Straight Edge Netiquette? Kevin Smith, Mr. Robot, and the Hollywood Reporter
The Kevin Smith Debacle
How best can you be a critic without being carelessly insulting or dismissive?
How can you be a polite, respectful, and caring person on-line? These are questions that I struggle with almost every day.
Just last week, I got blasted by what seemed like 1,000 Kevin Smith fans for the following poorly written tweet and unexpected response:
Long story short, I was watching the season 3 premiere episode of AMC's "Halt and Catch Fire" and noticed it was going to be followed by a new show with Kevin Smith. I have always had a real love for Kevin Smith's "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy" (I also loved "Clerks II"). Long story short, I watched Kevin Smith do an interview with Charlie Cox (Daredevil) and while it was a great interview, I started to get frustrated that he was doing interviews instead of directing movies.
Kevin Smith is doing great, he directs episodes of The Flash (which I recap), Supergirl, and has a new movie in the works called Yoga Hosers. This was really more about my frustration with two things:
1. That I feel he still has more Chasing Amy's inside him.
There is no reason he should give two shits what I think and I should have just never written the Tweet. Kind of a jackass thing for me to put on him.
2. I get really frustrated that Zach Snyder, for instance, keeps getting to destroy tentpole movies while Directors with real unique voices like Kevin Smith and Spike Lee have to hustle and struggle to produce movies that get virtually no support or distribution.
Yes, I just did it again, sorry Zach Snyder fans.
Anyway, I sometimes have this problem on Reddit too. I will often respond too quickly and too emotionally, instead of taking a deep breath and getting some distance.
I certainly never expected Kevin Smith would actually read or respond (despite me putting his Twitter address in the tweet - that has become kind of automatic). I clearly should not put my own expectations for other people on them.
If you look back at the construction of my blog or the majority of my Reddit posts, hopefully, you will see that I generally work hard to create space to validate opinions beyond my own. I need to get better.
A Real Professional Shows Me How It Should Be Done
I read a lot of articles about Mr. Robot every day, but as I was reading the Hollywood Reporter's latest take I noticed that the author, Tv Critic Daniel Fienberg had explicitly left space to validate other perspectives other than his own. He said, basically that while he was not enjoying season 2 of Mr. Robot, he could understand why other people were.
You can read his article HERE.
So, I wrote him to congratulate him for his classy take, and he responded, here is that string of Tweets. I think you will have to admit, he has a very classy take on the show and on criticism in general:
So, anyway, I think that is about as good as it gets. He always responded only from his own perspective and worked hard to see the other person's POV.
Straight Edge Netiquette?
I will try to emulate his classy example into the future with my own work.
For instance, I do appreciate Zach Snyder's love of comic books and even enjoyed parts of Watchmen. However, I personally did not appreciate any of his work on the Superman franchise. This is probably my failure, and I can certainly understand why fans might disagree.
I had another disastrous Twitter conversation with another critic of Mr. Robot who wrote a Forbes article in which she interviewed three hackers about the show.
I decided to tweet a response in which I mentioned that her interviewees might be great hackers but that they didn't seem to know a darn thing about Season 2 of Mr. Robot (which was fair, virtually nothing they said made sense in the context of a careful watching of the show).
Oddly enough, she immediately took this as insulting and unleashed a truly impressive barrage of sarcastic tweets on me.
It was a truly brutal beatdown of Ad Hominem attacks, none of it really addressed my arguments, but it was impressive nonetheless. And I had clearly offended her. I was not careful or considered in my response to her work.
I still am 100% sure I was right, but what purpose did this interaction serve except to make another person feel insulted enough to spend 10 minutes blasting me?
Again, this was more about my own "Mr. Robot" ego than it was about caring about her work or opinion.
I deserved what I got.
During a recent Reddit exchange, when I was mentioning attempting to be careful about other opinions, someone suggested that I should just suck it up and stop being a "pussy."
Obviously, I would never agree with that language choice.
In my mind, some of the most destructive ideas in the world are that men should be tough (or learn to be tough) and that women should be or are inherently weak and fragile.
But, I think that these online discussions should be less "Lord of the Flies" and more about a free-flowing exchange of ideas. One of the most important moments in my early life in punk rock was embracing anti-racism and learning about how punk could be consistent with feminism through ideas shared by Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye.
Maybe it is time to consider a straight edge philosophy concerning online behavior? Yes, I know that Ian later partially repudiated some of the ideas, mostly because people were treating them more like laws and less like signposts, but there is something to setting standards of behavior that are consistent with your ethics.
In addition, in my use of this term, I do not include the intolerant outgrowths like racist skins or the punks who would turn violent at people who left the straight-edge lifestyle. To me, this is explicitly about creating a movement encouraging tolerance and civilized discussions online.
I am starting to formulate a list of my own expectations for my own writing and for my use of social media, and I have decided to start with this idea:
I will try to always include something that says that I could be wrong and whoever I am discussing could be right (with exceptions for explicitly intolerant racist, homophobic, gender-insensitive, or holocaust denying language).
I guess I am thinking about this through the lens of how can I best exist in the world as a critic and as an online entity. (much like I used to think about what is punk rock for me).
Honest exchanges usually require respect for the people who disagree with you.
I plan to write much more about this as I think more about the list and its implications.
I will try to do better.
Do you think that it is time to think differently about how we interact with each other online?
Do you have ideas for how best we can all have honest and free-flowing discourse without rudeness or disrespect?
Share your thoughts, as long as they are civil, I will discuss any comments and ideas presented. In other words, leave a comment!