Help Me Understand People, Again
December 26, 2014 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I don't like most popular movies and popular culture. My saying so has resulted in hurt feelings and angry people. Help me understand why they would be so emotionally invested in these things.

So, last night my associate and I tried (his idea) to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. I say 'tried' because I only made it fifteen minutes in before leaving the room. He didn't fare much better than I, only being able to watch for about ten minutes more. I posted about it on Facebook, in a rather scathing way, wondering why so many adult people liked this kind of movie. I called the movie 'shitty' and 'stupid', but I often express rather forceful opinions on things and did not expect the reaction I got. I was, actually, hoping that someone would tell me why they like these kinds of entertainment and what the attraction for so many was. What I got instead was a lot of hurt feelings over the matter, with people believing that I was saying THEY were stupid for liking this kind of thing. I never said, nor implied that anyone was stupid for liking it and, in fact, was explicit in follow-up comments that I like a lot of things that other people might find stupid or worthless and that other people's opinions of my preferences were not taken as personal attacks.

Truthfully, I DO have a big problem with the ubiquitous nature of the super-hero/fantasy narrative in popular culture. I do perceive these kinds of entertainments as childish and do rather resent the fact that they completely dominate popular culture at the moment, comprising 10/10 of the top-grossing movies of 2014 and 9/10 of those of 2013. I don't like that movies cost 150 million to make and that more adult themed movies seem to be a rarity in wide release. I said these things, too, but what I explicitly did NOT say was that anyone should be ashamed of liking them or that their enjoyment of them made them lesser or stupid. I repeatedly clarified this idea that I was speaking against the movies, not the people who enjoy them. But the reaction was incredibly emotional, with hurt feelings abounding and all kinds of derogatory remarks directed at me, personally. I don't feel this kind of emotional attachment to the kinds of media I enjoy and I really, honestly, do not understand it. Can anyone explain to me why fans of these particular types of entertainment are so hugely emotionally invested in their fan-dom to the point where criticizing their preferred type of media is interpreted as a personal attach upon them? Please don't be mean about it, I've had a whole afternoon of that already.
posted by alltomorrowsparties to Human Relations (128 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Entertainment choices are a tribal signifier to a lot of people and you told them their tribe sucks, basically.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2014 [72 favorites]


You may not have realized it, but it sounds like you implied that fans of this kind of movie were childish and possibly stupid, despite your disclaimers. I don't like that kind of movie, either, and don't personally go see them, but I've never had an emotional reaction when I've said that, because I don't do things like call them shitty and wonder aloud why any adult would like them. I try not to confuse my taste with ethics.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:56 PM on December 26, 2014 [83 favorites]


You should consider that most people don't read terms like "shitty" and "stupid" as being part of polite genuine questions. I don't, and I don't even own a TV. Consider being less brusque, and you might get less emotional responses back. The way to get people to read what you write as genuine curiosity is not to use such words and not to suffix your question with your opinion about why everything is wrong.
posted by saeculorum at 3:59 PM on December 26, 2014 [66 favorites]


There's a big difference between saying that you personally don't like something, and saying that it's "shitty" and "stupid." The first admits that it's a matter of taste and opinion, while the second is a pronouncement of a fact about the thing. And the second also implies that people who enjoy the thing are, at best, wrong, at worst, stupid and shitty themselves.

If you want to avoid pissing people off, stick to stating your opinions as opinions, rather than presenting them as fact.
posted by vytae at 4:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [38 favorites]


It is a very very common element of modern culture that we identify ourselves through our tastes. It's accepted that a review of an individual piece of culture, which measures its merits and demerits, is subjective and not a sweeping judgment. But you made a sweeping judgment which does in fact reflect upon the film's audience.

Not inflammatory: "Couldn't get into Guardians of the Galaxy--the pacing was weird and that writing was trying hard to be clever but failing totally. I feel like a lot of superhero movies nowadays are like this. Bah!" (addresses the work, and a larger trend.)

Inflammatory: "Guardians of the Galaxy was totally shitty, just like all of the superhero movies, which are the only movies they make, and how could an intelligent adult could possibly like them?" (implies that people who like this movie are big dumb babies.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:01 PM on December 26, 2014 [16 favorites]


"The thing you like sucks" is a person sharing an opinion.
"The thing you like sucks because of _______________" is a person making an argument.
"The thing you like sucks and you only like it because of [failure in judgment]/[personality shortcoming/deficit in maturity]" is a person being an asshole.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [32 favorites]


I might gently point out that you do apparently have a very emotional reaction to the media that you don't enjoy. I just think you need to dial the style of your critique way back. Your critique was so harsh and pointed that it really didn't leave any room for a rational mature adult to actually like such things, despite your insistent disclaimers. Thus, your friends who are presumably rational mature adults were offended.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [54 favorites]


You don't really have much of a leg to stand on when you use words like "shitty" and "stupid" to express your distaste in something. Your question here is extremely well written out, so surely you could have applied that to presenting a well thought out opinion of the movie, but instead you resorted to a quick rant that wasn't thought out at all. And that is the issue here.

I too would have responded the way your friends did.
posted by signondiego at 4:05 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you were hoping for an explanation on why people liked the movie, then the best thing to have done would've been to ask precisely that. If you go on a FB rant and call something shitty and stupid, I would never engage you because it would never occur to me that you were asking for insight. I'd think, hey, she's going to call me shitty and stupid if I go in and defend this thing (not that I would care, it's more that I don't feel like getting into those kind of discussions). Those are heavily judgmental words and people felt judged.

People, consciously or not, tend to identify with the things they like. Which isn't surprising if you think about it. Some people will get offended even if you politely disagree because they're taking it as judgment on their personal tastes. But I'm willing to bet most will get riled up if you call things they like names. You may not have said "....and if you like it, you're stupid and shitty too!", but come on, you implied it by expressing disbelief that someone could like something so shitty and stupid.

Consider that expressing your opinion doesn't usually have to be a show of force.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't think it's that important to know why, as long as you know it's true. Maybe you really don't identify with anything - music, sports, politics, religion, local culture, national culture - but you can still know the difference between being dismissive about things other people like and asking for input in an open and inviting way.

A non-dismissive way to ask the question (if that's what you really want to do) is to say, "I just didn't feel it with Guardians of the Galaxy - people who really dug it, what's the thing you connected with?"

When you're genuinely interested in information, you show a little respect to the people you're asking to educate you. Calling it shitty, or stating up front that you think it's badly done - that's not respectful of anyone else's time.

I know someone who does this on Facebook all the time. He thinks it's hilarious to make people mad, and that he's superior for his refined, cultured opinions. Except he never talks about those, just about how stupid and below him everyone else is. If that's how you want to talk to people, that's how you're going to come off.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [28 favorites]


Entertainment choices are very personal and bigger than the thing itself. It's true of pretty much everything, not just mainstream or indie stuff. Insulting a movie/show/band someone enjoys can feel like an attack against them personally. And of course words like shitty, stupid, childish, etc, will set people off. In the future, it's probably best to share opinions like this with people you know already share them. What's more important: airing forceful opinions about stuff you don't even like, or respecting that people around you may like things you don't?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


You said these movies are shitty, stupid, and childish. What type of person do you think enjoys consuming shitty, stupid, childish entertainment? This is a real question for you. Would you be more likely to believe a nice, smart, sophisticated adult enjoys such movies, or would it make more sense that a bro-y Peter Pan asshole does? If you agree that perhaps the latter profile makes more sense, you can see that your readers who enjoy these types of movies were feeling tarred by the same shitty, stupid, childish brush. If not, I'm not entirely sure I even understand what you mean by shitty, stupid, and childish.

I was, actually, hoping that someone would tell me why they like these kinds of entertainment and what the attraction for so many was.

My advice is to actually ask that question next time, then.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [44 favorites]


I think it might also be better to just keep your opinions to yourself if they are based on 15 minutes of a movie.
posted by smackfu at 4:08 PM on December 26, 2014 [81 favorites]


I was, actually, hoping that someone would tell me why they like these kinds of entertainment and what the attraction for so many was.

If this is what you wanted, this is what you should have said, instead of giving your admittedly scathing opinion of it first and hoping people would somehow infer that was an invitation to enlightenment on the topic.
posted by Michele in California at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you genuinely want to open a conversation with people about why they like something you don't like, try something like: "I couldn't get into Guardians of the Galaxy. What did you like about it?"

If you want to express your frustration with something you dislike to people who like that thing, try not to use the words "shitty" and "stupid."
posted by bunderful at 4:13 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't like most popular movies and popular culture.... I called the movie 'shitty' and 'stupid'...

There's a pretty big gap between "don't like" and "'shitty' and 'stupid'".

I was, actually, hoping that someone would tell me why they like these kinds of entertainment and what the attraction for so many was.

Were you really hoping this, or were you hoping for an argument that you could win? Because I can tell you why virtually anyone likes any kind of entertainment: because they do. I've stared at a Jackson Pollock painting for more than two hours (and would have kept staring at it, but the people I was with wanted lunch) while hundreds of people walked by it, glanced at it, and kept walking. I don't think any less of them for not appreciating it as much as I did, because they just... didn't. That is perfectly all right. On the opposite hand, I don't like jazz. I've tried, but I just... don't. And I don't expect anyone to be able to explain to me why they like jazz in a way that will make me suddenly like it, just like I don't expect anyone to listen to me natter about Jackson Pollock and suddenly say, "Oh, now I get it -- Pollock is fucking awesome!"

Let people watch Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoy your own stuff. It's totally reasonable for them to do that and you to do it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:14 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


Response by poster: I promise not to thread-sit but I like plenty of things that people deride as stupid or worthless and I never take their dislike of these things as a personal attack. So, you think that the subject I've devoted myself to in depth is a stupid waste of time? (I get a lot of that, as I'm working on a masters in philosophy) I don't take that as a personal attack. I also like prog-rock and I put up with a lot of ribbing about liking that, too, but I don't feel that when someone tells me that ELP is total wankery for pretentious douchebags (which has been said, more than once) that they mean I am a pretentious douchebag and get super-upset about it. My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?" I rant a lot on Facebook, but no other thing has raised hackles in this way.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 4:16 PM on December 26, 2014


You posted on FB that you thought a movie was stupid and shitty and you couldn't understand why adults like this kind of movie. That is not just judging the movie, that is explicitly judging the people who like it. I'm not a great fan of this genre either, but the inflammatory tone and language you used is guaranteed to get you some upset reactions.

If you really want to understand the appeal of such movies (or other movie genres or popular culture things that you don't like), you could ask people to explain what they like about it in a softer way, such as: "I don't really see the appeal of Guardians of the Galaxy. Can someone who really liked it explain why so I can better understand?" or even leave off the part where you say you don't like it. Alternately, just watch stuff you like and don't rant about stuff you don't like online.
posted by bedhead at 4:16 PM on December 26, 2014 [23 favorites]


Why on earth would you post that a movie you saw 15 minutes of was "shitty" and "stupid" unless you're profoundly emotionally attached to these cultural signifiers? YOU DIDN'T SEE THE MOVIE. How do you know it was shitty and stupid? Why did you feel the need to publicly announce how bad a movie was WHEN YOU HADNT SEEN THE MOVIE unless you wanted to show everyone how superior your taste was?

I don't like comic book movies either, but I solve this problem by neither watching nor discussing them. Other people like what they like. Some of what I like is undeniably stupid and unsophisticated. Who am I to judge other people's taste in escapism?

If you think its doing damage, talk about that (I find some aspects of Twilight pretty alarming as escapism for teenaged girls). Don't just announce that other people's taste sucks when nobody asked.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2014 [65 favorites]


I promise not to thread-sit but I like plenty of things that people deride as stupid or worthless and I never take their dislike of these things as a personal attack.
I guess all we can say is that not everyone is like that, then? A lot of people take personal attacks as personal attacks. In fact most people do. It's great that you don't, probably awesome for your blood pressure, but you're the outlier here.

My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?" I rant a lot on Facebook, but no other thing has raised hackles in this way.

I assure you that you've just gotten lucky. Fans of all genres feel emotionally attached to their favorites. Most likely this is just the first significant way in which your tastes deviate from those of most of your friends.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2014 [20 favorites]


>"I called the movie 'shitty' and 'stupid' [...] I never said, nor implied that anyone was stupid for liking it"

Sorry, friend, this is a major logical fallacy. Yeah, you did in fact point blank insult everyone you know who liked this film. You also implied they were emotionally immature. Not cool. You're being a snob and an asshole, and I find it hard to believe you don't know it. Also, yes, the people who give you shit about liking prog rock are assholes.

Also, what's up with your username? You're quoting a Velvet Underground song about a woman who is so intensely emotionally invested in the particulars of her subculture/scene she's constantly in tears over it, but asking why on earth people could possibly care about the media they consume? ??? Is your username some kind of meta-statement about how stupid it is to care about your aesthetic/media consumption and condemning Thursday's child to cry behind the door forever bc serves her right for caring about frivolous things?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2014 [54 favorites]


What I got instead was a lot of hurt feelings over the matter, with people believing that I was saying THEY were stupid for liking this kind of thing. I never said, nor implied that anyone was stupid for liking it

While it is true that you did not imply, in a strong, logical sense, that people who liked the movie were stupid, this is simply how many people will take this kind of comment. The meaning of what you say does not depend strictly on your intentions. I think they call this 'implicature' in philosophy of language, to distinguish it from 'implication'.
posted by thelonius at 4:21 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


As the Dude put it.
posted by Metafilter Username at 4:22 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


I originally intended to say something like many of the posters above (well, the ones being nice to you, anyway) - that, for better or worse, a lot of people identify pretty strongly with their pop cultural choices and so when you critique the product as shitty, they perceive you as implicitly critiquing them as shitty / stupid / lacking taste. Doesn't need to be that way, shouldn't be that way, frequently is that way.

But since that is already being handled, I will also say this. I am a highly educated person, and sometimes it is still fun to just go watch shit go boom, or an animated raccoon talk, or what the hell ever. And to be clear, my education specifically involves, like, creative writing and critical analysis. I could seriously write you a feminist critique of Guardians, followed by a Marxist critique, and then a post-structuralist critique. I am not ignorant of these things. It's not that I don't "get" film on this level. It's that I over-analyze stuff as a professional matter at work, thinking through all aspects and all textual levels of various things, while simultaneously addressing all the other things professionals do to excel at their jobs and get ahead. And so I specifically enjoy, and am not ashamed to, engage with some poppy cultural product on a superficial level simply because that artifice is fun. Whether it's a movie or a song or whatever. I'm not saying you need to kick back and just enjoy it; if you're more comfortable maintaining a critical engagement, then rock on. But other people have different preferences and different ways to relax, no matter how intelligent or whatever they may be.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:22 PM on December 26, 2014 [32 favorites]


Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?

