A Disturbing Trend: An Essay
All people have a right to have an opinion. Some opinions may be good. Some opinions may be bad. There are all sorts of opinions out there. Now… Some may be asking why I’m bringing up opinions (and possibly when I’ll stop saying the word opinion so much). Well, during the past year there were two instances in which films were heavily criticized in a negative manner. The two films I’m discussing are Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty (I know these are generally praised films and Oscar nominees but there were detractors).
Director Spike Lee spoke out against the Quentin Tarantino directed Django Unchained, tagging the film as being disrespectful. In the case of Zero Dark Thirty, there were plenty of claims that the film supports the use of torture. Both of these critiques of the films are comments with which under normal circumstances I would have no issues. I can certainly see how many would come to consider Zero Dark Thirty a pro torture film. However, there is a vital exception in regards to the trend I have found, in all honesty, quite disturbing. The critics making the comments in these films had not actually seen the movies of which they were making said comments.
Typically this writer would welcome differing points of view on films. I would love to hear a valid argument about The Godfather being a bad movie or Transformers 2 being a brilliant cinematic experience, no matter how much I may vehemently disagree with those arguments. Without first seeing a film before bringing forth judgement, I would consider irresponsible. It’s one thing to not be interested in seeing a film because of its content or not thinking a film will be good due to a trailer, but to comment on what the film is about and what kind of message a film is attempting to portray without having even watched the movie is outrageous to say the least, and it’s becoming much too common.
Spike Lee’s criticism is admittedly more defensible than those that went after Zero Dark Thirty before viewing the film because he did admit that he could not speak to the quality of the film because he was not going to see it. He was not going to see the film, however, because he viewed it as “disrespectful to my ancestors”. The second part of this quote is what is a little confusing because it would be difficult to conclude that a film is disrespectful without seeing the film first. This is where the comments lose some credibility.
Lee has made some great films with poignant moments and themes and he is absolutely entitled to have these feelings about how race and slavery is treated. I’m not necessarily saying Lee’s comments are wrong, but I am saying I would like to see more people being more responsible with their comments with respect to films.
While it is much more understandable to hear premature criticism of subjects that deal with more sensitive material like race, this writer feels that there is no excuse for the criticism that came in for Zero Dark Thirty. Of course there was plenty of chatter about the presentation of torture in the film (still something I feel is getting much more flak than deserved). However it was almost insulting to one’s intelligence to find articles written describing the film as unacceptably supporting the use of torture, even with the authors of those articles not having viewed one second of the film before tearing into it.
The aim here is not to point out individuals who have committed such acts of criticism. I’m sure if I thought about it I could find an example of a film that I criticized in an inappropriate manner before viewing. It is also important to keep in mind that criticism doesn’t necessarily apply to the film being great or terrible. There are plenty of ways to form expectations, whether you view trailers of upcoming films or read “buzz” such as casting confirmations or production news. The aim here is more of a suggestion, or wish if you will, that writers be more responsible with film criticism. I would encourage all writers to see a film before writing anything in depth about it. Even if the writing is about how others are reacting to the film, it would be a much more beneficial and credible piece of writing.
With so many forms of social media and the ability for just about everybody to share their thoughts on their own blog in today’s world, it’s understandable that many will try to get some sort of opinion about a hot topic published as quickly as possible. In regards to film, this writer feels that this is a dangerous trend because films can be very important and can have a great impact on the lives of others. So when a film is negatively, or even positively, criticized for having a message or a political strategy before even being viewed by the person reviewing it, there can be an adverse effect and the intent of the film can become muddled and ruined.
So to remind all you writers and film critics out there, while it’s wonderful to have opinions and be able to communicate those opinions, when you criticize and theorize about a certain film’s intentions and themes without having seen the film, but rather hearing what others have said about the work and then sharing what you think about all the hearsay, you’re not really sharing an informed opinion. You’re sharing a guess. And these guesses are about films that real human beings put their blood, sweat, and tears into. Those people, at the very least, deserve to have their film viewed before being told what they support and what they are trying to say.
What do you think? Leave a comment.