet, they don’t know anything about screenwriting.  And you know what, they probably support gay bullying, too!!!”  No wonder films today suck!! No wonder our political system is in shambles!!!  I’m moving to ____  and changing my profession to _____.  That way I can have a happy life doing _____ and never have to deal with any of these ______  ever again!!

Uh, oh.

My internal diatribe (the non-intellectual word is hissy fit) made me reluctantly – very reluctantly – almost but not quite yet embarrassingly reluctantly – realize how much we all personalize issues important to us.   Some of us express it through our “art,” others choose to shine a light on it through other work.  Or in their personal, day-to-day exchanges with friends, relatives or significant others.  And yes, even with some other class of people (not yet sure what to call them, are they really friends?”)  in a Facebook post.

Our audience might not agree or they may dislike our opinions entirely.  But all are equally valid.  Maybe some ideas are better expressed or more popular than others.  Yet even the cretinous idiot who disagrees with you (not me) might get it right occasionally.  And should be respected.  Okay, even the ones who disagree with me, too.

“You mean I really have to…?”   (pause)  “Oh God, really?”


7 thoughts on “To Hiss or Not to Hiss

  1. Well said, my friend. It can be brutal when we realize we really are all the same.

  2. I dig your post. I’m not sure if I agree that all viewpoints are equally valid, but they deserve more respect than the anger-fueled summary judgments that are so often rendered on contrarian opinions. Blog comments (and Facebook) seem to give people digital-age beer muscles, and I’ve found myself in a funk for hours after reading some particularly vitriolic comments (even when they’re not directed at me). This whole notion of responding so directly (and personally) to writers comes from some weird sense of entitlement, which I fear I am indulging in right now. It just seems bothersome that the meanest comments always happen to be the loudest.

    • I too have been in that same funk after reading the vitriol not even directed to me. So you’re not alone. And wouldn’t our friends and loved ones be surprised that two people as opinionated as we are take things this much to heart. I think about that too, sometimes.

  3. Steven: our mutual friend Betty Henry steered me (via Facebook) to your blog and I thoroughly enjoyed this post. As a blogger myself (link attached) I know not only the joy and sorrows of the medium, but I have particular pique with the subject of this post…civil discourse or “How We Disagree With Each Other.” Whether it’s Fox News or 20th Century Fox, we seem to have discovered our inner-bully at every turn and I’m not sure why. Most likely the availability of places to speak out (being “seen and not heard” is so 20th century!).

    Your humility in regards to your own unexpected hissy fit re. “Philip Morris” was hilarious. We’ve all been there. I’ve made it the mission statement of both my blog and my general social discourse to rein in the vitriol and see if I can’t disagree, find fault, or be utterly horrified without conflagration. So far so good. But then, we haven’t gotten to 2012 yet…! 🙂

    Congratulations on launching your blog and I’ll stop in again. Please feel free to do the same!


    • Thanks Lorraine — and I share your plan to reign in the vitriol — or at least engage in something civil and intelligent so I can lead by example — i might have to avoid watching politicians and commentators like ____________ and _________________ but they have wide enough audiences already.
      I visited your blog and like your post about guns. Tragic.

  4. I know I get frustrated when other people have what seems like a bizarre reaction to something I strongly like/dislike: “How can you enjoy Son of the Mask and not Lawrence of Arabai???” It would be nice if we all reacted the same way to every movie- those Top 10 lists every year would actually mean something, then. But things would be less interesting…

    I haven’t seen much of the feminist criticisms to Black Swan, which I enjoyed. Yes, the actresses are skinny to the point of malnourishment… Is the lesbian sex scene being exploitive? Or that feminine sexuality is reduced yet again to the madonna-whore complex? Although, in an interesting twist, the movie seems to find the “whore” side more desirable. Hmm.

  5. I jumped in on that conversation towards the end and managed to change the subject to something a bit broader and doing a comparison of Aronofsky’s other films (I hadn’t and still haven’t seen ‘Black Swan’) to Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre.

    I was a bit tempted to do a tongue-in-cheek thrashing of the film, saying that it was a horrible adaptation of Nassim Taleb’s (wholly unrelated) book of the same name and going into a diatribe about how Hollywood adaptations never do the source material any justice, but I figured the humor would get lost in translation.

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