Well, like others have said, people react the same way about plenty of other genres. But as for why this one in particular? I suspect it has something to do with people who were made fun of for liking this sort of thing as kids suddenly finding the culture swinging in their favor now that they're adults with money to spend. That being a novel and nice feeling for them, they're bound to have an emotional reaction to someone jumping in with the same old (perceived) abuse they put up with as powerless kids.
posted by hades at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


The South Park episode "You're Getting Old" covers this quite nicely.

Basically, you come off sounding like a cynical asshole.

People enjoy silly, stupid stuff. People don't enjoy it when you bitch about it. Also, people don't necessarily want to explain to you why they like something. Why should I have to justify this to you? I like it and I'll thank you to keep your elitest opinions to yourself, you neck bearded hipster.

So you see how the thoughts behind it, as well as the tone of the post can get people's hackles up.

When in doubt, keep it to yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:24 PM on December 26, 2014 [17 favorites]


Okay, in that case the answer is: you are unusual in your lack of identification with the things you like/do, most people do so strongly and can't be as great at making that separation as you. You'll have to humor them.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:24 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


There is a big difference between saying you didn't like something and basically saying people are stupid for liking something. They are no more emotionally attached to sci fi, than a football fan is to their team, or a hipster to his brand of craft beer.

We do not know exactly what you said & only have your word that it wasn't offensive, we also do not know what you may have said previously, as you made it clear that you look down on this form of entertainment & consider it beneath you. This may simply have been a case of the final straw added to however many other previous comments or implied superiority.
posted by wwax at 4:26 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The whole thing (life, people) is very abstract to you. I suggest inviting some teenagers and families to dinner to learn about what they are like. When media comes up, try to only ask questions.
posted by michaelh at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you're trying to have an intellectual discourse about why you could only watch fifteen minutes of this shitty and stupid movie with someone who not only sat through the whole thing, but also enjoyed it... you might want to alter your word choice and tone to indicate that you're actually interested in discussion, rather than just stating your opinion while being dismissive of others.

Given the issues that Facebook and textual media have with people misinterpreting tone, this topic might be better discussed in-person... maybe with a couple of beers.
posted by mikurski at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?" I rant a lot on Facebook, but no other thing has raised hackles in this way.

Without knowing what other things you have ranted about on FB and whether or not those things mattered to folks reading your FB rants, we have insufficient information to even begin to speculate about why this hasn't happened to you previously. Maybe you were previously on some anti-vegan tear and all your FB friends are carnivores and don't care -- or on some anti-meat tear and all your friends are vegans and don't care. Either way, we have no idea why this particular rant mattered to these particular people more than other rants, in part because we have no idea what else you have ranted about, not to mention a long list of other factors that would influence such an outcome.
posted by Michele in California at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Generally if you want to know why people like something, asking them without expressing your own opinion first gets you better answers.

There is a way to disagree about entertainment too, but it usually involves really specific feedback. "All superhero movies are juvenile" is not specific. When you say you turned something off and that it's stupid, you are not actually respecting a critical process. Criticism of cultural works involves paying attention and evaluating specific elements (plot, character, etc.)

Basically, you didn't get any respectful discussion because you didn't respect the work enough to examine it thoughtfully, and then you didn't respect the people who did watch it and either enjoyed it or didn't hate it.

On preview of your follow-up, there's also a thing going on here where you position yourself superiorly:

1. These movies are so dumb but I am smart enough to notice.

2. I love this cool esoteric thing most people don't get and it doesn't bother me they don't!

3. I am above these emotional responses!

Basically, you are using your taste and responses to position yourself as a superior consumer and your FB friends list noticed.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:28 PM on December 26, 2014 [64 favorites]


Someone telling you your graduate degree is a stupid waste of time and so on is a personal attack, whether you take it that way or not. Here's why:

An M.Phil. is a stupid waste of time.
Despite this fact, alltomorrowsparties is pursuing one.
What kind of people waste their time on stupid things?
Well, not smart people...

Now, sometimes there's more information that helps balance out the criticism. For instance, if you had said these movies were mindless entertainment, that leaves room for people to say, well, sure, these movies aren't academically brilliant but they're great escapism for when you just want to zone out and watch beautiful people do preposterously athletic activities... but all your adjectives kind of closed out the option to round out the perspective.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:28 PM on December 26, 2014


My actual question was ... "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?"

I dispute your premise. Not the first part; certainly, many fans of superhero movies do feel emotionally attached to them. The second part, where you say people don't feel that way about other things.

It's great for you that you don't feel insulted when someone says the study of philosophy is a waste of time, or that ELP is wankery for pretentious douchebags. But many philosophy students and ELP fans, respectively, would feel insulted by those statements.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:32 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?"

I agree with others that this sort of reaction is probably not unique to the genre of comic book movies. That said, my personal enjoyment of Guardians of the Galaxy revolved a lot around the way it made me feel like an excited kid again. I didn't have to be a serious adult, I could just be excited about a talking raccoon and a sweet tree and some people who are half badass, half ridiculous. The fact that it's childish is a huge part of its appeal. So by attacking it as childish, it feels like you're saying I shouldn't get to enjoy life that way anymore. It feels like you're saying I should only watch Schindler's List, that I should Be. Serious. All. The. Time. In a life that has more than enough seriousness already, people don't like to be told they shouldn't be lighthearted sometimes.
posted by vytae at 4:33 PM on December 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


Addressing the emotional investment part of this question. Honestly, did not grow up as a comics fan. I did however grow up to earn a Masters degree. I also grew up in a violent environment where I was the one who got hurt protecting others from harm and have actually had my life threatened.

It’s not likely that all comic book hero movie fans (no, despite my education, I don’t know what the actual term is) connect with this genre of films the way I do. But I know what it’s like for every day to be an adventure—and not a fun one. I know what it’s like to be in a place where you have to accept that the great challenge, the goal of mere survival—for everyone involved, seems sometimes insurmountable. I know what it’s like for things to get progressively worse and worse over a long, LONG period of time before it feels like some “day” is saved.

I had to hold back. I had to take the hits and hope they would stop one day.

That’s why this educated adult connects with those movies.

That, and it’s cathartic to see the protagonists survive and WIN in less than three hours. (Well, usually less….)

Speaking of, you say you’re into philosophy? I’m sure you’re familiar with Aristotle and his ideas on drama? Catharsis? The perfect story being told in one cycle of the sun? (That means getting past the first 15 minutes.) I’m pretty sure superhero stories fit that bill.
posted by artful at 4:36 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


criticizing their preferred type of media is interpreted as a personal attach upon them

Well, that's not what you did. You called something you saw 15 minutes of shitty, and implied that only emotionally immature people would like something like that. That is not a critique of a genre or an art form; you call what you posted a "rant", and it sounds like it was, and you totally get to rant on facebook! But expecting rants - not critiques - to be engaged with as if they are serious and thoughtful is asking an awful lot.

Next time, if you have a question, ask it. Don't disguise it as something else and then be surprised when people take it at face value.
posted by rtha at 4:38 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?"

Most people get upset if you call something they enjoy "shitty" or "stupid." You're implying that they have lousy taste. This isn't exclusive to fans of high-budget superhero movies.

You say you're not criticizing fans of these movies, but even this question implies that you're looking down your nose at them. It sounds like you're asking "what's wrong with these people for getting so bent out of shape over their stupid movie?" That may not be what you meant, but it's what it sounds like to me.

People likely got bent out of shape because you were dismissive (fifteen minutes, c'mon, even brilliant film critics watch the whole movie) and condescending and seem to think it's wrong to have feelings.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:38 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm terribly pretentious. I'm told that on a daily basis. I also live with someone who watches movies and TV for living. Yeah, our after dinner conversations are lengthly even when we both liked whatever evening entertainment we've engaged in.

I've discovered that diplomacy in dealing with popular culture questions is key. Sure, most of my work mates think I'm horrible just based on my rants about their music choices, but at least I'm able to phrase my dissenting opinions in such a way that they are open to explain why I (might be) wrong. And I can argue why I'm right....

As an example -- I hated the film Knocked Up to the point that, when we took a bathroom break part way through, I begged to shut it off (I was talked into sitting through the entire thing). I feel like it's important, if I am going to have that sort of emotion about some kind of disposable entertainment, that I can explain why I felt it was so oppressive and outline viable questions to people who enjoyed and even related to it. While I think James Gunn (the director of Guardians of the Galaxy) attempts to do more with his super hero effort than, say, the most recent Spiderman films, I relate to your reaction. Think a little more about what you DON'T like, consider what others are relating to and then ask them why on earth that appeals to them. I have an answer to that by the way, that I think applies to everyone who embraced this particular film, but it's not really part of your dilemma. Essentially, if you are going to have a negative opinion, be aware that people will defend their affection for said item. It also really, really helps if you seem to know what you are talking about.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 4:38 PM on December 26, 2014


Best answer: I've given up even trying to talk about movies at all except to one or two people I know. In my experience, people have a double standard about it, too, never hesitating to call the movies I like boring or stupid or pretentious, or even to make ridiculously uncharitable and sometimes deeply insulting assumptions about why I like what I like.

My totally amateur and maybe slightly hostile theory is that people get defensive about things that they feel a little bit guilty about themselves. That's why some people tend to lash out at vegetarians or people who don't have TVs or any other common out of the mainstream choice, and interpret any mention of those things as lecturing and judging. Because at some level, they do feel a little bit guilty or inferior or something about their choices, even if the other person doesn't.

The problem with not even bringing it up, though, is that the more mainstream something is, the more people are going to press the issue. They try to coerce you into watching things, they make cultural references you don't get, and they will even berate you sometimes. People who are happy with the default, no matter what the arena, are sometimes unaware that their interests aren't universal. They honestly believe that everyone enjoys the same things they do, whether it's Guardians of the Galaxy or cheeseburgers or whatever.

So it is sometimes necessary, at least in my experience, to set some boundaries and let people know that you're really not interested rather than getting into 1000 discrete discussions about why you haven't seen X or Y and don't plan to.

To answer your question about why people like it, I think it's because they're accessible and escapist, and they want to just kind of turn off, relax, and experience something without having to think too hard about it or acquire a taste for it as a prerequisite. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Ha ha, prog rock, though. LOL nerd.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


Best answer: Like others, I don't think this is an issue with this particular genre; many people get offended when you critique something that they enjoy or have devoted time to.

Probably it is more difficult for you to see this in your own case because academic study tends to encourage participants to place some distance between what they like and critical discourse surrounding that thing. You are probably accustomed to reading a ton of conflicting critical literature about, say, existential novels, and as a result, you are less likely to be offended if someone says, "you know, I think The Stranger is self-indulgent shit."

Moreover, you may be attracted to academic study precisely because you can, for whatever reason, easily distance yourself from your first-order likes and dislikes; such a personality type is better able to pursue certain kinds of academic projects.

But the folk, in general, don't roll like that. A strong critical response to something that they like is taken to be a strong critical response to them, as people.
posted by girl flaneur at 4:44 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I repeatedly clarified this idea that I was speaking against the movies, not the people who enjoy them.

I'm sorry but you can't rules lawyer your way out of offending people with a footnote.

See:

I never said, nor implied that anyone was stupid for liking it and, in fact, was explicit in follow-up comments that I like a lot of things that other people might find stupid or worthless and that other people's opinions of my preferences were not taken as personal attacks.

Again, you can't rules lawyer your way out of other peoples' reactions. If you say the kind of things you were saying about stuff other people like, it doesn't matter how you'd take it. It matters how they take it, and how you would handle being told these things is entirely immaterial.

Here's the deal.

You cannot say "This thing you like is stupid and childish and it's somehow a problem with our society that so many people like it"* to someone without running the serious risk of hurting their feelings. You just can't. The fact that there are exceptions to this rule, such as yourself, only means the chances of hurting someone's feelings are less than a hundred percent, but they're still pretty high. You used language designed to start a fight, whether or not that was your intention. I realize, upon your update, that you say this wasn't your question, but - and I'm not trying to be mean when I say this - the spirited defense you're putting up indicates that you pay lip service to understanding it but still on some level believe you're right.

You have a thick skin. Good for you. Not everyone does.

As far as the question you say you're asking: People like superhero/fantasy movies for a few reasons: One, because the central narrative in its purest form seems basically baked into us as people (Hero's Journey and so forth) and we've been telling stories like these for thousands of years; two, because escapism has value in a world where being an adult and growing up means eating an increasing amount of shit every year, and some small part of us yearns to exert a greater degree of control or freedom over the world around us (I honestly think this is why Spider-Man is so popular - web-swinging looks like a great time); and finally, most importantly, because they're fun.

On that last point, I don't think it's an accident that the most successful superhero movies have been the Marvel Studios ones, and that pretty much all of them are just a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Iron Man was so watchable because everyone was clearly having a blast. So on and so forth. And the thing is, fun is awesome. When you rant about things like this - implying that someone who enjoys having a fun adventure with interesting characters for a while is somehow childish - you're putting unreasonable expectations on others. No one is concerned with how dignified they look while they're riding a rollercoaster.

You are seeing so many of them right now because Hollywood is very good at learning the wrong lessons from its success. When a superhero movie succeeds, they decide the critical factor there was the genre and not the fact that it was good. Horror fans have known this for years; Paranormal Activity was well-crafted for what it was, but the lesson Hollywood took from this is that people like found-footage movies, not good movies.

You say you're wondering why superhero movies inspire emotional attachment in ways that other media don't. The answer is that they don't. You've noticed it more because these kinds of movies stick in your craw so it occupies more of your attention.

I think it's worth saying that you may just want to spend some time learning to let other people have things you can't get into. When people around me talk about Weird Al, I don't get it. I just don't. I thought he was funny when I was like ten and then stopped giving a shit, but people around me are hailing him as a genius. Don't get it. But really, so what? Do I have to? No. I can just say "Eh, it's not for me," and be glad my friends are enjoying something.

