My reasons to snark and bark
It always make me think of the guy who gets sentimental after too many glasses of wine and starts to declare his love to anyone who comes near whilst making solemn promises to become a better person.
“We should stop being so negative about films! Why should we write about them at all? Why don’t we just focus on the movies we love, guiding people to the good ones and leave the bad seeds to the silence?”
Yes, why don’t we? Isn’t that the way you’re supposed to raise children? Give them praise when they do well and ignore them when they don’t. Don’t mention the bad movies with a word and they will surely go away!
Or maybe not.
I’m probably not known as the most vitriolic of film bloggers; on the contrary. I would guess that about 80 percent of the films I write about get positive reviews with a 4/5 rating, if not more. But mind you: this is not because I remain silent about bad movies. It’s because I don’t have access to free press screenings and I’m so cheap that I don’t want to waste either my time or my money on watching films that I have good reasons to believe are bad. So I look for the good ones, based on previous experiences with the directors and on what I hear from other people in the community. It works pretty well.
However: if I ever get to watch a movie that I think is truly bad, such as in the case of Rock of Ages recently, I have no qualms whatsoever to write it down. I will not go into self censorship.
And here are a few of my reasons:
1. It’s fun to write.
Watching a bad movie isn’t enjoyable, especially if you’ve paid a full prized ticket. But writing about truly bad movies is just as fun as to write about movies you love. And it’s certainly a lot more inspiring than to come up with something even remotely interesting about a 3/5 movie.
It’s often in the angry rants about truly disgusting movies that we dare to go experimental and wild. If you’ve ever been in the stripping-down-a-horrible-movie-to-the-bare-bones frenzy you know what I’m talking about. The keyboard is humming happily as you’re hammering away. This pleasure compensates more than enough for the painful experience in the theatre. From being a pointless waste of time and money, it’s suddenly turned into material for a glowing, passionate rant post.
When you write negative reviews, either they’re barking or snarking, you’re transforming the lemons you were given into lemonade.
2. It’s fun to read.
If someone has fun writing something, you can tell that as a reader. It’s contagious. I enjoy reading posts that are glowing with passion, either it’s of hate or of love. It doesn’t matter if I have the opposite view about the movie as the writer. It’s still a good read.
3. I’m executing my consumer rights.
My fellow Swedish movie blogger Fiffi mentioned this a while, which was one of the things that inspired this post. In a rough translation she wrote:
“It feels as if the film industry is a conveyer band and we, the consumers, stand at the end station, indulging the end product either it tastes well or badly. How do you reclaim a theatre ticket you’ve bought? How do you act as an unsatisfied moviegoer otherwise than talking, blogging and discussing it? I don’t know. You can’t know if a movie is badly made or not until you’ve seen it.”
Exactly. I’ve never ever walked out of a theatre during a screening, asking to get my money back. No matter how bad a movie is, I would never think of doing that. In my world it’s rude, cheap and a signal of ignorance and bad taste. There is always an element of gambling in watching movies and sometimes you lose. That’s just how it is.
On the other hand I think you have every right in the world to warn other people about a movie you had a very bad experience with, the same way as you will share with your relatives and friends if you eat at a bad restaurant or hire a serviceman who turns out not to do his job very well. Of course you share your opinion!
As a consumer you have very little to put up against the marketing machinery of the biggest movies, but the importance of word of mouth is increasing in the age of social media and I see no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t use our consumer power.
The film critic Scott Jordan Harris wrote a column recently where he attacked what he described as an emerging trend, snarking in film criticism. To be fair it’s overall a very good article where I agree with most of what he says, but I couldn’t help thinking he’s going a little bit too far when he says that there “is no point in a thousand bloggers each reviewing the major studio releases of the week or, even worse, just choosing whichever one of them is least exciting and wasting words in mocking it.”
Harris says that our daily ambition should be to “find a film so good it moves us to write about it persuasively enough that readers are compelled to seek it out and have the same wonderful experience we did”.
Snark is something he thinks should be left for Twitter, “where attention spans are short, character limits are shorter and, as the very name “Twitter” suggests, frivolity is key.”
I think we need to bark and snark every once in a while, either we’re amateur movie bloggers or professional film bloggers. But it should be done with certain finesse of course, and not too often. Just a little pinch once in a while. It’s the that keeps us from becoming overly sweet, singing kumbaya and holding hand whatever movie we get to see.
And now it’s time to bring in some drinks and bring out a toast for the incoming weekend. In Sweden this is a special one, devoted to Midsummer celebrations. Here’s a crash course if you want to try some of our pagan rituals for yourself.
Glad midsommar – Happy Midsummer!