A sour tongued brush fire has long been growing in the world of entertainment fandom. The perpetrators are often masked behind molded selves that exist in social media posts and comment threads. They favor tossing blunt force opinion grenades over genuine interactive discussion, and after their usually weak lobs, they hide in the bushes and watch the mayhem ensue. This is about negativity, and it is time for a change.
We are born blank slates. Everything is wondrous and incredible to tiny eyes, hands and minds. Our early exploration of the world flies past at lighting speed because there is so much happening. So much being taken in. This is when we cement the foundation elements of who we are, what we want, and how we perceive life. Parents have a massive responsibility in being the initial code writers in young brains, because when they point at someone and pass judgment, celebrate something they adore, and share their feelings about what ticks them off, the little sponges around them absorb and take it all to heart.
Our accumulated experiences are the framework on which we are supported. Good and bad, joyous and melancholy, it all adds up to beams and columns within, and eventually we transition out of the space in which our parents stack the bricks, and we start them stacking ourselves. This is when we really start latching onto things, deciding what in our world inspires, fascinates, frustrates, enrages, and stimulates.
Most of us started discovering what we love about movies in their teen years, or just prior, which is the most impressionable time in our lives. We can finally go places and buy things without our parents making the call and footing the bill. We travel where we want, start dating, and stop wearing what we are handed, finally dressing ourselves in uniforms of choice. For me, this was the time I was in bands, was writing and selling my first books, and abusing the membership card at every movie rental facility in the area. Anything and everything was fair game, and I thrilled at discovering someone or something in a movie, riding my bike to the library to research, and then find more of their work. It was the same with literature, and the same with music.
All that transition and evolution crammed into about six years. For many it is the last time we see the world with eyes wide open. Soon thereafter, with work and school and money concerns and everything else adult life hands us, we start to squint. We find blinders. We learn to shield ourselves from the rain instead of dancing in it. We change.
But we don’t have to.
What baffles me is when people decide to stop venturing into the unknown, stop celebrating and drawing others to what they love, and instead invest great time and effort into pushing people away from things they don’t. Their soap boxes are black, charred from carrying it through the burning villages in their wake that could have instead been rows of budding seedlings. It is a conscious decision to fill space with negative instead of positive, and vice versa.
Opinions are important, and the more angles we look at things from, the more informed we are, but time is finite, as is energy. Constructive criticism is healthy when balanced with constructive praise, but so many people in fan circles now dwell on the darker end of that spectrum, and seem to enjoy pulling others down with them. This isn’t just peer-to-peer in direct conversation, it is in dismissive reviews that indicate their authors entered the theaters with minds made up about what they were about to see. When did we become critics first and fans second?
I am advocating a movement in our little corner of the entertainment world where we start investing more of our effort and time in sharing what we like, love and recommend, and a little less time in warning everyone within eye or earshot away from something we dislike. Civil discourse is a cornerstone of adult life, but that seems to have been lost with the advent of 24-hour connectivity. Just like the all day, all night news channels often resort to over-covering something insignificant or filling their schedules with junk food stories, our conversations about the movies and shows we like have started to become battles of endurance, name calling, and public flogging. We teach our kids not to bully, then log into Facebook and hurl cruelty at people who disagree about which mask in the Halloween franchise is the best.
Let us agree to disagree, focus on sharing what we love instead of constantly trashing what we don’t, and do it all with our ears as open as our mouths, and elevate those around us. It isn’t a big ship to turn. All it takes is a moment of pause the next time we feel like throwing a proverbial sucker punch, in conversation or review or comment thread, instead considering the outcome of our comment and whether or not redirection to something worthwhile might be time better spent.
We are better than this. Let’s reference our youth and not lose sight of what brought us here in the first place.