You can't get into superhero movies. That's fine. That is a perfectly okay thing. But you started watching a movie you knew you were going to hate. Life's too short, you know? The things we like are not based in reason, they're not based in motivations that can be argued with. Either they're your cup of tea or they're not. No one's going to argue you into liking them and you're not going to argue anyone out of it. There are better things to do with your time.

Ultimately, though, check it out: You say you're into prog. I know any number of people - probably the majority in fact - who have all kinds of horrible shit to say about it. But obviously, there's something there that they're not seeing, right? Something you're getting out of it? And you could explain to them until you're blue in the face and then they will have access to the same information you have but they will not agree with you. Stil, though, whatever it is about it, it works for you and you're into it. Awesome.

Is it really so hard for you to imagine that the same might apply to other kinds of media?
That there's something people are getting out of it, and it's as valid as when you nerd out to the 2112 overture or whatever, even though you can't see it?

*As an aside: I think that on some level you're making post hoc justifications for why you don't like a genre of movie. This isn't a crime, it's something everyone does, but you may want to be aware of it, because it's at the root of you getting yelled at on Facebook. If you actually take a look at the argument you're making - that people liking fun movies is indicative of a larger problem with society - especially if you look at the thing in a broader historical conflict, you'll find that it falls apart almost immediately.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:45 PM on December 26, 2014 [42 favorites]


My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?"

Then you're asking the wrong question. You have a chip on your shoulder about these movies ("Truthfully, I DO have a big problem"), and you go into this would-be dialogue wanting people to explain why their shitty movies are so stupid. And now you're here asking for us to tell you why these shitty movie lovers are so uptight about their stupid shitty movies.

What are you actually looking for from this conversation? That people who love these movies are embarrassed about their film choices, and so are apt to strike out? Or that they are nerds who were bullied on the playground and just aren't going to take it anymore?

No, the simple answer is that if you want to engage someone in a conversation about anything, framing it as "hey, why do you like this stupid thing" is the wrongest approach.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:46 PM on December 26, 2014 [21 favorites]


Response by poster: My question was entirely in good faith and the title refers to the fact that I am a person who has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I honestly really don't understand people a lot of the time. I don't think I'm better than anyone else, in fact I often feel worse than other people. Thank you to the commentators whose answers I have marked as 'best' because they were actually really nice rather than just shaming and hurtful like a lot of the other answers here. I don't know a lot about film or media in general, because I was raised without television or movies in my life. I don't consume a lot of media even now, and I have trouble with sensory overload and understanding character motivation. Fortunately, this only happens with visual media, not with the printed word, where understanding character motivation is much easier for me. If I stop watching after 15 minutes it's because I literally CAN'T watch any more. The person who I upset the most was my dear, sick, sister and I just wanted to know why she and her tribe feel such incredible emotional attachment to these kinds of entertainment.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 4:56 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


It comes across as judgmental, negative and thinking you are better than it (and by extension, them) whether you intend it to or not. You don't sound openminded; I don't get the sense that you truly wish to see the movie through their eyes. You've already judged it as useless. Now you're trying to understand how someone could like a useless thing. Wrong approach.

There is a huge difference between "wow that movie was lame" and "that was the shittiest movie and I don't understand how anyone could ever like it." It's opinion vs judgement. It reads like one of those people who thinks THEY are completely logical while putting the onus on the other party to explain their "obvious" lack of logic. Consider that you don't have the ultimate point of view, develop openmindedess and you will actually find the answer to your question as to why that movie was so popular.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:58 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


If you found the opinions here hurtful and dismissive, that might give you insight into how your Facebook post made those people feel.
posted by mikurski at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [84 favorites]


The person who I upset the most was my dear, sick, sister and I just wanted to know why she and her tribe feel such incredible emotional attachment to these kinds of entertainment.

Then really, just ask "Why do you guys like this so much?" without announcing how dumb you think it is - that isn't relevant anyway, right? You want to know how and why other people like something. You already know how you feel about it.
posted by rtha at 5:05 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


I just wanted to know why she and her tribe feel such incredible emotional attachment to these kinds of entertainment.

Sometimes there's really no why about it. Again, it's basically impossible to argue someone into liking a thing, or to argue someone out of it.

Given that you admit you don't relate to movies the same way most people around you do, my suggestion is that it may be helpful to think of it this way: These are people whom you esteem greatly, whose intelligence you acknowledge and respect. Sometimes they are going to come to different conclusions than you do, despite having access to the same information. When that happens, try reminding yourself that it's more important to acknowledge and respect what they're telling you about themselves than it is to understand the reasons behind the existence of what they're telling you.

I don't know you from a hole in the wall so I may just be off the mark here, but I think that the factors you lay out in your update may suggest that you're just not ever going to relate to movies the way most other people do; that a visceral understanding of what people get out of superhero movies is not likely to come to you. I'm not saying you're stupid or anything - I'm saying your way of looking at the world is different and that the things we like do not usually have concrete reasons behind them. We can say what we like about a thing, but it's much harder to say why.

So that's as good of an answer to your question as any: Try to respect the attachment people have, take it as a given, and proceed from there. The discussions you have with others about these things will go a lot more easily for everyone involved if you take that as a given and as the starting point for the conversation instead of as a problem to be solved.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [14 favorites]


Oh, and when they tell you, don't argue! Just listen. Ask more questions if there's something you don't understand - most people love to talk about stuff they love, and they hate to feel dismissed, belittled, or condescended to. The easiest way to avoid doing that (when your motive is really understanding something) is to not argue or offer your own opinion; just listen.
posted by rtha at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


If you found the opinions here hurtful and dismissive, that might give you insight into how your Facebook post made those people feel. --mikurski

Agreed, and the vast majority of responses here have been remarkably generous and helpful, and devoid of language like "stupid" or "shitty" to describe anything you might enjoy, believe in, or feel kinship to.
posted by baseballpajamas at 5:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [24 favorites]


Best answer: I believe you when you say people freak out over this, because this entire thread is pretty much people freaking out over having strong opinions about films. Know who else has strong opinions about films? Movie critics. And they express them anyway. In public, even!

I think people get snippy because they've already had this conversation with themselves; they know it's silly and childish and they get defensive precisely because it's brainless entertainment. They enjoy the goofiness, the escapism. I, like you, am pretty picky and critical about films and I've had the exact experience other people describe... I say I don't like a superhero blockbuster, I'm the Asshole of the Year, they don't like my weird movie with subtitles, why it's because they're normal and cool and I'm a weird dork. So whatever.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


But the reaction was incredibly emotional, with hurt feelings abounding and all kinds of derogatory remarks directed at me, personally.

Are you sure there was this much of an emotional component? This seems to be the part that is really bothering you. Not seeing any examples, though, I can't help wondering if this is in itself a misreading on your part. Maybe I am just skeptical because ascribing excessive emotion to the other party is a common tactic for winning an argument.

Assuming they are actually responding with great emotion, do you think there's something wrong with that?
posted by BibiRose at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


While we get some short term satisfaction by coming in hot when we share contrarian opinions (I'm telling it like it is! Watch me drop these truth bombs!), people are not typically waiting around for us to correct them on things. It works better to dial down the snark and approach people in a more measured way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:21 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: Thing is, the majority of answers were directed at ME and how I was being a bad person and didn't answer my question at all. I called a movie stupid, juvenile. and shitty. I didn't call anyone stupid or shitty. I truly wondered why people feel this kind of allegiance to a specific genre. I've seen someone call a movie a 'festering pile of monkey dump which insults the intelligence of anyone who watches it' in a FB thread with many of the same friends in it, and no reaction to this at all, because it was a RomCom. People I know speak bluntly about these things and never have I seen a reaction like this before. People agree or disagree and make their cases. In this case people seemed genuinely upset by my comments and I wondered if there was a reason that they'd feel more attached to one genre than another.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 5:25 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I stop watching after 15 minutes it's because I literally CAN'T watch any more.

So is the problem that you don't understand why other people don't have this issue?
posted by Etrigan at 5:28 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


I repeatedly clarified this idea that I was speaking against the movies, not the people who enjoy them.

Here's the thing, you clearly know lots of people who enjoy these types of movies, and you think those movies are completely worthless and childish. Yet you yourself probably don't associate and befriend childish, stupid people. So the problem is obviously with you and your inability to understand why people like things that you think are awful. Which means you don't understand people and are unable to see things from a perspective other than your own. If someone out-and-out declared that he or she thought all superhero movies were stupid and childish and that there's no reason to watch them, I would regard such a person as socially and culturally out-of-touch as well as being in some way socially stunted and unable to relate to, and further appearing to regard those who do have such understandings as worthy of contempt.

Know who else has strong opinions about films? Movie critics. And they express them anyway. In public, even!

You know who one of the greatest movie critics of all time was? Roger Ebert. And part of his talent was to understand what a movie was trying to do and evaluate it based on whether it accomplished its goal well.
posted by deanc at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


I called a movie stupid, juvenile. and shitty. I didn't call anyone stupid or shitty. I truly wondered why people feel this kind of allegiance to a specific genre.

Once again: you're putting the onus on people to defend something you wholeheartedly condemn and have already made clear you are not actually hoping to understand, because you've already deemed it "stupid, juvenile, and shitty." By extension, you negatively judge anyone who does enjoy these things. Only shitheads enjoy shitty things, right? You have foreclosed any productive means of communication with your framing.

People have already given you plenty of great suggestions of how to productively frame things. You need to ask open-ended, non-judgemental questions if you really value an exchange. Please spend more time examining yourself to see if this is what you really want.

(Also, thinking of people as being in "tribes" wholly apart from you is probably not super-productive, either).
posted by TwoStride at 5:34 PM on December 26, 2014 [23 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me why fans of these particular types of entertainment are so hugely emotionally invested in their fan-dom to the point where criticizing their preferred type of media is interpreted as a personal attach upon them?

They're not, it's that they, as you correctly note, feel it is an extension of themselves.

Do you want to know why this is or do you want to know how not to step on their toes in the future? The latter is: 'it is not my cup of tea.' The former is 'we share our tastes to bind us together as part of a tribe. We are Us. You are Us. When you mock this, you mock the tribe. You hurt everyone's feelings and make us feel dumb when we all just want to sit warmly by the fireside together.'

That really is pretty much it.

So now and then all of us with pickier taste keep our damn mouths shut and we complain about artistic transgressions quietly, in the dark, with a loved one, if we are lucky.

You're not a jerk, but you did make everyone feel kind of attacked and dumb.

You know how every once in a while someone pops in on Metafilter with a thread on artesian cheese-making practices and the first person in is like, you know, there are people dying all over this planet for want of the very basics of food and shelter and here you are, contemplating how best to produce goat cheese in Vermont and it just makes everyone feel crappy who was about to post about how they found a great sheep-milk what-not? That's what it's like. You took the fun out of something.

That's all. Try not to do too much of that. I do a lot of it and I know it's hard to resist but really just keep repeating to yourself that sometimes it's totally cool to say nothing and odds are, if you're going on about how something is stupid, there are ten people who are reading who absolutely love That Exact Thing.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2014 [14 favorites]


I've seen someone call a movie a 'festering pile of monkey dump which insults the intelligence of anyone who watches it' in a FB thread with many of the same friends in it, and no reaction to this at all, because it was a RomCom.

Said person did not claim that all RomComs were childish and stupid and worthless. Because only a juvenile culturally illiterate person would say such a thing. (and likely a misogynist because RomComs are a coded as a form of entertainment consumed primarily by women)
posted by deanc at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Okay, you called one movie stupid, juvenile and shitty. You also wondered why many adult people like the entire genre, implying that the genre is inherently stupid, juvenile and shitty. (Or possibly stating outright. I am not clear the exact words you used on facebook.) This is an even stronger implication since you didn't actually see the movie you insulted, you watched 15 minutes of a 2 hour movie.

Insulting an entire genre is very different from insulting a specific movie.

You're really fighting back here, but also refusing to see why fans of the genre might have done the same thing on facebook -- and here you are asking for advice, they weren't asking for their preferences to be insulted.
posted by jeather at 5:38 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


To be honest, I have posted pretty much the exact same thing* on FB at different times and gotten wildly varying results. It depends on the time of day, who happens to be actually checking FB at the time I post, and god knows what algorithms are lurking in the background. And one person's response could have been a catalyst that caused other people to respond. It's impossible to explain.

If you want to understand these specific peoples' reactions to your comment, you could ask them. Only if you really want to, of course. And you don't have to. But even they might not be able to explain it. I liked Legally Blonde okay, but if you call it names I won't care much. However, if you called Star Trek stupid, I'd take it as a personal attack. And it's really hard for me to explain why. Except that it's something I found touching and interesting - and if I'm touched by and interested in something that's stupid ... then I must be stupid. Make sense?

I don't think it's the genre. I think this movie (which I haven't seen) really struck a chord with a lot of people. So their sense of identity with it is stronger than if it were a random Rom-Com they weren't that into.

*Not "this is a shitty movie" but more like "What kind of computer should I buy?" might get radio silence at 10 a.m. Saturday and "Do you like your computer? What kind is it?" at 4 p.m. Monday might get a lengthy thread.
posted by bunderful at 5:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I actually had a couple of fights with a friend over stuff like this - my friend shared with me that Alison Bechtel's graphic novel Fun Home was hollow, devoid of feeling, pretentious and so awful that it made my friend want to punch Alison Bechtel in the face. And then we had a fight.

From my side, we had a fight because:
1. It irritates me no end when people assume that they are genius critics who can see all there is to see in something and issue a blanket dismissal - it's arrogant, it's a refusal of others' experiences and it usually just reinforces the most generic "common sense" ways of reading a text.

2. It irritated me that the criticism was at once sweeping and vague - if you're going to declare something the Absolute Worst, you need to be able to point to specifics about the text and how it works.

3. Saying "this is shitty" and "it makes me want to punch the author in the face" is not the same as "I really don't like this kind of movie" or "I find [thing] problematic". It doesn't leave any space for any different reaction except via fight - there's no space to say "yes, I can see that but on the other hand [thing]".

4. You don't know what other people get out of something. Alison Bechtel's work is, of course, much more intellectually respectable than superhero movies, but the principle holds true - it was very frustrating, for instance, to hear someone dismiss out of hand this book which is so much about sixties and seventies gay life, the price of being closeted and the distorted relationships which result. It seemed ignorant and it was hurtful to me personally because I have dealt with a lot of stuff about being closeted, being rejected and the distortion of family relationships. You don't know what people are seeing in any given movie - oh, it's easy to assume that they're just lost in some power fantasy, and perhaps they are. But you're also running the risk that some aspect of the movie speaks to them deeply and personally, and hearing a blanket "this is utter shit" from you is Not Very Nice.

