Here’s the heart of the problem: The set of critics’ and audiences’ interests do not perfectly overlap but rather form a Venn diagram. In the audience circle, the pressing question is, “Should I spend some number of the dollars I have to my name and the hours I have left on Earth on this thing?” Critics get in for free and by definition have to read or watch or listen to whatever’s next up. So their circle is filled with relativistic questions about craft and originality and wallet quality and the often unhelpfully general “Is it good?”
Ben Yagoda on critics.
(The reference to “wallet quality”, for the record, is explained above this quote as,
I think of Paul Reiser’s bit about a friend who shows him a picture of his extraordinarily ugly baby. Reiser finds there is nothing he can say except, “Nice wallet!”)
The general rule-of-thumb is that the more a critic/reviewer talks about the technical minutia/plot of a work—rather than some emotional or intellectual reaction to it—the more they’re writing their review out of obligation, not emotional attachment…
And this, I propose, is the critical human flaw. It’s not that as a species we’re particularly aggressive. It’s that we tend to respond to aggression very poorly. Our first instinct when we observe unprovoked aggression is either to pretend it isn’t happening or, if that becomes impossible, to equate attacker and victim, placing both under a kind of contagion, which, it is hoped, can be prevented from spreading to everybody else. (Hence, the psychologists’ finding that bullies and victims tend to be about equally disliked.) The feeling of guilt caused by the suspicion that this is a fundamentally cowardly way to behave—since it is a fundamentally cowardly way to behave—opens up a complex play of projections, in which the bully is seen simultaneously as an unconquerable super-villain and a pitiable, insecure blowhard, while the victim becomes both an aggressor (a violator of whatever social conventions the bully has invoked or invented) and a pathetic coward unwilling to defend himself.
David Graeber on bullies and cowards.
One excerpt from a much longer essay, and one worth reading in its entirety.
Cthulhu, 2007. [Content warning for one female-on-male rape scene.]
Hey you. Yes, you. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Man. I really need more modern queer adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft’s seminal work The Shadow Over Innsmouth in my life!”
Well, my friend! Do I have a film for you! All of it, in fact, uploaded by the director to YouTube so you can watch the whole thing for free!
I found out about this film care of hbomberguy’s (you know, he’s the “Sherlock Sucks and Here’s Why” dude) video essay on how to adapt H.P. Lovecraft for modern audiences. That essay is also 100% worth watching, possibly before seeing Cthulhu itself, because it sets up expectations for the film (short version: it’s not a big loud gory horror, or a perfect film, and if you go in expecting either you’ll hate it).
hbomberguy’s essay tries to explore the question of just why so many people from marginalized identities seem to be fans of Lovecraft’s work, particularly when the man himself was such a viciously bigoted dipshit. As both a) a huge Lovecraft/mythos fan, and b) a queer woman and a member of an ethnic group Lovecraft… wasn’t particularly into (i.e. the slavs), the essay really resonated with me. Hence wanting to check out the film that inspired it. As it turned out, I… ended up really enjoying Cthulhu. It’s by no means a perfect film, but it’s a queer Lovecraftian psychological horror/mystery which is, like, 100% My Bag Baby. I know that it’s also 100% the bags of a bunch of you people (I see you, friends), hence… if you haven’t seen this film, definitely put aside two and a half hours (for the film and the essay) to check it out.
Sometimes our emoji turned out more comical than intended and some have a backstory. For example, Raymond reused his happy poop swirl as the top of the ice cream cone. Now that you know, bet you’ll never forget. No one else who discovered this little detail did either.
I can’t believe people think cryptocurrency could be useful when you can decide to buy something and then the network can just go “Uhh know what, we’re not gonna recognize that purchase, but we’re going to keep the fee anyway”. It’s like Amazon cancelling an order on you, but keeping the shipping fee. Maybe it’s not exactly the same, I don’t care, please don’t correct me if you’re a Bitcoin person.
Andrew S. tries cryptokitties.
I’m always down for people figuring out exactly how much sand the cryptocurrency castle is built with, and this post is just pure white-gold Bondi.
Some of these I think are useful, some… er, well. I’m just saying “failing” a film where a female character acts as “a plot problem for a male protagonist [and/or hero]” would seem to, for example, preclude having meaningful female characters, of both the pro- and antagonist variety, in… pretty much any film in which men also appear. It would nix, for example, Mad Max: Fury Road (Furiosa and co. cause problems for Max, Nux, and Immortan Joe), pretty much any Star Wars film (Leia causes problems for Luke and Darth Vader; Rey causes problems for Finn; Jyn causes problems for Cassian; Leia and Holdo cause problems for Poe; Rey causes problems for Kylo; Rose causes problems for Finn… yikes, so many), and Wonder Woman (Diana causes problems for Steve and Ares). Which, like. While you can have plenty or legitimate criticism of Fury Road or Wonder Woman or, like, The Last Jedi, “they had bad female characters!” usually, like. Isn’t one of them.
Still. A good list with some important ideas.