Author's note: The following post contains no review of Man of Steel nor complaints about reviews of my books. That is entirely true. For my views on the new Superman movie, get in touch--I'll be glad to share. A day is long enough to think about it. For my ideas on reviews people have posted about my books: Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I hope they're all carefully considered.
One day last week I was checking the weather online. I know, a person could just look out the window and find out what the local weather is like, but thunderstorms had been forecast and I wanted to look at the map to see if one was in the area.
ANYWAY, I went to my local weather page to check, and saw a feature I'd never noticed before: Next to the forecast for today's weather were two icons, one labeled "love" and the other "ugh." A visitor to this site would click on either of those to indicate his/her level of approval on the weather.
On the weather.
It's possible that we're becoming a little too enamored of our own opinions.
Online reviews tend to come from... anybody, without any indication of background or qualification. I could write opera reviews. I know nothing, at all, about opera. How would you know?
There was a time, children, when in order to be a serious film critic, one actually had to have a background in film. In order to offer a public opinion on theater, it was generally assumed that a person had seen, let's say, a Shakespeare play performed live at least once. A music critic would be required to demonstrate a knowledge of the difference between Beethoven and Marvin Hamlisch.
I'm not going to get into the area of book reviews, because 1. Most of the reviewers of my books have been very kind and 2. If I said anything negative about those who weren't, it would be seen as sour grapes (which it might or might not be).
The point is that these days, the saying "everybody's a critic" has become a literal truth. The Internet, in all its glory, has opened the doors for comment to every person with a connection via computer, smartphone, tablet, or ESP. And that, I'm afraid, like most things online, has been taken to unwieldy extremes.
I will occasionally drop some opinions in this space on film or television. I have some background in that area, and no, I don't think that a person is an expert only when accredited by a paying media company. But the instant gratification of Twitter and Facebook and lord knows what other sites I completely don't understand has led to what I call No Impulse Control Reviews--those things we say in the rush of a new experience that we haven't really had a chance to think about yet.
For example: I am a lifelong Superman fan. I grew up on the George Reeves (seen here with McTavish, in case you think I'm lying) version, possibly the most popularly maligned, but I was four and he was Superman, however much in reruns. This weekend (in fact, yesterday) I went to see the new film trying to "reimagine the franchise" (every time I hear a phrase like that I thank my good fortune that my Hollywood dreams were never realized), Man of Steel. And I was sure, based on all the pre-release hype that went on, that I was destined to hate it.
Relax, I'm not enough of a hypocrite to offer an instant review of a movie in a post complaining about knee-jerk reviews. But that's the point--I haven't really had time to think it through and offer an intelligent opinion yet. The difference is that I know that, so I'm not going to give in to the impulse.
Anyone who's had a chance to view me in profile knows that I certainly don't repress every wrong impulse I have. But I do try to exercise control of the ones I can.
We're given too many opportunities these days to express our opinions. Every web site we see asks us for feedback. Every time we make a purchase online, we are immediately asked to take a survey about our "buying experience." Every company from which we've ever bought a product wants us to "like" it on Facebook.
Do I really like a detergent? A toilet paper? A fax machine? No. They're there and I use them. The only time I'm likely to notice one over another is if there's a problem. I don't have an opinion on everything. Why am I being asked for one?
(Oddly, the opinions we have on things like politics and religion are the ones most people would rather not hear. But whether or not I "like" Dunkin' Donuts? Do tell!)
Please don't take this the wrong way: I don't want people to stop reviewing things. I especially don't want people to stop reviewing my work, even if they don't care much for it (although, I'm not encouraging you to do so if that's your opinion). But I do think we need to take a breath and do a little thinking before we express an opinion that's going out to an untold number of strangers.
Easy. Take a moment. That's it. Now... what do you think? Did you like today's weather?