Also, honestly, if you want to have a dialogue, you have to create space for a dialogue. You don't get that if you start out "well, this is shit". People can either respond to that by flatly contradicting you or they can decide that it's not worth the fight.

And again, it comes across as very arrogant. You're not God's movie critic. You can have strong feelings and opinions, but to frame it as if there's no room for any other legitimate intelligent opinions in the world but yours is naturally going to ruffle some feathers.
posted by Frowner at 5:48 PM on December 26, 2014 [33 favorites]


I don't think it's a tribe thing. I like things that are objectively not great and even when I post my love for them, the most I get back is an "LOL". I don't get vitriol.

Likewise, there are very very few things I will shit on (figuratively speaking. And literally speaking is a completely different topic) because I know people will have emotion attached to them and I want them to be as gentle with me as I am with them.

An example: I had a dear friend who LOVED Jonathan Livingston Seagull the movie. Personally, I can't even sit through it. But he was a dear friend, who had watched it at an emotionally critical time in his life and it really resonated with him. I loved and respected him and to this day when people say how shitty of a movie it is, I defensive of it on his behalf, even though he's been dead 20 years.

Actually, this conversation is reminding me of the earlier conversation on The Blue about kitsch, and people's attachment to it.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:51 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Think about this:

I don't know if I would have enjoyed that movie if I had not been sandwiched between a pair of small boys who were just stunned. There were jokes that went right over the kids heads and every parent in the theater was exchanging knowing looks and chuckling. We didn't even see the 3-d version and they were dizzy coming out of the theater. All the parents were smiling and talking to each other on the way out and the kids were dazed. That movie was totally over the top. And the months of "I am Groot" jokes have been precious.

But never would I tell my son the movie was stupid. Maybe it was, but I had a great time because I was seeing through his eyes and watching him as much as the movie. I do tell him watching sports on TV is stupid and maybe I shouldn't do that.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:51 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just wanted to know why she and her tribe feel such incredible emotional attachment to these kinds of entertainment.

I'm with you. I thought that was a terrible movie and I don't understand the obsession with childish stories or anyone over the age of 14 belonging to a "fandom". My immediate reaction is it's pathetic and not adult, although I mostly manage to keep it to myself. Now, I do enjoy escapist media (hello Arrow) but I watch the show turn it off and thats it. I dont know or care about the actors, behind the scenes, whatever. I met a ton of famous people when I was young via work and honestly, I could give a fuck. I'd prefer not to meet actors or singers who's work I like ever again I think.

Here's my theory: the world right now is scary and unstable and people feel insecure. So they're drawn to these simple stories and group identity based on not-real-or-important-in-the-real-world feelings and beliefs. Many Americans feel they can never understand politics or economics and that any discussion leads to a fight so they talk about comic books instead. You think they're over reacting because in any rational sense they are. But comic books, tv shows, etc have replaced taxes and public services on the list of Things I Really Care About for a lot of people these days.

It's like the Jazz Age, except not as cool.
posted by fshgrl at 5:52 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


My question was entirely in good faith and the title refers to the fact that I am a person who has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I honestly really don't understand people a lot of the time. ... I don't know a lot about film or media in general, because I was raised without television or movies in my life. I don't consume a lot of media even now, and I have trouble with sensory overload and understanding character motivation.

People are assuming when you make statements that you do know enough about film and media in general and that you do understand people who watch them. Because for me to say, "all movies of this type are completely stupid and worthless" would mean that I have both seen these sorts of movies, know people who have seen them and asked them about them, and still come away with such an opinion, meaning that I absolutely dismissed their thoughts on the matter and thought that their ideas about why they were worthwhile were baseless.

There's another issue here which happens to just about everyone who's a bit socially isolated and kind of precocious, which is that lacking a social group that would serve as a "launch pad" from which to develop cultural tastes and interests, one strikes out on one's own, possibly from one's parents or other mentors and immerses oneself in media and culture that is outside the mainstream and older and perceived to be "timeless," while regarding all the media and culture consumed in the present age as being ephemeral and not worth as much. But it turns out that this perspective is totally wrong! Much media in the past and outside the mainstream sucks, and a few of the modern pieces will go on to become "timeless classics" because they are actually pretty great. And even the mediocre artifacts of media and culture that our grandchildren will forget are worth experiencing because they are a "moment in time" of our era that we will collectively experience with our peers (eg, I don't like John Hughes movies all that much, but I realize that from growing up in the 80s that they are something that my contemporaries "experienced together").

So I think it is pretty clear that the way you experience culture and media is quite different than the way that many other people do, and it would help you to figure out how to better "place yourself" so that you can understand and critique media better and understand how to experience and share it with others.
posted by deanc at 5:53 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


You don't know what other people get out of something.

This is so true. No two people are experiencing the same thing.

When my friend is standing on a chair because there's a rat in the room, while I'm chasing it with salad tongs, it's not because we're experiencing the same thing and I'm just handling it better. We are experiencing different things.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:53 PM on December 26, 2014 [18 favorites]


Oh, and hey - when you're all "this is shitty", you're showing that you don't have any background in the genre, its history, etc. I have seen exactly one superhero movie ever, but I know that there's quite a lot of intriguing critical material about superheroes in comics, literature and film, and that someone might enjoy seeing a superhero movie because she was interested in the genre as a whole, or in a particular aspect of it. (I actually have a book on order about Silver Age superheroes, aging and disability - looks fascinating.) Sometimes, actually, you won't get too much out of a particular text if you're not interested in the genre, and someone who is interested in the genre may enjoy even a weak specimen because of its particular quirks. To clarify - I'm super into feminist science fiction, and I'm willing to read rather weak small press stuff from the late seventies because I know how it fits into the genre, I can see what the stories are trying to do and I can appreciate things that might escape someone who isn't interested in feminist SF. Someone who was all "oh, those are utter shit" would strike me as a person dismissing something from pure ignorance. I don't mean that people have to read the books - they're slow going if you're not into the genre - but it doesn't take much to admit that an intelligent person might find something of interest in them.

You don't need to like things, or to hedge your opinion round with a million caveats, but it's both gracious and realistic to assume that people can have intelligent reasons for liking things that you don't like.
posted by Frowner at 5:56 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


Some people conflate attacks on things they like with personal attacks on themselves. I highly recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People for a basic understanding of how saving face works in social settings. Generally, people react badly to strong negative criticism in most social settings.

Since you're on the spectrum, you may not be aware of this, but when you say "this thing you love sucks" there's an implicit assertion of dominance. They are Inferior because they love the stupid thing; you are Superior because you recognize it as trash. It's not hard not to read this as a personal attack/judgement.

If nothing else, learn how to be more precise in your criticism: "Stupid, shitty, and childish" are really negative blanket statements, and it's hard not to interpret them badly since they do such a poor job of describing the thing itself. You will almost never read actual film critics using these terms, unless they're reviewing something extraordinarily bad like Deuce Bigalow 2. Why did you even use those terms in the first place? If you said there what you said here, that you had to turn it off 15 minutes in because you have difficulty processing visual narrative, I guarantee you wouldn't have gotten such a hostile response.

Finally, last thing I wanted to throw out there: it's entertainment. Plenty of people who enjoy it are aware that it's stupid and childish!
posted by Ndwright at 5:56 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


I too would question your assumption that people feel more strongly threatened when this specific genre is criticised than others, because that's not what I've observed. But if we assume that you are right, then here's one possible explanation:

Nerds are used to being told what they like is stupid, and so they either don't (outwardly) react anymore, or they overreact, because it triggers memories of being bullied as a child. Superhero movies are kind of nerdy, but in my opinion they sit just on the boundary, because a lot of mainstream people who don't identify as nerds are into them too. But that might make people more defensive, because, as someone pointed out above, some people probably feel a bit guilty about liking this stuff already.

Also, there might be some people who don't identify as nerds, but are worried that liking superheros is a bit too nerdy, and they worry that people might see them as nerds because of it. These people might have taken your criticism as suggesting the movies are a nerd thing (especially if you used the word childish to describe them, as the idea of an immature man who is still into action figures and comics and videogames and other "kid" stuff is kind of prototypical nerd). Then they feel like their identity as "non-nerds" is being threatened by your post, and they overreact too.

So in conclusion, your post could have upset nerds and non-nerds alike, which is a demographic you are mainly likely to target with criticism of superhero movies, more so than other topics you have likely criticised on Facebook before.

I'm still not convinced that it is usually the case that fans of the superhero genre feel more threatened by criticism of said genre than fans of other niche things, though. In my experience, people generally conflate their own identity and that of external things they publicly admit to liking. These tastes are like some sort of badge they wear so that likeminded people can find them, and sometimes they forget that the badge is not the person.
posted by lollusc at 6:01 PM on December 26, 2014


Superhero and fantasy movies make people feel young again, in a way that we remember the time when we believed that good would always win. When we would wait for the next comic book to hit the stores, or the next episode of Spiderman and his Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings. They make us feel warm and fuzzy and fun. They are escapist, yes. But many people need that escapism. Especially in this jacked-up world where we know damn well justice doesn't always happen.

And I say this as someone who dislikes watching movies in general , but who has WWE Smackdown on TV right now. There are some amazing movies out there, but they aren't my bag. And obviously *my* favorite form of entertainment isn't all that highbrow. I get nothing good out of telling people that their favorite pastime is crappy.

(You should apologize to your sister, btw. You can still hate that movie, and say "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings on Facebook. I just don't 'get' superhero movies." You don't have to understand her to know that something you said made her sad.)
posted by kimberussell at 6:03 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's just the difference between "tell me why would any adult would like this shitty, juvenile genre of movies" and "tell me why people like this genre of movies".

The vast majority of people, me included, just can't get past the implication in the first one that I am not an adult. It's the only way to parse the statement. It really is. And even with post-hoc justification, I'd still be hurt, if I was one of your fb friends, to find out that you think I am immature just for liking a dumb movie.
posted by gaspode at 6:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The answer to your question is two-fold.

1), we live in a world where most people don't understand the difference between seeing/hearing something that makes them feel bad, and a personal attack on them.

2), those same people express their opinions with force and vigor. But they expect countervailing opinions to be expressed as gently as possible, with hedging and qualifying and disclaiming and so on. E.g. "Well, this is just my personal opinion (duh!!!), and I don't mean any offense, but [blah blah blah]. But I see it from both sides, etc etc etc" But it's never enough for those people, you'll never satisfy them. Some people literally just can't even when somebody else expresses a strongly-felt opinion in plain and unambiguous language. Just accept it.

The flip side is there are loads of people who would just answer your post with "I like flashy lights and explosions and you're a fucking bore and take yourself too seriously" and then laugh and move on. How do you feel about that? If you're fine with it, try to find those people and cultivate friendships with them, and leave the thin-skinned types behind.

And one last thing. You know what I think? Some of it is, that deep down, people know it's dreck. Don't get me wrong I liked GOTG. But I know it's a dumb movie. And these people, they know it's all awful garbage. It's like, try ordering a salad when everyone around you is ordering some million-calorie crapola at a restaurant. You're deluged in passive-aggressive, hyper-defensive comments about "being a health nut" and/or "making the rest of us look bad" even if you don't say a word. And some people haven't figured out they can say "it's awful but I like it anyhow," so instead you get the hostility and hurt feelings and all the rest of it which is just a defense mechanism that helps them avoid facing up to the fact that they would rather wallow in crap than do something worthwhile with their time- like answer questions from strangers on the Internets!!!
posted by mrbigmuscles at 6:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Would it help to reframe your type of 'critique' as it would apply to other things in life and how a person might react?

What if someone came up to you on the street and said "wow, what you're wearing is absolutely tawdry, tasteless, and should never be worn in public?" Would you then understand why someone insulting objects that are associated with you might also come off as insulting to you and your taste and judgment?

What about if someone said "did you just say you're from Yourtown? Interesting, because I've noticed that every resident of Yourtown is a total asshole, and isn't someone I'd want to bother talking to." Again, they've said nothing about you specifically, so would you really just stay emotionally neutral and said "ah, I see, well, fortunately, I'm different" and not feel like the person who said it was, by extension, judging you and coming to the conversation with some pretty ingrained preconceived notions?

I think most people also react more angrily when people make a blanket judgment or a vague but extremely negative statement that they disagree with. If you just say "hey Facebook! I think Movie X was a piece of shit" then it's not clear that you've given any good thought to your opinion or have any valid reasoning behind it. If you had said "I didn't enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy - the dialogue seemed forced and contrived, and the cinematography was poorly done" I think you would have started a very different conversation. If you explain your reasoning, people can decide whether they they agree with it or not, and it doesn't leave nearly as much room for people to interpret it as a personal attack - they can read what you said and think "well, to me that seems like an invalid complaint because XYZ" or "I liked other aspects of the movie enough that it made up for the contrived dialogue" or whatever, but they're unlikely to respond angrily.

And finally I would agree that it's not the genre here that's the issue, and attempts to see this type of reaction as related specifically to the genre probably won't serve you in actually understanding what happened to you and how you can avoid it in the future.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:05 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


With your update I thought I would say a little more. If you really want to understand your sister's position, entrenching your own view by focusing on whether people are understanding you is making the same error over and over, really. If you want to understand her then it's probably best to look at the answers here from people who've seen and enjoyed the movie rather than keep on about your experience of it. (I haven't, and that genre is actually not my thing.)

I'm still not convinced that there isn't some arrogance in how you are framing the discussion as mainstream comic book movie = juvenile shitty thing. But I think Ndwright, on preview, took that on really well.

Critics really aren't paid to have strong opinions. They are paid to have strongly held informed opinions and to express them in a way that connects to their intended audience (moviegoers) by placing the movies they write about in cultural and artistic context. Good reviewers explain their thinking and experience in way that respects the reader. They basically want moviegoers to have a good time and not waste their money. They are on the side of their audience.

That's what you didn't do in this case. You took the outsider position of "why oh why would people who like this thing like this thing?"

To use your RomCom example, that critique in the snippet you shared comes from a place of saying "this movie didn't respect its audience because it was a bad version." That's pretty different than saying all superhero movies are crap and you don't get why anyone would like them.

