Rise of the Film-Geek Fascists

This is getting stupid.

Not sad, not alarming (okay, maybe a little bit), but really fucking stupid.

What I’m referring to is this: sources say The Dark Knight Rises opens on Friday. There is a bottomless conclave of hype surrounding it, including how critics will react to it. A small screening was met with a standing ovation and some very ecstatic tweets last week, so everyone expected every film critic to fall in love with it and bow at the alter of Christopher Nolan like they did with The Dark Knight, four years ago. For the most part, that has happened. As of Monday night, the movie currently sits at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and several critics were genuinely blown away by it. But even the most positive reviewers pointed out flaws with the film, and a couple of critics, most notably Marshall Fine of Hollywood and Fine and Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, dared to give TDKR (gasp) negative reviews. Of course, you would expect Internet commenters, most specifically the ones who frequent Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, to accept the dissenting opinions and move on with their lives right?

Sure; if we were dealing with responsible, coherent adults. Instead, this legion of fanboys and trolls lost their minds over the fact that people would dare not bow down to the obvious awesomeness of The Dark Knight Rises. Does it matter that they haven’t seen it? Of course not! Some people feel it is necessary to throw basic cinematic analysis and accept the potential greatness of a major film, such as Dark Knight Rises, as a forgone conclusion, that its quality is sacrosanct and any heretical critics who have issues with it must be taken down in as many public forums as possible. Here are some of the measured, logical responses to the reviews posted by Fine and Lemire:

“[Lemire] is biased and ignorant. She only gives high scores to movies she likes.”

“[Lemire]  gives amazing spiderrman,savages,snow white,ted and other worse things fresh review but mocks dark knight rises..she is not geniune guys..she is a fame seeker who wants attention. I bet she is a bigger letdown in her real life then she thinks dark knight rises is..”

“I knew there’d be a contrarian troll or hipster [Fine] somewhere to taint the film’s perfect 100% fresh rating.”

“Fine needs to kill himself.”

These are actually some of the nicest comments. Fine and Lemire have both received death threats, and the fact that Lemire is a woman has created an even more horrifying, sexist fervor. Posts on IMDb have called her “unstable,” with liberal use of the C-word (which is not “cuckold”), and telling her to get back in the kitchen because women know nothing about movies, especially if they are comic book adaptations.

This behavior isn’t new, unfortunately. Similar remarks were made against critics who panned “The Avengers,” among numerous other high-profile films over the past five years or so. It goes without saying that this behavior is appalling. But the question is: why does it happen? Why have IMDb members become fanatical monsters who go on personal, vitriolic vendettas against anyone who likes different movies than they do?

I think one reason may be the widening of how much movies are covered in online news. This effect is twofold.  Every single piece of information released in connection to a major movie, The Dark Knight Rises especially, is treated as an event. We are bombarded with trailers, casting updates, production notes, concept art, pictures from the set, etc. We have all the information anyone could want without actually seeing the movie at our fingertips. I think, as a result, fans become more immersed in the movies they are excited for. They have so much information that they think they can develop a concrete opinion on whether a movie is good or not just by reading everything around it. It’s like judging the quality of a meal by looking at the recipe card.

The advent of countless open forums, such as IMDb, Facebook, and Twitter, has given people the opportunity to voice their opinions, positively or negatively, anywhere they want. As a result, people meet up with other people who feel the same way about movies that they do. If they are made by an established filmmaker, like Christopher Nolan, it is intensified. People who love movies directed by Nolan, Scorsese, Fincher, etc., amass in these spaces, and this overload of chatter creates a deification of directors. The legion behind Nolan is probably the largest. Look through the IMDb boards on any of his films and you can see countless boards filled with hateful comments condemning anyone who says anything that is contrary to the deluted mythos that has been established around him. Don’t like “Inception?” You’re an imbecile who couldn’t handle the mindfuck brilliance of Nolan’s vision. Think “Batman Begins” is better than Dark Knight? Not only are you an idiot, you’re an idiot who should spend any and all free time fucking his mother. In a way, online movie geeks, like the ones who attacked Lemire and Fine, have become movie fascists: any and all dissenting opinions will be met with hostility, name-calling, and the desire to not see that critic alive anymore.

To clarify, I’m not condeming the Internet for this trend. I love the Internet; there is no Aaron Sorkin finger-wagging here. I am condemning these trolls and hatemongers for ruining and having an appalling misunderstanding of one thing I’ve loved about movies my whole life: criticism and discussion (okay, that’s two things, whatever). Even worse than hateful comments, one hilarious trick people like to pull out is looking at how the critics at hand felt about other movies, and condemn them for liking movies that they don’t. For example, the fact that Lemire liked “Magic Mike” shows that she has no taste, and she is willing to give a film a higher grade because, since she is a woman, she must’ve only liked it because it featured scantily-clad men. People need to understand there are no rule saying if you like certain movies, you must dislike other movies. If a lot of people have a negative or positive opinion on a specific film, it still isn’t a fact, it is always, by definition, a shared opinion. Movies, like all forms of art, are subjective, and everyone is going to have a different reaction to them. For example, I hate “Gone With the Wind.” I really hate it. But a lot of people think it’s a masterpiece and that is perfectly fine. It’s  the fascism popping up again. Nobody is going to tremble at you calling out Lemire or Fine for liking “Ted” when you hated it, or worse, calling them trolls for Marvel Comics because they preferred The Avengers.

The lack of etiquette and proper discourse is also quite harmful. There is nothing better than listening to someone giving a detailed and fair defense or condemnation of a film, and then arguing with someone who disagrees. I spent my first three years at SUNY Oswego digging through the old archives on the At The Movies website. Watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and later Lemire herself and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky get into it over the merits, or lack their of, of a movie like “The Silence of the Lambs” or Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme.” It was great because there was actual knowledge behind the opinions, not just blind adulation of the creators of the work. It changed how I review, write about, and analyze movies for the better. I’m 23 years old, and I’m actually saddened by the fact that my generation is responsible for this dumbfounded view of movies.

Also, it is affecting my own excitement for The Dark Knight Rises. I honestly can’t remember being more excited for a movie in my lifetime. I love Christopher Nolan’s films, from the low-fi narrative shuffle of “Following” and “Memento” up to the dreamscape/heist delirium that was “Inception.” I feel like my love of his work is tainted by these people who want critics to die out of some twisted devotion to the works of Mr. Nolan. He is a great director, he isn’t God. People tend to forget that.

But perhaps the best plan of action is, to quote Bruce Springsteen, sit back easy and laugh, at the morons who don’t have a grasp of what loving movies is all about. I have to wait an extra week to see TDKR, and I hope it really is a great film. But that doesn’t invalidate what people who don’t like it have to say. It would be a boring world if everybody had the same opinion about every film. Art is suppose to get a rise, good or bad, out of the viewer. If we forget that basic fact, we forget the purpose of movies in the first place. Especially if it involves a movie that NONE OF THEM HAVE EVEN SEEN YET. If you want to act like a spoiled child on the Internet, go ahead, its your loss. Myself and countless others will be acting like the adults.

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