Every so often, the conversation over bad reviews, negative takes, talking about movies we hate, etc. comes up. There seems to be two schools of thought on this, although I think (as with most things on the internet) that most of us are more open to a nuanced conversation but that we get in our own way because social media has driven us all a little mad. Anyway, I thought I would add my two cents and let people judge it for themselves. In short, I am in the middle, but here we go.
I get the argument about negativity in blogging, reviewing, content creation, etc. (I’ll be using the catch-all of content creation moving forward). It gets tiring, it just honestly does. There is a subset of the internet that loves their negativity, and there is a lot of potential with clickbait and everything else, which has sadly taken over the content creation world. People who love to seek out things specifically not made for them and then make a judgment call. Oh, older male with no children you didn’t like this show geared towards young girls? Now you want to make a 20 minute YouTube video about why it’s horrible. Yeah, awesome. Or when people don’t like a direction, a movie goes in but refuse to see the argument for that direction from the other side.
I think a notable example of this was 2018’s Halloween. Setting aside the overall problems with the movie in tone, pacing, etc. There was a lot of rage against the movie because it was largely a flipped script and spent a great deal of time with Laurie hunting Michael. There was, of course, the standard “sjws are ruining everything,” but in addition to that, there were a lot of less rage-filled takes that still weren’t needed.
Completely setting aside that without that script flip, it would have been the same movie we already saw a million times, not every voice adding to the discussion actually adds to the discussion. A lot of people tried to be nicer about it, but ultimately said the same thing, we didn’t need a “women are badasses, Laurie kicking ass” Halloween movie. I say we did. I was the target audience. Despite my issues with the movie, I liked it, liked what it was doing, and as a woman that has watched countless women be assaulted, tortured, and brutalized on screen for decades due to my love for horror, I freaking loved it.
There was little listening by those that didn’t like it to those like me. So it leads many people like me to say “then just don’t watch the freaking movie” because the lack of understanding of why it was important to some women gets annoying. And ultimately, the truth is sometimes it is okay for you not to comment on something.
However, “don’t watch it, don’t send out negative reviews” is also not the best attitude, and I think it has lead to the other extreme. Bad reviews are good. They are good for consumers. They are good to remind studios that we do notice when they keep putting out garbage. Discussing things like the copy and paste nature of so many films in a franchise is something we should discuss. The studio system has only gotten worse, and with Disney buying up as much as they can, the future for movies is looking rather bleak.
We need to be able to discuss these things without the standard reaction to anything but a positive review being, “well, you don’t have to watch it.”
The discourse needs to include many voices, disagreements, and nuance. There is a balance. A balance between understanding when something maybe isn’t made for you, so your not liking it is not really something that needs to be discussed. But also openness to talking about “what are the people that make our hobbies doing that we disagree with.”
I remember watching Hellraiser Judgment and my initial reaction being rather harsh. I then toned it down to avoid and overly negative review. Here’s the thing, though. Judgment was a bad movie. It didn’t belong in the franchise, it suffered from a lot of problems, and notably, it had the potential to shape future Hellraiser movies. I did myself, and Hellraiser fans no favors by not just fully stating, “this was a bad movie, and this should not be the future of a beloved franchise.” We need to be able to say these things. Plus, there are ways of doing this without being insulting or going on rants. It’s not an either-or.
And this is the vital part. We have convinced ourselves that a lot of things only have two options, but so few do. Negativity vs. Positivity is one of those things.
Obsessing over negativity and being the type of person that screams and yells about how everything sucks is not helpful. But it is also not the only way to give a negative opinion in content creation. Trying to avoid negative opinions is bad for the industry and ultimately bad for us. Content creators can encourage consumers to vote with their wallets and potentially in a way that can have a better overall impact on the industry.
Also, discussions, where we disagree, are good as long as we all learn as individuals when our voice maybe isn’t needed. Maybe you hated 2018’s Halloween, and maybe you have a reason for that that is worth discussing and sharing. And maybe those of us like me should hear that, and we can all talk about it and disagree. Or maybe you realize that “huh there is something there that doesn’t appeal to me at all but is clearly important to other people so I can just save it.”
It is about finding balance. Balance in how we, as content creators, engage with each other and our audience. Balance in when to be negative and when to find the positive things to say. And balance with ourselves to recognize when we are adding something to the discussion, and when maybe we “just shouldn’t watch it.”
It’s not a choice. It is a complex issue that we are all learning and growing with, and we can all afford to do at least a little better from all sides.