Sunday, April 08, 2007
What's with the attitude?
There's an article in the New York Times today called "Rise of the Takedown" by Alex Williams. It's mostly about hecklers, and how they are getting more prevalent and vocal. However, the author also includes blogs and the internet as places where people can see the "rise" of "all this vitriol."
I was reminded of complaints about the level of snark (aka scorn and derision) in some online reviews.
Now, I've had some nasty reviews in my time, and some that had a sneering tone I certainly could have done without. Example from an old release of mine: The hero "is not a likable character, which is not likely what the author intended." Gosh, ya think? (And no, I'm not going to tell you which book or where, because the fewer people who read that review, the happier I shall be.) All the reviewer had to say to convey her opinion was that the hero wasn't a likeable character (and here's why).
I don't think snarky reviews are new, though, and I don't think they're ever going to go away, because there's something else at work here that has nothing to do with the information to be conveyed. As Michael Addis, who's directed a movie about hecklers, put it, "sex sells, but hate really sells."
When it comes to getting attention, vitriol gets more than sweetness and light. Reviewers, like all writers who put their work before the public, want to be read and snark gets noticed, whether because readers share the scorn or are drawn to it like looking at a car wreck or out of schadenfreude.
However, I'd like to point out something about Television Without Pity, which is mentioned in the article as an example of "internet meanness." Yes, there is plenty of scorn to be found there. But -- and I think it's a huge but -- Television Without Pity's recaps and boards are not always negative. If they were, I wouldn't go there nearly so much. If the recappers and posters love a show, they say so, with great enthusiasm.
Current case in point: Earl, Yau Man and Michelle on Survivor are almost universally adored. Especially Yau Man. The show Heroes, too.
There's also a wealth of information available. For example, if there's a question about a legal point raised in a show, sooner or later a lawyer will post with the answer. Ditto questions/comments about other show details.
And one thing TWoP does very well is monitor their boards. No flame wars allowed there; if there's snark, it's about the shows, not the posters.
There's another reason I go to Television Without Pity that's not so much about TV and the shows I watch as it is about my job, and one aspect of it. The posters there remind me that people can have extremely diverse opinions about the same thing. I need to have that reminder sometimes.
Especially if I've just gotten a snarky review.