Criticism about Criticism by Adam Furgang
Everyone has an opinion these days, and it’s not usually a positive one. People who enjoy things tend to be less vocal than their angry, aggressive, vitriolic counterparts, who are slowly sucking the air and life out of everything creative. My original thought was to write this just about Star Wars, but I decided that would be too limiting. I want to focus on the scourge of negativity that the Internet has spawned and what it is doing to our culture at large. It’s not good.
When I was a kid and I was lucky enough to be taken to a film by my parents, any film, I would gleefully sit and absorb whatever they plopped me in front of. It was special. I knew it was special. I did not need to be told. I enjoyed any time going to the theater. Even if I did not understand a film, or grasp a film, or even if I did not like a film, I always enjoyed myself. I did not leave the film and have a crystalized thesis opinion formed seconds after watching a movie.
I still don't.
Films need to be absorbed and mulled over. Art does too. Sometimes it took me years to grow up and realize how great a film was. Sometimes I would realize I did not like a film and I’d move on. This is normal.
I did not grow up continually reading and absorbing criticisms of films, TV shows, music, and art. I grew up simply appreciating all of it and the world around me. My strong critical opinions as a child were reserved for bee stings, mushrooms, allergy attacks, burning diarrhea, and schoolwork. Toys, comics, films, and TV were my salvation. My refuge. They were place of happiness and bliss. They still are.
My strong critical opinions as an adult are reserved for school shootings, the high cost of health insurance, taxes, and politics—and all of these things I have little to no control over so I rarely express myself in regards to them. It’s a waste of time to shit myself online and rant about any of it. —And I realize the irony that even this post is pretty much a waste of time.
So when I saw a film as a kid, any film, I’d typically leave the theater in a sort of spastic fugue state, usually unable to speak and just in complete awe of whatever it was I had just witnessed. Herbie the Love Bug, Grizzly Adams, Disney animation, etc. Most films I saw were my absolute favorite film of the moment, always obliterating whatever film I had seen before it, and taking the top spot as the greatest film I’d ever seen…until I saw another film. This went on until I was seven. Then I saw Star Wars. All that I had loved and held dear before Star Wars suddenly took second place. Land of the Lost, Micronauts, Disney films, Snoopy, and whatever else I had absorbed, and would absorb, until Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, always took second place to Star Wars. Eventually I grew up and my tastes broadened and changed.
Still I hated nothing. I certainly might have said I hated films or TV or whatever, but now upon reflection, I realize that is simply not true. This is because I now see true vitriolic opinionated hate and negativity online every day towards films and art and I realize that what I experience when I don't like some creative work is not in line with what I see floating around out there. I don't want to be associated with your negativity. I don't want to be associated with what you feel a creative work should or should not be.
The very thought that someone could hate the Star Wars film Solo for any reason is beyond me. It’s an escapist film about some space jockey outlaw character who flies a hotrod spaceship. Who gives a fuck what it is? There is nothing to hate. If I can sit and watch Cherry 2000, Barberella, and Yor Hunter From the Future, and enjoy myself, than Solo is a masterpiece by any comparison.
Any number of actors were up for the role of Han Solo and Indiana Jones in the 70s and 80s including Tom Selleck so don't give me some crap that it’s all about Harrison Ford. It just as easily could have been Tom Selleck and if you ever watched The High Road to China you’d realize that he’d have been fine too. Almost anyone with a pulse would have been fine in that role. Sure Ford was great and made a name for himself as Solo, Jones, Deckard, etc., and we all love him for sure, but the films are stories, not actors. And sure, you can personally decide you can’t stomach anyone else but a 90-year-old Ford as Solo. But for God’s sake, please, keep it to yourself. You are running around the Internet ranting and acting and sounding like Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter or Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory and you are annoying the rest of us. We all wish someone would come along and cast a spell on you and turn you into an enormous blueberry and flush you out some sewer tube.
I may have not enjoyed a film, a record, or art style, but I never cared enough to endlessly rant about it. And even if I did mistakenly express anger and negativity at a film here or there, watching you all now online makes me realize how wrong I was. It’s like when you see your kid mirror some disgusting habit or behavior you have back at you, and you see for the first time that your parents were right and you decide to change and grow up and stop being a dick so your kid wont grow up to be a dick.
If I bought some music that I did not like—and believe me I wanted to like everything—I simply put it aside and moved on. I never really liked the music group Squeeze. I wanted to. I gave them a lot of listens over the years. I even owned a tape by them at one point. I just don't care for them. Try and find a rant by me about how I don't like Squeeze online. You wont, because it’s not worth my time. And I beg you to realize it’s not worth your time. Post about what you love. The world will be better off.
My dissatisfaction with a film or whatever else I walked away from not enjoying was always more from the money wasted than anything else. I certainly did not try to bend the universe and the people behind any creative work to suit my taste, or continually tell the world what I wished something could have been. I always tried to accept art for what it was. And if I wanted something that was closer to my heart than what I saw, I created my own art. Guess what? It’s hard. Writing is hard. Making films is hard. Painting is hard. Drawing is hard. Go try and write a film. Then try and design all the costumes. Then try and invent a cool spaceship. Then put it all together and make it something that someone other than your mom says is good. It’s not easy. But all you negative people are out there ranting like it’s no trick and all.
You should be ashamed of yourselves.
When I became a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger from films like Conan and Terminator I’d go watch any film he was in. I even sat through Red Heat when I was 18 and somehow found merit in that movie.
My point here is that I want to enjoy. Everything is better that way. Food is better that way. Art is better that way. People are better that way. Even sex is better that way. Avoid what you don't like and don't dwell on it.
After growing up continually impressed by all things creative around me I became an artist, and in doing so I realized it’s difficult. Being creative can be fulfilling but it can also be draining. And in creating anything you are exposing yourself to the world. You draw something, or write something, or create something and then you must show it to people. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. And I’d equate it to having to walk nude with a neon hat on.
But now along comes the Internet and everyone has a voice and everyone has an opinion and everyone can leave a comment. A film that was in development for years and was created by hundreds or even thousands of people gets decimated in a second by some self-satisfied opinionated pseudo know-it-all sitting comfortably behind a screen and thinking that what they feel is somehow valid and relevant and needs to be added to the world. “I didn't like this and I didn’t like that.” Or even worse, anger, racism, and threats spew forth from asshole brains to become daggers into the hearts of those who worked or acted in a film.
The worst art/music/film ever made is immeasurably better and more rewarding than the most cogent criticism ever leveled against such work. Good criticism can help art—if you are in a position to do so. But negative criticism is the opposite of creativity. It’s the act of tearing down what someone else has created.
If any film series being run by a corporation is not to your liking, or if you are tired of the direction those in charge of art, film, TV, are taking anything in this world, you have the glorious ability to go create something of your own. There is nothing stopping you from writing the comic, TV show, novel, or film screenplay that you wish would exist. Pick up a pen and write. Pick up a camera and shoot. Pick up a guitar and start strumming.
Beyond that, please, shut up.