The temperature in hell must have fallen a few degrees considering I’m about to say that many “critics,” especially on the web, have to be more professional. This from a guy who counts tit shots in horror films, has a desktop background of a skeleton wearing a suit fist pumping the air in front of a nuclear explosion and routinely uses the word “doodie” in every day conversation. Readers of popular, and not so popular, internet outlets may not be aware of this, but amongst our not-so-elite ranks, there is often a strong desire not to be called “bloggers.” It seems to take away our credibility. To me, and many, a blogger is someone who purely expresses emotion and thoughts and lacks the ability, desire, opportunity, or drive to actually provide critical thought on a subject. A blogger might say about Watchmen that it’s “so totally awesome, perfect!” while a critic should be able to relate it to other films realistically or break down the complexities of the story. A blogger might write a review that is merely a front to attack other sites or defend the film, where as an honest reviewer should exist in a bubble of his own thoughts.
True, the opinion piece or editorial is vital to both print and online media. They’re often the most interesting reads on any site as they come from a personal level and inspire a back and forth conversation. But you can’t label an opinion piece a review or a bit of news. This has become more evident than ever before with the release of Watchmen. It has been reported that print journalists, most of whom probably are not huge fans of the graphic novel and would never be considered “fanboys,” have given the film low marks. Conversely, the internet is awash with many self-professed nerds flying the flag high and proclaiming Watchmen a film to be celebrated on the level of Citizen Kane, The Godfather, or Schindler’s List. In doing so, rarely will they adopt a more academic approach to the review, breaking it down piece by piece and examining it. Rather, the easier route is to merely proclaim it great, assault its detractors, and end every paragraph with “but I thought this facet was excellent.”
If you look at a film that is considered to be among the top films of all time, there is little dissent that the movie is great. Casablanca does not achieve a top rank for over 65 years by being loved by 40% of the critical body and perceived with apathy by the other 60%. By mere fact that Watchmen is reviewed so differently between those who wanted to love the movie and those who had no stake in the source material, we can garner that the film must have some significant flaws that anyone who calls this film a masterpiece for the ages has an agenda.
I love that being an online outlet affords us opportunity to use words like tit and balls – there is without a doubt a difference between print and online writers, though I would happily admit the difference is we onliners answer only to ourselves, rather than large parent companies that can fire us for interoffice affairs – which are widespread and kinky. However, to be taken seriously, we must behave seriously. When we post Reviews and the like, we must come from a place that has no bias. How long has it been since Harry Knowles has lost credibility as an honest movie reviewer? When was the last time he posted a review that wasn’t an orgasmic explosion of hyperbole over a film that everyone knew he’d love before it even hit theaters?
The problem comes in the defense of these fanboy films, rather than their honest reviews. Granted, onliners have a level of passion about certain projects that makes us unique and different. We’re far more apt to put comic book movies on a pedestal and that speaks to our audience. Our audience wants to hear what we, as members of the fan community think – but they want to hear it honestly. Our job in being serious entertainment journalists is to report as ourselves, but objectively. My review should not influence any other review, nor should a review I read influence mine. Call-out editorials are one thing (which I enjoy), but in the bread and butter of our existence, reviews and news, if you’re not being objective, you’re not being a journalist. You’re being a blogger.
Being a genre fanboy, especially when it comes to horror, I know the desire to defend a film. When people attack horror films or slashers as cheap, low rent, or offensive, I’ll readily come to their defense in an editorial. I will not use a review as an excuse to promote a film or defend it. That is an opinion article. When it comes down to it, I believe that the audience reading my review is smart enough to know what kind of person I am. I love horror films, I curse, I argue, and I yell a lot. The audience is smart enough to know if I’m the kind of person who’s review they will relate to. There is no reason for me to dumb down a review or try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. If a film has flaws, it is our job to point them out. Those who come to our sites aren’t coming to be spoon-fed what they want to hear. They come for honest opinions from link minded individuals. Choosing to defend a film and sell an audience on it is bordering on offensive. Let the audience read your honest thoughts, your honest review and then let them judge if they relate enough to you to either see the movie or skip it. Or maybe, as sometimes has been the case, a reader will hate your guts so much they want to crap in your mouth and go see anything you hate.
This has become extraordinarily long winded and I apologize – but I know that if you’ve read this far, you’ve often either found yourself agreeing with me or hating me enough to keep reading. So we’re here together – I thank you for coming along for the read. To any of my fellows who read this I would merely say – trust your audience to make their own decisions. You are not a defender of films you are an examiner. It is not our job in reviewing movies to sell them or sink them. Publicists are paid far too much money for us to do the job of defending the film in biased reviews. Play the cards honestly and openly, point out flaws and triumphs and above all respect your audience. Do not sell them, do not trick them, do not lead them unjustly. Present the facts and try to view the film independently of other reviews, other movies, and its source materials. Certainly adaptations merit the mention of the source, but if you are defending the movie was an indirect way of defending the source, you’re doing everyone a disservice. We’ll never garner the level of respect we want and deserve if some among us so predictably and blindly leap to the defense of genre and fanboy films rather than honestly reviewing them and treating them like any other movie.
If you can not do that, if you can not objectively review a film and not come to its defense out of some misguided responsibility to protect a genre film, well then I’ll be skipping over your propaganda and roil past my boiling point.
Do you think online critics have treated Watchmen fairly? Have they been biased? What do you think of online journalists vs bloggers?