This is going to be a bit of a limp entry, because that’s what happens when you see Your Highness instead of Hanna, and so you can’t really jump on board the brewing “Now that’s how you do an action heroine movie!” debate.
Incidentally, I don’t want to lure you from CHUD, but if you want to hear me review Your Highness, I did so on Fat Guy at the Movies. If you listen, you’re going to learn things about me you never wanted to know. But there’s where a lot of my critical — ha! — thought went this week.
But not all! I still have some left. And I’ve turned it inward, wondering why the hell I, out of so many others, couldn’t get very riled up about Sucker Punch. In fact, I’m finding it hard pressed to get angry about entertainment in general. The last instances I can think of were Avatar and the LOST finale, and even then, it wasn’t anger at the properties themselves, but the fans of them who were furious I didn’t share their opinion. As we all know, if you fail to convert a skeptic with a link to a piece that explains why the LOST finale is good, and they are wrong, then you must tear through Twitter screaming what a bitch they are. The life of the property, and your feelings and faith in it, depend on it!
No, this isn’t a tirade against trolls. I’m sorry, I digressed a bit. What I meant to talk about was the sheer wave of anger that followed Sucker Punch, though that film was certainly not the first (and won’t be the last) to incur such wrath. It raped my eyeballs, it’s the worst movie of the year, it’s the worst movie of the decade, fuck no it killed cinema altogether, inaudible sound of rage.
I saw it, and my response was absolutely cool. A “meh.” I was disappointed I couldn’t get riled up one way or another, because I knew I wanted to write about it, and writing is easier when fueled by anger or love. (Of course, it can also be very difficult if your feelings are so strong and blinding that you can’t see the laptop keys. Been there.)
I’ve felt that way about a lot of properties and news recently. I feel almost envious of those who can live on a bipolar plane of emotion, living the highs and lows of the RSS feed to the fullest. I used to, but like anyone married to something for a few years, I’ve settled into a warm glow of interest and enjoyment. And I feel as though something’s a bit wrong with me. I know someone would tell me that it doesn’t matter. Film and television don’t affect the grand scheme of things.
But they’re art. Art does matter. Art can bring down governments. Art — or even the failure of something to be art — is worth getting fired up about. If Sucker Punch degraded women, or didn’t degrade women, or failed to talk intelligently about that degradation, then goddamn that’s a conversation worth having. And I had it, and I enjoyed the intellectual exercise of analyzing it, but I just didn’t feel very much energy about it. But so many others did.
Now, lest anyone accuse me of turning out some woe is me piece, let me stress that I’m not feeling bad about this. Rather, I think I’ve gone to this place of detachment as a reaction against what I view as an increasingly dramatic and hysteric bid for traffic. I know that I will “go off” about a film, but I want that time to be special. I want it to matter. I want the emotion to be real and not watered down because I’ve gone off about every other film on a given week.
I feel like the online discussion is making intensity insignificant. From a reader’s perspective (and I’m as much of a reader as anyone currently scanning this), it’s impossible to know what is actually a bad film or television show because it’s all the absolute worst. And the person who can shout it the fastest, the loudest, and with the most cutting and pithy turn of phrase, wins the attention. For an hour or two, at least. Because someone louder always comes along once another screening lets out. At the risk of sounding really Walt Kowalski-ish, it feels like a byproduct of social media and of everyone — be they your favorite film critic or your cousin — being on some exaggerated form of display. We live our lives in public, and our opinions are nothing if not heard — and we feel they can’t be heard unless they are done so in a dramatic, heart clutching fashion.
Maybe I’m missing out on the fun of the collective anger experience. Maybe I’m missing the point in treating every single film like the end all, be all of cinematic experience. I have a difficult enough time maintaining the balance and chirpiness of my “public” life anyway without revving myself up into a frothing mess of emotion over The Adjustment Bureau, Your Highness, Sucker Punch, or whatever might be the target on a given week. I’d like to think it’s just being judicious and prudent, but perhaps it means I’m too dispassionate and out-of-touch for the current audience.
Ugh. This comes off a lot more maudlin and naval-gazing than I intended. But from some of the feedback I received on the Sucker Punch piece, and in subsequent discussions I had with friends and colleagues, there were some glimmers of weariness and bafflement that it hit so hard. Again, this film was one example — there are dozens of others, The Hangover was one that came up in the CHUD forums recently — and I feel like there’s a growing realization that some of these films just aren’t worth the energy the crowd is investing in bitching about them.
Or are they? I put it to you, because I’m genuinely curious. Am I disdaining an energy that is actually indicative of important social debate? Or is it just silly noise, expended on topics that don’t merit quite so much fury?