In that example the person is kind of warning his friends about it, assuming their good taste. He's not taking their stated taste in movies down.

That said, yah, timing on FB counts too.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


You are insisting that people ignore the inflammatory and derogatory things that you said and see past them to the true meaning behind you words, which you failed to express in your initial post. Simultaneously, you are being upset at the people who have taken the time out of their day to respond to your post who are patiently trying to explain to you why what you said was hurtful, and are taking umbrage because their words are hurtful to you. People are patiently telling you that your words are hurtful words and here you are wallowing in the feeling that engenders in you instead of the intent behind their words, which was to help you see that you were saying things that were hurtful.

Your preference for brusque, disparaging language is what is being attacked here and instead of shrugging it off you're taking it very personally and deliberately ignoring these responses. You chose to highlight the answers that reflect your initial bias: people are lashing out because they know their preferences for shitty movies are indefensible so they take it out on you for exposing the truth.

Why must your readers rise above their emotional responses but you are allowed to be indignant about your own? Why is it important for you to focus on your own hurt feelings but not okay for them to focus on theirs? Can you not see the intent behind the posts that are being made in this thread, which are intended to give you the insight that you were seeking? If it's so hard for you to do this, why do you assume that your readers would have an easier time? Can you see how you are in fact, not demonstrating the cool devil-may-care attitude that you claim to have when people disagree with the choices you make? Just a few things to think about.
posted by hindmost at 6:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [120 favorites]


My boyfriend really likes kids movies, video games and anything in the fantasy genre (books, games, movies, tv shows) and he thinks it is a personal dig that I don't like them. I enjoy plenty of questionable things (Grey's Anatomy, Friends, romantic comedies), but I think he gets defensive because people write the things he likes off as childish.

It's best not to describe something as shitty if you want a fan of that thing to explain why they like it. Tone is lost in writing, so are going to get offended.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:21 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


As others have said, you are projecting a value judgement (a no-no in art critique) not only on the piece, but also on those who appreciate it (i.e. "why would any adult like this stupid, shitty movie"). The title of your question asks: "Help me understand people". Well, people don't like to be talked down to and patronized. Despite what some have said above, I don't think that people are secretly self-conscious about liking it. It's that you're addressing them and speaking to them as if they're below you, despite your intentions. If you structured the content differently ("I'm sincerely curious why people enjoyed GotG because I couldn't make it past the first 15 minutes"), I highly doubt you would have gotten such vitriol in return.

I'd also like to point out that there is a lot of implication within the question and thread that those who enjoy "pop" culture de facto cannot appreciate higher art, and that pop culture is also de facto objectively worse, which is silly and another reason why people have gotten their backs up. I absolutely love so-called "high" art in all its forms but I can also thoroughly appreciate pop culture as well. They have different aims. I would argue that people really loved GotG because it was a particularly well-executed film within its genre. Thinking about it in this way may help you understand why people enjoyed it so much. After all, most of us can appreciate both an excellent filet mignon and an excellent (or even kind of gross but still amazingly delicious) hamburger.

I also realize that you don't understand why people enjoy the superhero film genre generally. Well, nostalgia is a part of it, escapism is another, alongside a glut of other reasons. You mentioned you're getting a master's in philosophy, so maybe check out some of the debates in the philosophy of art on high/low art. You may be able to see pop culture in a different light, or at least understand some of the arguments behind its existence.
posted by thebots at 6:29 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone on the spectrum, you can do one of two things to avoid triggering this kind of situation:

1. You can avoid making comments like this
2. You can learn how to tailor your comments in a manner that is less likely to upset people

2. is harder of course, but given that it's the one that most fits your title "Help me understand people", that's the one I'm going to answer.

You are talking about movies whose headline purpose is escapism. They may have deeper significance, subtle themes that critique our culture, make philosophical points, satire, whatever - but you are aware that a lot of fans like it because it's a fun story with lots of explosions and stuff. This strikes you as childish or immature, and you feel that they should be above this kind of thing.

What exactly is childishness? Is it about what someone enjoys, or is it about the way their emotions shape the way that they act? I would argue that it's the latter. Is your friends' enjoyment of this kind of movie actually detrimental to their life at large - for example, are they indulging in it at the expense of things that are more important than entertainment? If not, then does it truly matter what kind of entertainment they are spending their time and money on?

As for why people are so invested in stuff like this that it offends them when you criticise it, as everyone else has pointed out part of the answer is that the way you did so was inflammatory, but girl flaneur's comment about the way that most people don't maintain a detached viewpoint is the best explanation you will get. A proper explanation of why people get emotionally invested in things rather than keeping a bit of distance is a job for a psychologist, but what I've learned from three decades of observing people who don't think quite like me is that as much as you want how people to act to make logical sense to you, life will be much happier for you if you accept that sometimes they just don't, and you have to let them be the way they are.

Apologies if this is a little garbled - written with a stinking headache.
posted by fearnothing at 6:34 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


Basically, it all boils down to you breaking good manners ("If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all") and a bit of the Golden Rule (do to others as you would have them do to you).

Your question/rant also reads as a bit hypocritical to say
I don't like most popular movies and popular culture.
When you are going on Facebook (Hello popular culture!) and publicly complaining about something (all too popular in today's culture--like a personal version of TMZ). If what you really mean is "You know, big-budget sci-if movies just don't do anything for me I'm afraid." That is a much nicer way to say it. Instead, the post you made reads like a shot across everyone's bow--just itching for a fight.
My saying so has resulted in hurt feelings and angry people. Help me understand why they would be so emotionally invested in these things.
Countless people love wine and think there is nothing better. I do not like wine. I'll try a taste of it every year or so to see if my tastes have changed, but (so far) it always tastes bad to me. So I shrug my shoulders and say to myself "Wine doesn't do it for me; I just don't like the taste." What I do not do is go to a place where a certain percentage of the people are drinking wine and shout "Wine is shitty! Wine is stupid!" There is only one way people would take this kind of statement--the way it was intended, as an attack on something that they enjoy.
I was, actually, hoping that someone would tell me why they like these kinds of entertainment and what the attraction for so many was. What I got instead was a lot of hurt feelings over the matter
If this was what you were hoping, you went about it in pretty much the worst possible way--you just threw out mean words, attacking... Honestly you didn't even have a question mark; that's not how "questions" or respectful discussion work.

Here's an appropriate question you could've posted, if you were interested in getting constructive feedback:

"I had heard great things about Guardians of the Galaxy, but I couldn't make it past the 15-minute mark. Could someone tell me what it is about this movie that they like so much? What separates this movie from lesser sci-if movies?"
...with people believing that I was saying THEY were stupid for liking this kind of thing. I never said, nor implied that anyone was stupid for liking it
Yes, you really did--your words did. If you don't see that, write out the words
"What you like is shitty!
And it's stupid!"
on a 3x5 card, hand it to a friend, and tell them to shout it at you after you tell them something that you are really fond of.

For what it's worth, I saw GotG a few days ago, and while I didn't love it, it did have characters that you (I) grew to care about and who could trade wisecracks with each other. If you gave up after 15 minutes, it's probably not for you.
posted by blueberry at 6:37 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


Wait, sorry to comment so many times but I think I found the answer you're asking for:

It was worse this time because she's sick and it's making her cranky. And you do this kind of thing sometimes but now she's sick and doesn't have as much patience for it as usual. The advice I gave above still applies, but that is the reason it happened this time and not so much the other times you say stuff like that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


I would add to my post that while I'm not a fan of super hero movies I have friends who are and if I used the word shifty and stupid to refer to them I'd expect them to be taken aback and offended. Because those are inflammatory words and its rude.
posted by fshgrl at 6:43 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you do have diagnosed autism and you are genuinely upsetting a significant portion of your friends in a way that's baffling to you, you should probably discuss this with your therapist. If you do not currently have a therapist, perhaps it would be a good time to make an appointment with a qualified therapist who is experienced with autistic patients.

I'm taking it on good faith that you are in fact diagnosed on the autism spectrum, but that you haven't developed coping mechanisms for your lack of understanding of certain things or why things may be offensive by the time you're an adult is troubling. This is likely impacting other areas of your life that you're unaware of, and I'd really, really, really encourage you to see a professional.

Best of luck.

edit: which is to say, this question is NOT about superhero movies, but about why insulting people is upsetting to them. A lot of times the question asked is not the question that needs to be answered.

edit2: though it does strike me as a chance occurrence that of all the movies we're talking about, this one has an amazing role model for autistic children. Drax the Destroyer!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:48 PM on December 26, 2014 [15 favorites]


In my life I have met people who react this way about:

-Sports teams
-Twilight
-Dr. Who
-Craft beers
-NASCAR
-Emo music
-Really expensive tech gadgets
-Their children

It isn't just Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps you simply have more sci-fi/superhero fans in your Facebook friend feed?
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:50 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Social media is a place where you're supposed to invite open-ended conversation. So if you say "This movie sucked" then you only open up two kinds of responses:

1. Yeah, it sure did!
2. No it didn't!

That's not super meaningful or valuable discourse for anyone, is it?

If instead you wrote "Hmmm... Just tried watching Guardians of the Galaxy but just didn't connect to it. I really liked [OTHER MOVIE], though -- what other movies should I try?"

Then, you'll get lots of different responses:

1. Oh, it really started clicking for me around the 30-minute mark
2. I wanted to like it, too, but it wasn't my thing, either.
3. Oh, have you seen [DIFFERENT MOVIE]? It's similar to [OTHER MOVIE] and has the same director
4. You are missing out! There's this part with [THING THAT HAPPENED] that made the whole movie
5. I saw it in the theatre! I think it's a lot more fun with a group!
6. I like turtles!

etc.

Also, keep in mind there are more constructive ways to say how you felt about the movie. Your reaction to it was valid, but your vocabulary was super offputting, especially if you're over 13 years old. I've not even seen GotG yet but I'm offended by how you phrased your comment. Instead, borrow some tactics from the movie critics and explore why you felt the way you did, using specific arguments, not empty schoolyard words.
posted by mochapickle at 6:57 PM on December 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


How to stop saying offensive stuff: recognize that you are in no way the authority on anything, never will be, and generally speaking your opinions on absolutely everything are as mundane and trivial as everyone else's.

Humility. You need it. Figure out how to get it.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:57 PM on December 26, 2014 [18 favorites]


People Identify with things. Meaning they attach their own identities to THINGS. We've all been guilty of it at some point, though some are worse than others. How many people have literally been put in hospital just because they said a particular sports team sucked?

I've noticed that "fans" of particular entertainment tend to be really bad at this. They often take the stance that if you don't like their show/movie/team/music....whatever, that you shouldn't be commenting about it at all. In other words only those who's opinions are equal to theirs do not deserve to be attacked or put down in some way. They identify with the entertainment so much that they cannot separate it from themselves. So if they've been a fan of a musician for 10 years and suddenly this musician puts out a bad album they will proclaim that it is amazing and great simply because they've identified themselves as a fan. Therefore they cannot say anything bad about the musician's album because doing so would in their minds negate the identity they have created for themselves as "fan of ___". This is why when I'm reading comments on shows I often pay more attention to those that do not consider themselves fans. Even if I don't always agree with their negative or neutral opinions I often find their insights to be coming from a more balanced perspective.

Of course there is also the opposite problem. You want to make sure you don't identify as being the "hater" of something. Because then if you do, you fall into the trap of hating anything and everything having to do with that thing no matter how good of an episode/song...whatever is put out by it. You cannot like it if you've identified yourself as a hater of it. Having said that, I have found that the same people who tend to fall into the fandom trap I've explained above, are the same ones who tend to fall into the hater trap. In both cases... opposing views are not welcome and are vehemently attacked. A sort of- If you're not a fan/hater, your opinion does not matter, so stop trying to share it! I will rant and rave until I can get you to stop freely speaking your views.....- etc, etc.

That's just the way a lot of people are especially those that are less 'evolved' so to speak. To evolve we must all aim to strip ourselves from these false identities we attach to ourselves. This is not always easy especially if you've identified with something for many years. This takes growth and you should respect that not everyone is at the same level of growth.
posted by rancher at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2014


Actually, I was in the kitchen and I thought of a good metaphor for this instance:

I read two chapters of "The Bible" and what a mess! No way something made the world in 6 days and then flooded it with only one guy and his family surviving on a boat! What a shitty, juvenile book. Not reading the rest of that dreck.

Does that show how people might take offense better? In both of these cases, we can actually see what the public thinks on it... for the movie, we have Rotten Tomatoes as an aggregate of critic and audience metrics and for Christianity, well, we have their entire gigantic population. I'm not arguing about your specific opinion here, that's completely irrelevant, but in this instance, a look at Rotten Tomatoes would've shown a 90%/94% approval among critics/audience. Calling it stupid and shitty after 15 minutes is bound to upset people. The largeness of the response is explained by how many people saw it. You'd probably not raise a fuss if you told them Birdman was shitty.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Green is moving along fairly slow tonight, so I'm jumping in this.

I am a little surprised that this hasn't come up, but play along with me a minute...

Take One:

I think Facebook is shitty and stupid. I can't believe there are so many childish people that have fallen for the trap of that immature and silly virtual version of high school. It's not something a real adult could possible like (no pun intended).

The thing is, I really want to know why people like that kind of tripe. That Zuckerberg punk has fooled so many people into making Facebook such an overly-important part of so many lives. Wait, it's so stupid I don't see how any adult could possibly spend ANY time there. It's a sickness! But, really, I really swear that I only want to know why people invest so much of their life on there. I mean - it's so shitty and stupid!

Help me understand! Please!

Okay, back to the real world. I may, or may not, really feel that way about the whole Facebook culture. But you obviously spend a lot of time there because your action after 15 minutes of the film was to jump on FB and rant. How did reading what I wrote make you feel? After all, I never attacked you. I only attacked FB and all of those fill-in-the-blank people who use it. Why are they all so mad? Why are they upset with ME personally?!?! I don't get it!

Think about how reading that made you feel and you'll have the answer to your question.

Looking forward to some great movies in 2015...Happy New Year!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 7:14 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


You may actually be a sane voice in a post-9/11 America gone mad with superhero mania. Look at what legendary filmmaker David Cronenberg said recently:

"A superhero movie, by definition, you know, it's comic book. It's for kids...It's adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, Dark Knight Rises is supreme cinema art, I don't think they know what the f--- they're talking about."

But as a Trekkie I have to admit I would react the same as your friends if someone said Mr. Spock was a stupid character. People form deep emotional bonds with fictional heroes.

