“You’re overthinking it.”
This is the rallying cry of morons across the internet. Of the mouth breathing folks who cringe at the idea of analysis that goes deeper than ‘It rocked!’ or ‘It sucked!’ For some reason they’ve come out in droves to decry thinking about Avatar, a movie that wears its ‘subtext’ on its sleeve and all but begs to be deconstructed, but they come out for pretty much every big movie. For these people movies are a narcotic, which I guess is fine – not everybody appreciates film as art the way we do – but they seem to be completely threatened that anyone would bother to take the time to think about (or, heaven forbid, think during) a movie.
Someone has actually summed all of this up much better than I can. I rarely – if ever – do this, but I’m reprinting a comment left on a recent io9 article that I think says just about everything that needs to be said on the subject. Thanks to Roger Ebert’s Twitter for pointing me to a blog called Racialicious that initially pulled the comment out of the morass. The article at io9 was Annalee Newitz’ absolutely excellent examination of white man’s guilt/subconscious racism in Avatar; that kind of article will always get the most ‘You’re overthinking it’ responses because not only is it about a blockbuster, it’s about race in a blockbuster. The ‘overthinkers’ really hate it when people consider race, gender or class when discussing a film, and they’ll bend over backwards to ignore any racism or sexism in a movie.
One thing this commenter didn’t touch on: analyzing a movie is fun. I really have fun doing it. I like talking with friends about the meanings of things in films, books and other art. It’s like a puzzle, and it’s intriguing to work a movie over in my mind and ferret out the small bits that – consciously or unconsciously – the author left in there. It’s fun to analyze works in the context of the time when they are created as well as in the context of the present moment; art is timeless and can say things about the world we live in even if it was created decades or centuries ago. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually fun for me to use my brain.
Anyway, here’s commenter Moff laying it all down for you:
Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”
If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.
First of all, when we analyze art, when we look for deeper meaning in it, we are enjoying it for what it is. Because that is one of the things about art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, or avant-garde: Some sort of thought went into its making — even if the thought was, “I’m going to do this as thoughtlessly as possible”! — and as a result, some sort of thought can be gotten from its reception. That is why, among other things, artists (including, for instance, James Cameron) really like to talk about their work.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to think about a work of art. I don’t know anyone who thinks every work they encounter ought to only be enjoyed through conscious, active analysis — or if I do, they’re pretty annoying themselves. And I know many people who prefer not to think about much of what they consume, and with them I have no argument. I also have no argument with people who disagree with another person’s thoughts about a work of art. That should go without saying. Finally, this should also go without saying, but since it apparently doesn’t: Believe me, the person who is annoying you so much by thinking about the art? They have already considered your revolutionary “just enjoy it” strategy, because it is not actually revolutionary at all. It is the default state for most of humanity.
So when you go out of your way to suggest that people should be thinking less — that not using one’s capacity for reason is an admirable position to take, and one that should be actively advocated — you are not saying anything particularly intelligent. And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.
And most annoyingly of all, you’re contributing to the fucking conversation yourselves when you make your stupid, stupid comments. You are basically saying, “I think people shouldn’t think so much and share their thoughts, that’s my thought that I have to share.” If you really think people should just enjoy the movie without thinking about it, then why the fuck did you (1) click on the post in the first place, and (2) bother to leave a comment? If it bugs you so much, GO WATCH A GODDAMN FUNNY CAT VIDEO.