It’s time to stop using angry words about these properties just to get some clicks.
As I mentioned in the first column in this ongoing series, one aesthetic problem befalling many pieces about movies, in list form and otherwise, is a tendency to use the same tiny pool of examples over and over again. This is a sign of poor faith in one’s readers at the best of times, but the other edge of the sword is the film piece actively designed for no other reason than to piss people off: “Not only do you only know five movies, those five movies are bad!”
Look. I have my annoying tendencies. I can think of at least one well-known film critic whose blood pressure doubles if you so much as mention my name to him. There’s no personal element to it. My writing style just really irritates this guy, for no other reason than it just does, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that, except not slip into the trap of spitefully saying “Oh, yeah, my writing pisses you off? Well, take THIS [entire line of rhetoric personally tailored to get under that person’s skin]!”
As it is on the personal level, so it is in general. Pissing people off to get traffic may be effective, but it’s cheap and a practice that deserves to be shamed. And, if you’re going to be cheap and shameful, at least be creative in some respect, like not using the same handful of movies in rotation. The following are ones that need to be retired from being hauled off the shelf every time some asshole needs some clicks:
It is a horror movie. It is not “beneath” Stanley Kubrick. It’s not a lengthy flex about how he faked the Moon landing (you basics obviously never saw Barry Lyndon, that’s where the real hoax brags are). Stephen King has the right to still be pissed off, but no one else is obligated to agree with him. We actually might be at a point where every possible take on The Shining has already been written, or at the very least nearing it. This is not to say rewatching it is out. I rewatch it a couple times a year, at least. But, like, power down the hot take cannon. And for Christ’s sake stop saying it’s not a horror movie.
A handy text, being as it is concerned with both toxic masculinity and the dehumanization wrought by late capitalism, and even handier it’s vague enough in its critique of the former that it can occasionally be mistaken for endorsement, and it’s simplistic enough in its commentary on the latter that it’s hard to keep a straight face. But this movie’s been out for almost twenty years, and it’s treated like the only movie to ever deal with toxic masculinity and the dehumanization wrought by late capitalism. To quote another movie, by the same studio no less, “There are others, to be sure.”
Thankfully, now that the show is no longer on the air this has subsided for a bit, but there was a period of a few interminable years when literally every mention of the early 1960s in professional commentary deemed it “the Mad Men era.” Now, part of this was because of Baby Boomers’ insistence that The Sixties (aka “The Sixties, maaaaaaan”) started at some vague point in the summer of 1966 and ended either when Bobby Kennedy was shot (in 1968) or at Altamont (the following year). This made referring to the majority of the decade problematic because 1961, for instance, was most certainly “the 1960s” by any objective metric, but because it didn’t involve a bunch of future Reagan voters drooling on themselves in one specific neighborhood in San Francisco it wasn’t The Sixties™. Until 2007, then it was “The Mad Men era!” Fucking hell.
It’s safe to watch now, at least. (And no, this was not included as a sub rosa attempt to spark a “TV vs film” debate, because, to use Boomerese, it’s all cinema, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.)
This one’s specific, because there’s a time and a place for a well-timed Harry Potter reference (Sorting NBA players into Hogwarts houses, for example: LeBron James is a Gryffindor and may even just flat out be Harry, Kobe Bryant was Slytherin af, Kawhi Leonard is the most Ravenclaw player like ever; see, you can spend hours on this) and four of the movies were even good. But political commentary is not the place. Even if you really love Hillary Clinton, comparing her to Hermione is an insult to both of them. Trump isn’t Voldemort. Neither is Nigel Farage. Joe Biden isn’t Ron Weasley. Senate debates aren’t Quidditch. And so on.
Finally, if there’s one thing the internet seriously needs to cull, it’s Star Wars references. The Harry Potter shit might be bad, but it’s only been around since the late 90s. Star Wars is older than me, and I’m older than your dad. (Actually, I am your dad, but that’s a matter for another time, like the end of the second movie.)
More than the references, the problem here is every single shitty piece about “flaws” or “plot holes” or some such fuckery always, always concludes with some pre-bludgeoned dead horse like why does the Death Star have an open vent or whatever. The only reason to keep doing this over and over again is to get Star Wars fans feeling some kind of way, because there are so many of them that they’ll all hate-share the piece like “look at this dickhead bringing up the Death Star thing again.”
To quote the great sage Frank White in King of New York, “those guys . . . are dead . . . because I don’t want to do business that way.” Figuratively dead, of course.