On the other hand my preference is for when our nerd pop culture had to fight for critical respect and wasn't treated as some sort of supreme cinema art.
posted by johngoren at 7:17 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Truthfully, I DO have a big problem with the ubiquitous nature of the super-hero/fantasy narrative in popular culture. I do perceive these kinds of entertainments as childish and do rather resent the fact that they completely dominate popular culture at the moment

You may wish to evaluate why you think is the case. Is Guardians of the Galaxy any more childish than The Odyssey, for example? Cyclopses, sea monsters, and gods are no less fanciful than alien races and starships, yet the world's best universities have entire departments devoted to ancient epic works of fiction about such things. Maybe in a few thousand years, Harvard University will have the world's foremost authority on Green Lantern and will hold a most esteemed chair for it. I'd feel a certain sense of satisfaction if I knew that Batman legacy would live on far longer than the memory of some fuddy-duddy "serious" director.

But your question is:

I don't feel this kind of emotional attachment to the kinds of media I enjoy and I really, honestly, do not understand it.

But you do understand that this attachment exists and people take it poorly when you tell them that their favorite movie sucks. So, you don't need to know the "why" in order to avoid people's bad reactions - just don't say such things. I don't understand people's emotional investment in the local basketball team but I don't chide them for caring about adults bouncing a rubber ball because I know that some would take it as an insult.

Ultimately, there is no accounting for taste. As an example, last week I was visiting Los Angeles and I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see an exhibit of samurai armor. While there, I saw an special exhibition of the works by Pierre Huyghe. Sorry, but I though it was a big crock of crapola. Apparently, a dog roaming around an art gallery is a work of art - who knew? But, enough people must appreciate it if it is at LACMA, so I leave it at that and don't wisecrack to the people maintaining the exhibit that it is a bunch of nonsense for pretentious people.

As someone who thinks GOTG is a great movie and the best Marvel movie to date and went trick-or-treating with my kids as Drax, Star Lord, and Gamora, if I had seen your status on my Facebook feed, I would have just thought, "alltomorrowsparties is doing her schtick again" and that's it. I'm not very emotional invested in such things, but I also understand that many people are even if I cannot understand the reason for that fact and I act accordingly. So, you should likewise act in a way to avoid acrimony.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:33 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


This thread is fast-moving, so forgive me if I'm repeating things others have already said. I've seen lots of good comments addressing your larger issue (expressing an opinion on facebook and getting unexpectedly strong results), but not your specific question: What is it about this genre? I'll attempt to answer it, at least for me (a pretty intellectual person with a brother on the spectrum). This turned long, I'm sorry:

First, Marvel movies are fairly complex; they reward frequent rewatches. Guardians less so since it's a mostly standalone movie at this point, but there's a fairly powerful dopamine hit that comes with "Hey, I know what that is!" when the Infinity Gems come on screen. Knowing the Power Gem was in Thor 2, and the Mind Gem in Avengers, rewards me for knowing, studying, and remembering. It's the same reason I like epic fantasies like LotR and Wheel of Time; myopic attention to detail and obsessive fandom-ing is explicitly rewarded in the series as a whole.

Second, superhero movies as a genre are also, at their core, very simple. You know how it will end, always. There is no way it will end differently; it always adheres to its genre. So I can watch superhero movies differently than I watch other films. With mysteries/thrillers/heists I'm always pulled out a bit, trying to figure out the larger problem. But since I know the Guardians will win, I can sit back and enjoy the ride and admire the twists and turns along the way. I can appreciate the cinematography, the scoring, the acting, the writing much more because I know I won't miss a larger plot point. All the fun details I mentioned on point 1 are extras, not essential, so if I miss it I'm not confused at the end and it'll be there for me to be delightfully excited about on the next viewing.

Third, and this is particular to Marvel movies, they interact with pop culture in a very particular way (which we call the "Joss Whedon approach"). Like point 1, they emphasize a broader knowledge of the world around me. Guardians's use of music very carefully draws upon my previous experiences at key moments of the movie, since the songs are so well known that most of the audience is guaranteed to already have emotional connections with the songs. (The song at the end, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," for example, draws for me a vivid memory of an emotional scene in Stepmom where the characters finally start to bond, while "The Pina Colada Song" calls up a sharply honed sense of nostalgia and omg-so-lame-but-I-secretly-enjoy-it that is perfect for the moment.) As someone who stands outside this pop culture oeuvre, you wouldn't likely have one of the major connections with the movie; you're much more like Gamora than Quill in the Kevin Bacon scene -- on the outside rather than in on the reference (sorry for the weird angle on that video). Being in on the joke is a pretty strong feeling, and I can guarantee one you've experienced; your milieu is just much more likely to be philosophers than it is '80s music (and that's okay!). But imagine if there was an entire movie devoted to side-jokes and references to esoteric philosophers. Imagine if the joke in this scene hadn't been about "I need that guy's leg" but rather about "sheesh, this place is Bentham's nightmare!" Most people will have a similar "I know that; it's hilarious!" reaction to "Hooked on a Feeling," but haven't (for all sorts of legitimate reasons) read about the Panopticon.

Fourth, people empathize very deeply with the characters in a way that traditional genres have a hard time acheving. The whole movie is about a group of people who screw up literally everything they do -- until it comes down to the wire and they manage to pull it off and save everyone. I think lots of people are inclined to visualize themselves that way; they might not be particularly heroic on a daily basis, but if it came down to the wire they, like Quill, could be. It's aspirational, and it's optimistic. You can take someone who has been deeply abused and mistreated, like Gamora and Quill and Rocket, and have some reassurance that such awful circumstances do not ruin a person. Instead, those awful circumstances create the fuel that those characters needed to save the world; they couldn't have saved the world without such an awful upbringing. That's a complex relationship that is difficult to represent in realistic fiction: if you're too accurate you alienate your audience because it is to real. So instead you abstract the hurt out to something nobody has experienced (we kidnapped you from your family and put you on an alien ship and spent your childhood telling you you're lucky we chose not to eat you) and it's relatable but not the same. And that allows the audience to experience catharsis in a safe way: close enough to generate the same feelings, distant enough not to bring up memories of the very real past.

That catharsis forges a very close emotional connection with the movie, and you ridicule it at your own peril. Once forged, it's impossible to break. (For example, I was meh on Guardians until I saw this tumblr post comparing Drax to a boy with autism and nearly burst into tears immediately, and I went out to watch the movie again the next weekend. In my mind, forever, Drax like is my brother: absurdly literal, unaware of subtler emotional nuances, ostracized and on the outs for most of the movie. And yet, at the end, he is accepted by the rest of the characters, provides some key assistance, and is celebrated by audiences. Jesus, if only my brother could get that larger social/cultural acceptance. It gives me hope and reassurance, and I feel distinctly better about my life and the world whenever I watch Guardians. But there is no way I could accomplish that same depth of feeling with a realistic fiction story, because then the character with autism isn't like my brother, it is my brother, and any ostracism/hurt automatically is too intense for me to handle. I can't even watch The Big Bang Theory because it is too close to reality for me and why would I want to laugh at people with autism that's my brother people are laughing at him...) People who mock Guardians for no reason get a poor rating in my book because damn it you're mocking one of the ways I have of connecting with the world around me. (But I think sensory overload is absolutely a legitimate concern to have with superhero movies; "I don't like it" isn't.)

Anyway. Maybe that helps. I encourage you to ask the people on your facebook page in a genuine, open way what makes superhero movies so attractive to them -- not in a "well justify it to me" way, but rather in a, "please help me get it!" way. I'm sure your sister would be willing to help you see her point of view if you asked nicely, in a nonheated moment.
posted by lilac girl at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [36 favorites]


I did not read all the comments here, but coincidentally I did just watch Guardians of the Galaxy a hour ago, and for the first 15 minutes, I could not get a grasp what was happening in the film. It kept showing different planets, labeling them, showing random aliens. I just wasn't getting it. Then the actual narrative started and the movie became really entertaining. I enjoyed it. Even my wife liked it, which is saying something. It's just the first 15 minutes introduced too many seemingly unconnected threads and was neither elegant nor engaging (except for the kid refusing to hold his dying mother's hand because he was scared—who doesn't look back at some episode like that from their childhood and feel terrible). If the rest of the film had been like the first 15 minutes, they'd be calling you a hero for having the good sense to duck out when you did.
posted by jabah at 7:43 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now that the edit window's passed (of course), I suppose I should modify my earlier statement: I said "I don't like it" isn't a legitimate criticism of the movie in my eyes, but that's not correct. I don't begrudge "it just wasn't for me"-style comments. I accept that something might press someone's buttons wrong in a way they have trouble articulating. What does raise my hackles is "that movie was shitty and stupid and why would anyone like that??"-style comments, which implies a pretty strong condemnation that extends to anyone who does approve of it. What I respond to poorly is any statement that can effectively reduce to "people who have a different opinion than me haven't thought about it as much as I have"; my life goes much more smoothly when I assume everyone puts a similar effort into the opinions they have as I put into the opinions I have myself.
posted by lilac girl at 7:58 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain to me why fans of these particular types of entertainment are so hugely emotionally invested in their fan-dom to the point where criticizing their preferred type of media is interpreted as a personal attach upon them?

Because a lot of these superhero movies affect people on a deep emotional level. GotG rocked because it was about a group who had no family coming together and forming their own family. People identify with a particular character and see parts of themselves in that character and the movie itself.

So when you're calling that movie stupid, you're calling them stupid. Guardians is deeply emotional film for certain people and mocking them film will affect them emotionally.

Hit me up via MefiMail if you like, i could talk for hours about GotG and the current superhero genre dominance in movies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


The more I think about this question, the more I want to put pressure on the idea that drawing some identity from the culture you like is a bad thing.

I mean, whence comes human identity? Even if we assume that I should draw my primary identification from my gender, sexuality, family, national history, religion and political beliefs (and if we ignore the problems raised by that assertion), I'm still developing ideas about family, gender, etc through culture. There is no self without some kind of "these are the stories which speak to me and this is the kind of person I think I am".

In an earlier world with fewer stories, that might be a lot simpler - even in, say, 1965 or so you'd have many fewer movies and books to choose from, more people would watch the same things, etc, and there was much more "official" consensus about which stories were respectable*. It might appear that people were less dependent on stories for identity, because there would be less argument about which were the important stories, and people who were advocating for marginalized stories had less traction and fewer outlets. And of course, in maybe a small village in France in 1250, the available stories would be far fewer, and so would be the choices.

People don't exist outside of culture. I think it's legit to ask why people value what they value and what the consequences may be, but it's not legit to assume that the "less advanced" people are formed by stories and popular culture and the more advanced/logical people are coolly detached, etc. The "more advanced" people just narrate themselves differently.


*On a related note, I still remember my father saying in about 1990 that he could not take movies about gay people seriously because they were not "universal" and so had no larger meaning than themselves - for him, there were stories which were legitimate sources of meaning and identity and stories which were not.
posted by Frowner at 8:01 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


I've seen someone call a movie a 'festering pile of monkey dump which insults the intelligence of anyone who watches it' in a FB thread with many of the same friends in it, and no reaction to this at all

Notice a couple of differences between what you wrote and what this FB friend wrote.

The slightly amusing turn of phrase "festering pile of monkey dump" lets you know the writer is not entirely serious. Straightforward words like "stupid" and "shitty" sound like the writer is being mean, and means it.

The phrase "insults the intelligence" clearly positions the movie as dumb and the viewer as intelligent. Speaking within a tribe, it's saying "hey fellow tribe members, this movie is beneath all of us." It would be possible for someone to respond, "yeah, I know, guilty pleasure..." or similar.

Without knowing exactly what you said, my best guess is that your rant gave people no other rhetorical option but to side with the movie or side with you. The reaction is not just out of love of the genre; it's probably also anger that they felt like you were making them choose between having your respect and having the freedom to like what they like without having to defend it.

I have a friend on the spectrum whom I have to remind often: first priority needs to be supporting friends, and second priority bluntly stating the truth.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [17 favorites]


alltomorrowsparties: "Thing is, the majority of answers were directed at ME and how I was being a bad person and didn't answer my question at all. I called a movie stupid, juvenile. and shitty. I didn't call anyone stupid or shitty. I truly wondered why people feel this kind of allegiance to a specific genre."

The problem is that the very premise for that question, which seems to be, "only fans of superhero movies get upset when people critique the films they enjoy", is faulty. It's faulty for two reasons. 1) It's demonstrably untrue, as there are countless examples of fans of other works that are not superhero films getting upset when their faves are criticized, and 2) what you did is not so much critique the work in question, but make ad-hominem implications about the character, taste, and intelligence of people who like superhero films, specifically "Gaurdians Of The Galaxy". That's why nobody is answering your question. It assumes facts not in evidence.
posted by katyggls at 8:22 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Okay. When you call something stupid and shitty, people get offended by your choice of words. Next time try saying, "Went to see GotG. Couldn't make it more than 15 minutes due to sensory overload. Didn't like what I saw because #REASONS. Does it change later on, i.e. do you think I personally would like it if I watched more of it?" Note: "I thought it was stupid and shitty" is not a valid reason in this context. "It really upset me how they killed off the mom", "I couldn't stand the use of 70s hits", "I wasn't feeling connected with the characters as I would have had they done XYZ" are valid reasons not to like the movie.

I mean, it's a free society, you're welcome to think something is shitty and sucks, but by that extension, everyone else is free to think that your opinion is also shitty.
posted by disconnect at 8:30 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


If I stop watching after 15 minutes it's because I literally CAN'T watch any more.

This to you reads as a reasonable, mature reaction to a movie that did not suit your tastes? It was not any sort of endurance test or torture. Millions of parents sit through deplorable crud when they take their small children to the theatres and don't have to go rushing out the door fifteen minutes in because "literally..." etc.

It is hard to take seriously a claim that one is baffled by people being "hugely emotionally invested in their fandom" when you are clearly hugely emotionally invested in not being a fan.
posted by kmennie at 8:31 PM on December 26, 2014 [19 favorites]


I've been catching up on this thread while waiting at a venue for a band to come on stage. We lined up out front a little while ago with other people, waiting for the doors to open.

I can guarantee that if you'd come by and asked who we were waiting to see and why, you would have had a dozen people immediately jumping in to tell you stories about how much they love this band and how many times they've seen them. This band has been around for decades. There are people here who have brought their teenage kids.

