I don’t [get defensive when reviewing comic book movies] because I’m afraid of getting death threats from easily irritated comic book fans (which hasn’t happened to me, and thanks). I do it because as someone who got a lot out of comics growing up, and still has a healthy respect for the graphic form, I find comic book movies kind of frustrating, and am bent out of shape by having my frustration chalked up to a lack of understanding of the form.
That last bit is something I run into a great deal with fans. Many of them assume that knowing about something intimately and thoroughly will automatically equate to excusing or justifying its weaknesses, shortcomings, excesses, and indulgences.
This is something fans do, by and large, with their cherished material, as a way of protecting it from being undermined or cheapened by outsiders. But it does even more harm than an outside attack might, in big part because it makes it all the harder for the people close to the material — the people who ought to be honing the best possible understanding of it — to think critically about it.
I suspect that, in turn, stems from a lack of understanding about what it really means to think critically about something, in big part because we have so many bad examples of it. Doubly so in fandom circles. "Thinking critically" doesn't mean putting things in a stacked ranking or coming up with lists of ten best; it means being able to take something apart and see why it ticks the way it does, or why it doesn't tick at all in some cases.
Even the best of things have their shortcomings, and the reason we bring them up at all is not to point and laugh, but to understand how they exist in the context of the whole. 2001 is slow; Blade Runner is frosty; Seven Samurai is three freakin' hours long; and so on. Those don't make the whole any less worthy, and anyone who doesn't have their sense of self bound up with any particular thing should be able to realize this.
Maybe that's it: the reason fandom is so bad at being intelligently critical of its own work is because so much of what fandom is, is bound up in the material itself — with it being all of a piece, untainted, holy. But that's no way to deal with this stuff, because it leads to absurdities of all kinds, not the least of which being the inability to make fine-grained distinctions of quality.
The fact that I have been inside a given fandom should empower me all the more to think critically about it, not prevent me from doing so. If I have a problem with the current spate of comic-book movies, it's not that they're wholly bad, it's that they can't help but become yet another logical extension of the machine that insists that all popular entertainments follow the same increasingly dreary set of formulas.
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Other Lives Of The Mind