The Bigger Picture: The Internet is Over(rated)

200157989-001The Internet has spawned an explosion of opinion and independent thought. Movies I once thought were untouchable I now find have their own critics. While the Web has also coined new terms and brought about an entirely new culture, I have some major complaints, namely the use of the word “overrated.”

When I was in elementary school, there were certain movies that I absolutely idolized. I had a queue of films that I would watch on sick days. It was a long list, but it included all three of the Star Wars films, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Rocketeer, and a TNT version of Treasure Island that starred Charlton Heston and a young Christian Bale. Not only did I love these movies, I would actually re-enact them. This was usually a sign to my parents that I wasn’t sick anymore and it was time to send me back to school.

Hang on; I’m going to make the rest of the Popdosers look old. My high school experience went side by side with the transformation of the Internet into what it is today. These were the days of dial up modems that squealed like a pig to the slaughter. It was the Also sprach Zarathustra of my entry into the negativity that the Internet has cornered the market on.

Around the same time, I had found a new friend at my high school. His name was Duncan, and he was far different from the friends I had grown up with. By sophomore year I had turned into an all too-serious adult. Duncan had transferred to my school and displayed a different sensibility from my old friends, so I gravitated toward him. Being young, I mistook his arrogance for maturity. Duncan was a smart kid, but all too often intellectualism can cause a man to act cruelly toward others (and how smart is that?). Duncan introduced me to criticism and cynicism, and being impressionable, I imitated him.

The Internet is filled with Duncans; people who know their intellect but display little understanding that emotional intelligence is far more important than mere knowledge. With the Internet has come an extremely critical culture, one in which a single negative voice can speak louder than one hundred positive ones. It would be silly to say that this problem didn’t exist prior to Al Gore’s invention of the World Wide Web, but it is hard to deny that it has become an almost suffocating force in our culture.

One day, in a conversation with Duncan, I mentioned my love of The Rocketeer. He sneered at my bond with that movie, taking an almost mocking tone. How could someone, in one swift stroke, destroy me for loving a movie that I cherished from my childhood? My unfortunate reaction was to give in. I wanted to look cool and all too often looking cool means to betray one’s own self. It was around this time that I first became aware of the word “overrated.”

The prevalence of this word seems to grow exponentially every year. It has become such an easy term to use to explain away a lack of understanding. I say this as someone who has used the term in the past, and I will say now that I am sick of it. To say that something is overrated is to infer that it has a rating in the first place, which is never a good reason to judge something. It is a very negative force on the culture of artistic criticism as a whole, because it simplifies one’s dissatisfaction into a neat little package.

I would never deny having a critical eye towards movies. Many times I have baffled my friends with my dislike of a movie that they love. Last year it was Iron Man, which I didn’t find to be all that impressive. It would be very easy to describe it as overrated, being that it was almost universally praised by critics and celebrated by audiences. I found it to be shallow, loud, unevenly written, and filled with lame product placement and jokes that have already started to date themselves (the Myspace line?). However, I wouldn’t deny an audience the satisfaction of enjoying a movie. That would be immature and selfish. To criticize a movie is to view it through the confines of one’s own mind, and if those are different than the general public we are all the better for it.

The mindset of “Why can’t people see things through my eyes?” seems to be the one great flaw in the thinking of the critical mind. I understand this, as someone who possesses a very precise vision of what I enjoy in a film. Therefore, I would like to challenge everyone by placing a moratorium on the usage of “overrated.” If people restrict their use of this word, they just might be forced to use their critical mind in a more constructive manner. No longer will people be able to undercut a movie in such a simplistic way and they will be forced to pinpoint exactly what it is that they dislike.

The last time I spoke with Duncan was at our graduation, exchanging merely a courteous “Hey.” He drifted away from me at some point during our senior year; hanging out with a crowd I wanted no part of. I thank him for helping me develop my critical eye and I hope he has found a more peaceful worldview, one that displays the understanding I have only recently found. Duncan was always smarter and filled with more general knowledge than I, but I made up for my shortcomings with an intuitive mind. Hopefully I was able to impress my sensibility on him just as he did to me.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

  • JonCummings

    Man! You and David Denby, thinking you can force the rest of us to write more thoughtfully in a medium that clearly was designed for snarky, anonymous putdowns. WhatEVER!

    Besides, you'll never have the intimate understanding that I share with concepts like “mimeograph,” “carbon paper,” “cathode-ray tube,” and “Jimmy Carter.” So suck on that, Mr. I-was-young-and-the-Internet-was-too!

    Youth is overra——.

  • DwDunphy

    Using your thoughts as a jumping off point, the worst part about the internet and it's effect on the movies goes beyond everyone being a 'cooler than thou' critic. Because producers want their movies to now be snark-proof, all the sentimentality and goofy joy that used to be in movies is quickly being bled out.

    The degree of nihilism in even the most innocuous of superhero movies is rather disturbing. The coming-of-age flicks seem hell bent on racing to the sex and pot, whereas it seemed at one time like producers were waiting for the second reel so, at the very least, you were in the theater long enough not to get a refund. Now it's like there's a second-hand racing toward boobs and bongs, just to keep the jaded too-coolerati from texting negative press from their seats.

    There's nothing wrong with The Rocketeer, except that they deviated way too far from the original comic. It was a fun little adventure flick, the likes of which we won't ever see again (if that committee meeting otherwise known as Indy 4 is any indication…)

  • Eric L.

    I couldn't agree with you more. I would like to add the word “irrelevant” as in, “If you didn't like the Dark Knight you are irrelevant.” Or “U2 has become irrelevant.” It's essentially a way of totally dismissing someone's opinion without even hearing them out. Comments like that bring nothing to the table.

    I wish there was a site about music that had the level of discourse of Roger Ebert's blog comment section.

  • Lance Berry

    The Internet has gone a long way toward desensitizing people to the feelings of others, as well as making people(particularly youth) more inept in how to deal with very important everyday face-to-face social situations which would prepare them for adulthood and how to interact with others that hold differing views. It has, in effect, corrupted the very meanings of “community” and “society”.

    I also loved The Rocketeer, and felt it was very underappreciated when it came to theaters, and wish it had done better. It was just a lot of FUN, and how often do we get that in movies now?

  • ben w

    Bravo Arend! I have definitely known my share of Duncans. In fact, I still meet them on a day to day basis. I really enjoyed reading this.

  • Arend Anton

    I think we've all know our Duncans. Duncan himself probably had one at an earlier point in his life.

  • Startaster

    A refreshing and considerate point of view. Deserves a high rating, for sure.

  • name

    You're overrated. God blogs are so self-indulgent.

  • Christina Berg

    I don’t think so, however the internet and text messaging has changed socialization a bit, nothing wrong with an occassional text, but folks text in the middle of tv and movie and don’t interact.

  • Christina Berg

    I don’t think so, however the internet and text messaging has changed socialization a bit, nothing wrong with an occassional text, but folks text in the middle of tv and movie and don’t interact.

  • Christina Berg

    Not sure what to say here, back 10 years ago or so, folks read more on the internet before watching a movie offline, reading was done on commentators and websites more so than forums, youtube, and so on
    perhaps too much opinions youtube here and there, etc gets folks lost, youtube was a revolution in the sense that finally americans had broadband and didn’t need their own cable tv channel to post videos, however it didn’t have the forum. layout, rotten tomatoes serious critique, internet is a wise tool, yet but a tool hard to imagine without, efficiency, less need to talk to folks to find out information all time who don’t know but then folks overlook first hand human knowledge, in addition smartphones have the affect of less serious devotion to the internet its more communication rather than research, critique, chat, discuss.