If you had asked people who we were waiting to see and then announced that punk sucks and is shitty, you wouldn't have found out why we love this band. (This band is X, by the way.)
posted by rtha at 8:43 PM on December 26, 2014 [16 favorites]


I could have been asking a similar question a few years ago, so I sympathize. Because it didn't bother me to have people criticize the things I liked, I didn't hesitate to brutally cut down everyone else's opinions. People got offended, and I was confused and annoyed that they were so "sensitive". My good friend finally got it to sink into my head by explaining (repeatedly...sigh) that it doesn't matter how you would react in a similar situation, what matters is how other people will react. Some people tend to be a lot more "emotional" than others. Sounds like you're way on the other end of that spectrum, like I am. There's a natural tendency to think that our own way is the best, and judge other people for not being like us. In reality there is rarely an objectively ideal way to react to things (emotional reactions are actually pretty useful sometimes), and even if there were, people will never be ideal anyway. We just have to learn how other people tend to be (including individual variation), and accept it. We can't change them, so there's not much point grumbling about it or feeling superior.

I still have trouble remembering this sometimes, and get annoyed at people being "too sensitive", and get stubborn about caving and catering to them. I need to remember that I can't control their reactions; I can only control the words I say. If I don't want people to get upset, I need to be more careful to phrase things in a less personal, less inflammatory way. Another thing that's really important for me is remembering that other people don't need to hear my opinions. I can hate something as intensely as I like, but I don't need to walk down the street shouting into a megaphone how much I hate it. Posting a rant on facebook is just a small step below that level. If I wait until I'm asked for my opinion, it'll go much better than if I randomly burst out with "your favourite movie is shitty and childish, I can't imagine why anyone would like it". For a semi-relevant example, I loathe Archer, although it seems to be pretty universally popular - here, elsewhere online, my friend group, etc. It's almost literally painful for me to walk through the room while it's playing, the voices and humour grate on me so much - so I get what you mean with having to leave after 15 minutes. But I don't post on facebook about my disdain for Archer and/or adult-oriented cartoons in general, which I also dislike. I don't randomly bring it up in conversation. If it does come up, I'll say that I don't really like it, and try to explain why, ideally in descriptive rather than judging terms. Anything else is just not going to have a good outcome.

In other words, context matters almost as much as phrasing - even an incredibly inflammatory statement like "that movie was shitty and stupid, why do so many adults like it?" comes off very differently e.g. when posted on your facebook wall in a "scathing way" vs. in a relevant online discussion vs. as a reply to your friend asking what you thought of the movie. Most people only post things on facebook when they feel very strongly about them, so it adds an extra layer of intensity to an already harsh post. If you're going to be bringing it up out of nowhere like that, it's even more important than usual to be careful about phrasing. You've already gotten many phrasing suggestions and explanations for why phrasing matters, so I won't go into that other than to say that even as someone who doesn't "get" this kind of thing naturally, I agree with the people saying that the reaction you got is normal for the phrasing you used, and has nothing to do with the genre of movie involved. It's just how most people are.
posted by randomnity at 10:42 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Another thing to consider about GotG is the soundtrack. It was wonderfully nostalgic, which caused people to become very attached to the movie and its characters.

Also, you say you only watched the first 15 minutes of it. Then you missed pretty much all of the emotional heart of the film, while seeing some, frankly, cliched fight scenes. There wasa lot more to the movie than what you saw!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:43 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


When you say "why would anyone like X" or "I can't see why anyone would like X", most people don't read those as factual statements about your understanding. They read them as rhetorical statements that X is bad. I think this difference between your straightforward understanding of language and most people's usage is responsible for some of the strife in this thread.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:07 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


One common thing about this film genre is that the scenes tend to have lots of sensory stimulus going on at multiple levels — and the narrative is simpler and sometimes takes a backseat to this sensory experience. For example, in this genre you often see bright and bold contrasting colors, you hear sweeping and dramatic sounds, the costumes and lighting are equally dramatic and bold, the scene transitions are flashy and the overall pace is very fast.

A lot of people enjoy this sensory overload — they find it thrilling in a similar way that people who enjoy horror films are positively excited by the scary and tense feelings those films evoke for them. In addition to the explosions, colors, sounds, flashiness and pace, filmgoers to Marvel and other superhero comic movies get a fun little plot and few cheap laughs.

It's possible that you went into this film (and into others like it) expecting the narrative and dialogue to entertain you, but were ultimately distracted and annoyed by the overwhelming presentation of it all. Is that an accurate assessment? If so, that may be part of why you differ from others in your enjoyment of the genre — other people may have different expectations about what the film will do for them; that is, they may go into it to feel a visceral reaction to the presentation. I suspect that for some, this is what is meant by seeing it as an 'escape' — just sinking into how all the stimulus makes you feel and enjoying the experience of being surrounded and immersed in it fully. That type of experience is not for everyone, but for a LOT of people, it's why they go to films and it may be just as if not more important than an adult-level narrative or realistic and clever dialogue, which are sometimes lacking in these films anyway (and that may be intentional).
posted by iamkimiam at 2:34 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


My question was entirely in good faith and the title refers to the fact that I am a person who has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I honestly really don't understand people a lot of the time.

I truly wondered why people feel this kind of allegiance to a specific genre.

I think another problem here is that you're falling into the trap of using a piece of rhetoric that makes people suspect you're being disingenuous. "Why is it that people.." is sort of a joke thing to say, like "With all due respect" or "No offense." People hear those last two and know that what follows is going to be offensive.

"Why is it..." was the whole basis of Andy Rooney's schtick, but it was a schtick and a lot of work went into it it. In everyday life, you hear that question and know you're going to hear some thinly disguised judgmentalism. And then also, there is an aspect of asking people to play your game. "Tell me why I'm supposed to care about so-and-so." My response would be, no, why should I waste both of our time? You've already decided. Other people may respond in a heated fashion because it's a very irritating form of question, or because they've had too much eggnog, or whatever.

So if you do mean these questions honestly and seriously then you need to frame them in a different way if you want to avoid people responding to the way they are asked instead.
posted by BibiRose at 3:46 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


stupid waste of time?... I'm working on a masters in philosophy...
I don't feel that when someone tells me that ELP is total wankery for pretentious douchebags (which has been said, more than once) that they mean I am a pretentious douchebag


It's actually ok to be a bit offended by this.

I'm not sure that advice would help you much, because, warning, it might open up a whole can of historical worms.
If you still feel like reading...

I'd be open to the possibility, that at least some of the times that people have said those things to you, it's because they genuinely DO think that you either are, or might be, a 'pretentious douchebag' or whatever other slander they stated.
They DO think you are wasting your time.
It is insulting.


This doesn't mean their opinions are necessarily valid.

At best, they're indicating that they think most people doing these things are 'insert slander here', and that they are surprised you are not. Or all the loudmouths I know of doing your 'thing' are like 'x', and/or I haven't seen enough evidence from you either way to tell.

Now, I said 'at best', but a common defense tactic to dealing with that kind of offense is to assume you're a snowflake, and the insult doesn't apply to you (you'll have seen it before in different areas, e.g. I'm a girl, but not THAT sort of girl, so they don't mean me when they're being sexist!), but as a rule of thumb, never assume you're the snowflake example.
Point out that you are a very girly/prog rocky/whatever, snowflake.

Therefore, I'm wondering if the problem is actually that you've been receiving a lot of hurtful judgments, but, not wanting to take it personally, you're treating it like it's normal and then using the same language with others?

The problem is, disrespectful language and discourse is infectious and normalising.

Not sure how to help there, but maybe sit and figure out where you have been dealing with that most. Are there situations where you can experience safer language and discourse, or safe spaces or the same, can you draw tighter boundaries against people who disrespect you personally?

And, since it was mentioned, social circles with a lot of people doing Philosophy or Law often attract people who like arguing, and criticising, some taking those subjects, some not. Even if you don't like arguing, bores and trolls will often latch onto anyone doing these subjects as a possible 'sparring partner'. (Ironically, this may be partly behind Philosophy's bad reputation).
It's very hard to discuss things with people being disrespectful, without adopting some of the habits yourself.
Disengage?
posted by Elysum at 5:16 AM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


I've not read this 100+ comment thread completely, so I apologise if I'm repeating something from above, but I had a thought about your comment on your (perceived) lack of emotional response to criticism of prog rock or philosophy.

First, I think tone matters a great deal here. I grew up in a family where my taste in food, music, clothing, and whatever else were made fun of all the time. So were everyone else's -- that was just how we talked to each other. I did get cross and react badly at times as a teenager, but overall I think it made me pretty resilient to criticism and mockery in matters of taste. Nonetheless, there's definitely a difference between friendly joking and a pointed, humourless rant. I expect that some of the friends you insulted would have reacted different if you'd asked them, warmly and in person, "Dude, why do you watch that stupid shit?"

My other thought is that I, at least, take this kind of criticism quite differently depending on my opinion of the person it comes from. If a friend-of-a-friend whom I consider a boor tells me that my favourite book is shitty, it's easy to brush off because that person's opinion is worthless to me. However, I did get a bit ticked off when my partner characterised the music I listen to as "indie whining", because he ought to know me well, his opinion carries weight with me, and as people have said above, that kind of statement does imply something about the person who likes the music in question.

Maybe it's worth considering whether these factors play into your experience as well.
posted by daisyk at 5:21 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


You aren't asking this question in good faith. You've marked as "best answers" only the "nice responses" and feel justified in being hurt by people's explanations of how what you said is offensive. If you really want to work through this, maybe reflect on why you feel people must be nice to you when you are not obligated to be nice to others. (Note: implying other people are children because they enjoyed a movie you didn't even watch in a public forum is not considered nice by most.)

I'm not a big fan of a lot of these films but I really liked Guardians. The story arc is essentially a "lovable shmuck comes good" narrative with an unlikely choice of starring actor. The space scenes look really cool and I like space. The soundtrack is filled with songs that have played key parts in other films which is a strange and enjoyable choice. It helps that I like pop music from the general era the soundtrack was plucked from. I thought the opening scene was amazing.

Things I did not like about this film: lots of tie ins for the larger "universe" story arc I don't really care about, Bradley Cooper's voice acting, the sibling rivalry between Gamora and Nebula fell really flat for me.
posted by shownomercy at 6:25 AM on December 27, 2014 [14 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me why fans of these particular types of entertainment are so hugely emotionally invested in their fan-dom

It's not just this type of entertainment:

Ann Coulter: “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay” (...) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO’s “Girls,” light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is “catching on” is exceeded only by the ones pretending women’s basketball is fascinating."

Huffington Post: "Ann Coulter Reminds Us That Only Asshats Hate Soccer For No Good Reason. (...) Don't get us wrong, Coulter -- you should feel free to hate soccer. But before you go writing a column about how doing so is "America's Favorite National Pastime," try formulating an argument that doesn't end up proving just how idiotic that "pastime" is."

"but I don't feel that when someone tells me that ELP is total wankery for pretentious douchebags (which has been said, more than once) that they mean I am a pretentious douchebag and get super-upset about it."

Prog rock was invented to remake a popular music genre into "high art:"
"Bands abandoned the short pop single in favor of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz or classical music in an effort to give rock music the same level of musical sophistication and critical respect."

If somebody should call prog rock fans "pretentions douchebags", that would only reinforce the idea that prog rock is for "people with good taste".
posted by iviken at 6:30 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I was younger, I thought that a lot of things were absolute dreck - pop music, contemporary literature, experimental literature, popular movies, movies made between about 1930 and 1965 in general, most comics, non-pop music that was not abrasive and difficult....basically, there was a tiny charmed circle of things I found acceptable and would not refer to with contempt. For some reason, I still had friends.

There are still a lot of things I don't like - I'm very picky, often about stupid stuff. For instance, I pretty much hate all television ever, with the exception of Bewitched reruns.

I have found that it helps me enormously in understanding people and not being, like, a giant dick, to start from the standpoint that there is a way of looking at any cultural production that is interesting - and if something is enormously popular, it is unlikely to be entirely without interest in this way. So for instance, I hate TV, but I really enjoy reading about TV, and when I am talking to people who like TV, it's very easy to say "I haven't watched much of X, but I have read [thing] about it - what do you think?" or "It sounds like [X] is in the tradition of [thing I know about] - what do you think?"

I've also found that it helps to start by assuming my own partiality and ignorance. My feelings about dance music - to give an example - have really changed. Partly, I read some of those "disco - actually a sophisticated medium!" books that were coming out a few years ago, and that got me to listen with new ears, and partly I read enough people talking about how Beyonce and Nicki Minaj were doing all these things with representation of black women that sounded super interesting that even though I don't really like their music, I can now think of it as "this is a thing where my standpoint makes the interesting parts less visible and meaningful". Realizing that when I hated on Beyonce I just sounded ignorant - that really shook me up, because I hate sounding ignorant.

This whole thing has helped me immeasurably as a reader (of course I am perfect now...I am never ever judgy, etc). It is much easier for me, when I encounter a text which seems empty/stupid/etc, to ask "what am I missing" and "what knowledge or experience might render this text rich and full" rather than to dismiss it. So for example, I didn't look like an utter idiot when I found out after reading something that its plot and themes were drawn from a major work of East African literature, and some of the structure that had seemed confusing to me was just Not About US Literary Convention.

My point is that you will get more out of conversations with people - and they'll get more out of conversations with you - if you start from a place of "what renders this meaningful" rather than a place of "I can tell that this has no value - maybe you can make a strong argument otherwise, but probably not".

On the other hand, I sympathize, actually, because sometimes a movie is so rebarbative that it does just make you absolutely angry. I found Natural Born Killers that way, walked out on my friends, cabbed home and we all had a fight later. It just pushed so many buttons for me that I wasn't able to respond with any nuance, and I felt so much anger at the universe!
posted by Frowner at 6:43 AM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


If I, a neurotypical person, call something you like "shitty" and "stupid" and wonder aloud why anyone would like it, knowing that you do indeed like it, I am insulting you or at the very least stating that we are very different and my way of being is preferable.

I know you like $thing. You know that I know that you like $thing. I choose to wonder aloud at the idiocy of $peoplewholikething (a set that includes you) anyway. It is unusual for this type of statement to be completely innocent of insult. People are not being unreasonable in assuming you meant to provoke and insult them by choosing to word it this way.

