Spend as much time on the Internet as I do, and you’ll notice that the planet has a bunch of bored people pretending they’re Caesar. They sit on their thrones stoically. They look down at their art and/or entertainment choices as though said choices were Gladiator matches. After they’re done with said A&E choices, these quasi-Roman emperors either give a thumbs up, or a thumbs down.
Before I get too far into this metaphor, I will say that everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions. However, in the information age (do we still use that phrase?) our opinions, especially shared on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, et al, can make or break our A&E choices. Our friends and acquaintances who share similar tastes to ours, might very well base their choices on our opinions. More so, the professional critics – those who are paid to rip apart every inconsistency, every terrible acting job, and every joke have this power to make or break a piece of A&E. Again, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but with great power comes great responsibility. If Augustus or Nero gives the Gladiator a thumbs down, that Gladiator is destroyed. If the critics hated say, The Office or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, those series ratings probably would have dropped and the networks would have canceled them before their time.
Perhaps you’re saying big deal. Critics have the power of Caesar over movies, television etcetera. Big deal, some terribly made movie or a rushed and clichéd show get canceled because the critics are telling it as it is. This wouldn’t bother me so much, except I often wonder if said critics, both professional and amateur, are actually looking for an excuse to hate whatever they happen to be reviewing. If this is truly happening, this has to change. There is a time to be snarky, sure, but there’s a time to just be entertained already!
Let’s look at a couple of movies the critics hated. On Rotten Tomatoes, Skyline earned a 15%; The Starvation Game got a 0%. I’ll admit, Skyline sucked. Skyline might very well be the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and is certainly the worst movie I’ve seen in the last five years. The Starving Games, however, was seriously funny. It might not have been the funniest movie I’ve seen even in the last two years, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and at the very least, it was better than Skyline! Skyline was painful to watch, while The Starving Games was, if you let yourself be entertained, very funny. While both movies were admittedly about making money first and foremost, one actually tried to make people happy for 70 minutes. One actually tried to make the world a little better. But Caesar was not entertained. Why? Because Caesar is a snob! Caesar wants absolute perfection or else the chopping block! Caesar will not allow him or herself to laugh at something so banal as a spoof.
Take Joe Leydon’s (of Variety) review of The Starving games:
“The Starving Games” might inspire punny put-downs like “malnourished script” or “unappetizing gags.” But, really, a movie as lame as this one doesn’t merit the expenditure of snark.”
I don’t know what Leydon looks like, but by that comment alone, I’m going to assume he runs a comic book shop frequented by Bart Simpson. One wonders if he’s ever laughed in his life. One must wonder if he’s actually learned to laugh or even if he is even qualified to critique humor. I will point out that during Leydon’s review, he didn’t once mention WHY The Starving Games wasn’t funny – he just said it wasn’t funny. ALL HAIL THE WORD OF Caesar!
Again, why does this matter? Because laughter is fun. Period. I realize there are those who are really serious, but there are also those of us really like to laugh and view laughter as an extremely important part of life. If I sit down and watch a comedy, I’m going to try my best to laugh. I do realize everyone has a different view of what humor might be, but I for one believe our standards for humor should be pretty low. Again, laughing is fun! Laughing makes life a little better. Laughing may even have medicinal value!
So…what about those of us who are intelligent and educated? Are we not entitled to demand smarter comedy? I’m going to admit that I love smart comedy more than “low” comedy. I will even admit that sometimes I’m in the mood for comedy that’s of a higher standard than say, The Starvation Games. I’ve also learned that if I’m going to survive this world, I need to laugh at things which I would normally consider below my otherwise high standards. In fact, to NOT laugh at things makes my life a little more miserable. Say I write about how “stupid” a comedy is because the humor was a lower caliber than I would prefer. If people care about my opinion on the matter, I’m actually depriving people a bit of happiness! They’re passing up on said comedy because of my snark, and therefore my snark is denying them the chance to laugh. My snark, in this situation, makes the world a little worse. Sure, I get a bit of smug satisfaction for ripping apart someone’s jokes, but is that really worth the cost? Is my smug satisfaction going to bring joy to my readers?
I’m not saying laugh at everything. We’ve all got our different filters of what is funny. Some things are totally offensive. Some things are gross. Some things probably shouldn’t be laughed about. Some jokes are stale, and some jokes just don’t work. Heck, sometimes snark in itself is funny! I will also recognize that lowering humor standards too far will spread stupidity – that’s not the results I’m after here and I encourage you to guard yourself from this very thing. But for the sake of humanity! Of all mankind! Try to keep an open mind when it comes to comedy. Your life will be richer and happier, and so will the lives of those around you.