As a neurotypical person, if I wish to inquire about the merits of something I really disliked, I do it like I did it here on AskMe. Notice that I did not use any negative adjectives about the book. If I had said it was shitty, then the people I wanted to hear from would have been predisposed negatively toward me. They would have shut down or attacked rather than opened up. Instead I turned the negatives against myself, implying that I was at fault for not being able to get into it. You'll notice people upthread suggesting this strategy to you as well. It puts the other person in a position to assist you with your difficulty rather than defending their choice. People enjoy that more and will participate. (Hence the success of Ask Metafilter.)

Now, let's examine GotG versus Incendies (a serious French drama). Guardians is a blockbuster film geared toward mass appeal. The set of people who saw and liked GotG is MUCH larger than the set of people who saw and liked Incendies. You are attacking a far bigger group, so even if a smaller percentage of that set is upset by your tone, it will feel bigger.
posted by heatherann at 6:56 AM on December 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Thing is, the majority of answers were directed at ME and how I was being a bad person

...no, they weren't. They were directed at what you said and how that was an assholish thing to say. You took it personally.
Similarly, you told a lot of people that their favourite thing to watch is stupid. And they thought you were calling them stupid. Because what we like is as much a personal thing as what we say.

I'm just saying, it shouldn't be that hard to understand for you, you take things personally, too.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:59 AM on December 27, 2014 [20 favorites]


The comic book movies are a central pillar in contemporary geek/nerd culture, and no one gets as butt-hurt and loudly defensive when you speak negatively of the things they hold dear as do geeks.

The investment they have in the things of childhood, combined with the larger-than-average amount of disposable income that particular demographic enjoys makes these movies box office gold. And that's why we are currently awash in such movies.

That said, and as others have pointed out, you would have probably enjoyed a far better response had you not been as aggressively dismissive and insulting.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:10 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't ever expect to have a serious discussion on Facebook. EVER. EVER. EVER. You picked a hot topic and some unkind words... That's a recipe for drama on your facebook wall, my dear.

Also, you seem smart so I bet you will understand this: Did you really have to comment on something you saw for 15 minutes? Would you like it if somebody said that *some book you like* is terrible (or, um...shitty) if they'd only read 10 pages of it? It wouldn't be possible to have a real, meaningful conversation about it, would it?

I suggest you watch the whole movie. I liked it and I usually don't like that kind of movies, and I agree, it gets better after the first 15 minutes.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 7:22 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The problem is that you are following the golden rule - "do into others as you would have them do unto you." This is a poorly thought out idea that has wrought and continues to wreak havoc on the human race. It's really quite foolish - people are individuals, why would it be a good idea to treat others according to your own peculiar tastes. In fact, you made the same golden error as your friend who insisted you try watching GotG - he did unto you as he would have wanted you to do unto him. You posted an unpleasant rant about people's entertainment choices because that's how you would want to be treated.

Thankfully, the golden rule has been updated to a much more sensible platinum rule - "do into others as they would do unto themselves". Now that you know that people don't like it when someone calls the entertainment choices they prefer "shit" and "stupid" and "childish", you know how they would do unto themselves, and you can avoid this issue - you collected good data!

People have covered the "why did they react like that" question, but I think the deeper answer is "because you were treating them as you like to be treated, rather than as THEY LIKE to be treated.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:27 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's important everyone have similar expectations going into these discussions/events-and that's hard to do on FB or even in person. No movie night at my house ever starts without first reviewing if we are just watching the movie tonight or are we discussing the movie tonight? And are we doing while the movie is playing? Because some nights Les Mis (the musical, to bring in another love/hate topic) is about universal fights against injustice, some nights it's about dream casts/costuming and some nights we just want to eat pizza and drink wine and drift.
posted by beaning at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of the key differences between your stupid and shitty language and "festering pile of monkey dump which insults the intelligence of anyone who watches it" is that the latter specifically presupposes that the viewer is intelligent and being insulted by the movie, while your language does not, and so is rather more open to being interpreted as the viewer also being stupid and shitty.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:24 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I liked GotG quite a lot. I have friends who really emphatically did not like it, primarily because they're not really into Marvel movies. If any of my friends had posted on their FB walls what you posted on yours, I would have been hurt, because it absolutely does read like you're calling your friends stupid and shitty for liking something so stupid and shitty. Calling things stupid and shitty does nothing to open the dialogue you claim to want. In fact, it actively stifles that dialogue... why am I going to try to have a conversation with someone about something that I enjoyed but that they think is a steaming pile of dog shit? How can I have a conversation with someone about a piece of media when that someone has already stated that they literally cannot comprehend why adults like that dreck? That's a really mean thing to say to people that you claim to care about. Why would you be so mean?

Now, if any of my friends had posted a critique of GotG that went the "festering pile of monkey dump that insults the intelligence of anyone who watches it" route, I wouldn't be nearly as hurt by that. Why? Because they're not insulting my intelligence with their critique, unlike the avenue you chose. They're saying very clearly that they did not like it and that they think it's dumb, but they're saying so in a way that lays the blame on the movie, not on the people watching it. That's the key. You laid the blame for the perceived shittiness of the movie on the people who enjoyed it. No wonder no one took that kindly. There's not a lot of room for kindness in what you said.
posted by palomar at 10:35 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


You seem to be saying "until I understand why my choices hurt people, I'm not going to make different ones." But that's crazy -- if you walked into a patch of stinging nettles, you wouldn't need to understand the exact mechanism by which they were causing your skin to burn in order to choose to stay out of the patch next time. You can do the same thing here; whether or not you know why your words hurt people, you clearly know that they DID hurt people. If you care about not hurting these people, the onus of changing behavior is on you at this point.
posted by KathrynT at 10:58 AM on December 27, 2014 [29 favorites]


I would suggest you study the concept of bias. I think it's playing a huge role in your ability to understand other people, both here and on facebook.
posted by valkane at 11:08 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


So, I used to work as a critic, mostly music but some movies and books and whatever would pay me. You posted an uninformed and insulting opinion. You also seem to be having trouble with subjectivity in media.

From your followups, it sounded more like you got overstimulated and had to pull back from a piece of media, which in the specific is unusual but in the abstract entirely normal and understandable. For a movie known more for being hard to watch and overwhelming, think of Pi or Eraserhead. But while it's totally fair to not like something that's aggressively alienating, that doesn't mean that other people can't like it or that it's inherently a bad work. I find cheese flavors really overpowering (I like it, but I can only have, like, a tablespoon of a bleu before I am done); that doesn't mean the cheese tastes bad.

Another implication of subjective experience is that viewers don't become morons as soon as they encounter a work — smart people bring their powers of observation, analysis and synthesis to works, just like they do to everything else. For example, there's a famous work of philosophy by Roland Barthes about costume wrestlers, the predecessors of today's WWE. That's certainly juvenile, full of lumbering and obvious plot arcs, ridiculous characters, your rote heroic narratives, and even associated with low brow, low class people. But it's also full of really complicated explorations of identity and morality. It's possible to find wrestling incredibly entertaining without actually caring much about what The Rock is cooking.

While I think that the ultimate theories that come out of continental philosophy end up being less coherent and supportable than are necessary to base systems off of them, one of the areas where continental philosophy excels is explorations of subjectivity; it seems like this would be a profitable genre for you to pursue.
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me why fans of these particular types of entertainment are so hugely emotionally invested in their fan-dom to the point where criticizing their preferred type of media is interpreted as a personal attach upon them?

Superman was invented in 1933 by a couple of 19 year old Jewish kids with immigrant parents.

1933 marks the depths of the Great Depression and was also the year Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Superhero fantasies are often a last refuge for the oppressed and hopeless, and I think their preeminence in popular culture indicts our times, so it doesn't surprise me people have reacted angrily at what they might well perceive -- probably mainly unconsciously -- as your attempt to rip that refuge away from them.
posted by jamjam at 3:47 PM on December 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't like most popular movies and popular culture. My saying so has resulted in hurt feelings and angry people. Help me understand why they would be so emotionally invested in these things.

You know, there's a reason that popular movies are popular and popular culture is popular. It's because many people enjoy them.

You may be the nicest person around; you may not. But in my experience people who outright believe they don't like anything that is popular — in other words, they don't like anything that most other people like — also to some extent believe, or at least appear to believe, that they are better than other people because of this fact.

As a rule, people do not like to be made to feel that they are inferior or that their tastes are unrefined or pedestrian.

And yeah, it's pretty clear you don't understand people if you don't understand how you could say something like, "How could adults possibly enjoy this thing which is shitty and stupid" and not think that many people would think that you were calling them stupid.

I enjoy "shitty" movies, TV shows, and books, and while I can't put my finger exactly on why I like them, I can tell you why I don't like many "adult" (and here I don't mean X-rated) movies, books, and TV shows. The reason is: when I watch movies or read books, I just want to relax my brain and sink into the story. I don't want to have to think too hard, I don't want to puzzle over what everyone is talking about or what is happening. Also, at best these sorts of movies will end where they start in a kind of neutral state. At worst, they end on a bleak note, having killed off one or more of the characters I was forced to care about through the narrative (I am thinking particularly of one French film I saw where, after a brief period of potential optimism on the part of one character, we see the other character wordlessly, emotionlessly and pointlessly throw herself to her death [over a boy, of all stupid things]). I don't want to watch a movie where the odds are greater than zero that one of the characters will kill themselves. Similarly, I don't want to read a book where at best nothing happens, or where at one point I am forced to wade through some difficult prose just because the author wants to prove a point. And actually I often seek out young adult fiction for this very reason, because the writing is generally to-the-point and usually not very depressing. I realize this is not the meat of the question you asked but I hope it helps answers your original question of why people might enjoy watching something that is "shitty" or "stupid".
posted by Deathalicious at 6:52 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sorry, I really should have read through the whole thread before responding:

alltomorrowsparties: "My actual question was not 'How can I phrase things to be less offensive?" but "Why do fans of this particular genre feel so emotionally attached to it in a way that does not seem to be the case for other things?""

I'll agree with other people that this is probably confirmation bias — that fans of other genres would get upset too — but I'd also add that there is a real problem that you think the former question is less important than the latter question.

For two reasons.
  1. I honestly cannot see any value in determining why it is, exactly, that fans of a certain genre are more emotionally attached to it than fans of other genres. It's been established by others that it's not necessarily true that only fans of pop culture react this way. You yourself said this — that this is popular culture — so just from a numbers standpoint you're going to be attacking more people than if you had posted something on Facebook about a less popular film. If, say, a hundred of your Facebook friends saw it and just 13 friends responded to your post, that's still 83 people who are perfectly capable of handling criticism of the things that they love. Whereas only one person really liked that artsy-fartsy movie you criticized last month, and they just happened to be like you and didn't take your attack personally. However, even if you could prove definitively that fans of pop culture are more sensitive about their likes and dislikes, this contributes absolutely nothing, zilch to your or anyone else's life. And honestly I cannot think of any "why" you could come up with that would not boil down to, essentially: "they are somehow worse, less intelligent people, incapable of mentally separating that which they love from their own self-worth".
  2. People are emotional beings. It is actually disturbing, to me, that you do not think it is important to avoid upsetting other people. That either you do not understand that the way you communicate is offensive to others but don't care to learn why, or that you do understand that it's offensive to others but are apparently okay with that because, less face it, fans of popular culture should just not be so sensitive about it.
I'll be honest and try to be nice in light of this: Please don't be mean about it, I've had a whole afternoon of that already. and just say that the tone of your above-the-fold question rubbed me the wrong way and your more inside did not improve it. I think that if you do not want to be attacked on Facebook because of the way you express yourself, you should consider the possibility that the fault lies, not in others' inability to respond rationally, but in the way that you communicate towards others.

If you really, really want to understand people, you have to understand that (maybe unlike you?) they are largely emotional and that the communication they engage in, while communicating ideas, is also communicating emotions. If you are willing or able to understand that, that should honestly be sufficient to explain why the way you communicated was not just perceived as offensive to them but also, honestly, a pretty ineffective and frankly dumb way to engage people in a conversation about why they like popular culture (assuming your being honest with us and yourself about your intent, and weren't just going on a self-congratulatory rant about your superior tastes).
posted by Deathalicious at 7:20 PM on December 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


I rant a lot on Facebook, but no other thing has raised hackles in this way.

In addition to what other people said here about the movie itself, I'd consider the possibility that even if nobody responded angrily to your previous rants, they may still have noticed and been annoyed by them. If you routinely rant about, say, pop culture on Facebook, people may get the idea that you are very invested in broadcasting that your taste is superior to others'. People reading these rants may also suspect that you are deliberately trolling for an emotional reaction, which would make you seem hostile and callous. Put into context, that could explain some of the vociferousness of this reaction.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:25 PM on December 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is well into the thread at this point, but there are ways of pointing out differences that let differences be differences while mutually exploring alternate options, and there are ways of talking about differences that make the other person feel shame for being different and holding a different opinion. If you make people feel the latter in the way that you present yourself, it will get push-back and anger, not ongoing dialogue. Shame is probably the primary things that people avoid in life, either in practice or by re-calibrating our view of the world. It's the thing that sits in most of our ancient and secret wounds. Nobody wants more of it.

For example, tactfully addressing subjective differences of opinion is a good way of approaching any topic, as it allows someone to save face on equal footing. If you start by couching your opinion with objective and unassailable values, then the other side will not help but internalize that you feel that they are wrong for holding those values, and that they have an uphill battle in having a genuine dialogue with you (i.e., they have to walk out of your shameful perception to get to a good place). Sometimes things might objectively be the case (as not everything is subjective). But I guarantee that when you word things such that it seems like there is something wrong with people from the get-go, you start by 1) making yourself seem superior for having already figured it out; and 2) make the other side feel defensive and possible shamed by you.

What might be a good practice, before you send out correspondence, is to ask whether 1) or 2) may attain in the way that you presented what you said. And then cut it back a bit until you no longer feel that it is the case. Kind, benefit of the doubt type language goes a long way. It might feel that you have your emotional voice neutered a bit up front (as you are probably used to speaking in direct and possibly strident tones), but I think what this will allow you to do is open up more creative avenues for expression that will eventually allow you to share your mind directly while not alienating your audience. Watch people who do it well, as a subject to be studied. This kind of successful conversation happens all the time between people who disagree, but it is a genuine skill to be learned.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:06 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


TL;DR: Don't Yuck Someone's Yum
posted by Freen at 10:52 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


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