Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Portrait of Authority

"Beat on the Braff", the second-most-trafficked post in Crushed by Inertia history, gets a lot of comments. Some are positive (towards me and thus negative to Zach Braff), some negative (- to me, + to Braff). Some I think may even BE Zach Braff.

So last night, I'm a bit tipsy, because I just got home from the Man Man show at the Troubadour. (Quick notes on the show: It was really good, because Man Man is amazing, but the place was way overcrowded and the attendees were largely smelly assholes. And I'm not using figurative language here...At one point, I had a really good look at the stage, but I had to go somewhere else because the man next to me smelled intensely awful, like the full, lidless dumpster behind the Franco-American factory eight weeks into a sanitation strike. And the crowd was moshing, during Man Man, which is just poor form, but did kind of take me back to my teenage years, desperately trying to get close enough to the stage to hear Lagwagon without being knocked over. By the way, if you're around my age and listened to Lagwagon in high school, don't click that link and see how old those dudes are now unless you want to get deeeeeeeeeeee-pressed.)

Anyway, I'm tipsy, and I find there's a new comment in the "Beat on the Braff" forum, from Anonymous:

Sir, I could not disagree with you more.

Sir? Right off the bat, he's not doing so hot with that kind of affectation. Who addresses a blog comment to "Sir," and particularly an insulting one?

I don't think Zach Braff neccesarily [sic] deserves the amount of praise and hype he's gotten, but he is talented.

I mean, how to respond to such a thing? I don't think the guy is talented. This guy does...We're at an impasse. Why not just leave it at that?

I don't know if you have any credentials to back up your assertions that he cannot direct or act, but I do.

OH NO NO NO NO NO. WHY? Why go there? Why imply that I don't have a right to an opinion? What is to be gained?

Nothing pisses me off more than the near-daily comments posted to this blog by strangers who want to insist that I don't have a right to feel things or express feelings publicly. This is the essence of living in a free society. It's the FIRST FUCKING THING they wrote in the Bill of Rights. Before OWNING A GUN, EVEN!

There's no logical reason anyone could possibly be compelled to shut me up because, let's face it, I'm reaching a few hundred people a day here...I have no impact...There's no greater geopolitical significance to my saying what I want to say.

Bill O' THAT'S a guy I'd love to be able to shut up, because he's genuinely poisoning our airwaves with ignorant lies and violently militaristic propaganda, spreading a message of hate and fear to millions of Americans daily. But, me? I'm a sarcastic Jew who dislikes a big Hollywood actor/director and enjoys sharing this opinion with others. The only reason this guy wants me to shut up is that he feels threatened by my opinion.

I don't know why...

Maybe, as an actor, he fears that audiences will feel liberated to dislike his work, in the same way I dislike Braff's. So he's putting himself in Braff's shoes and realizing that the sting of professional criticism may be more than he can bear.

OR perhaps his precious opinions on acting are the only things in which he can truly take pride, and as my strongly worded opinion differs from his own, he must either snuff me out or concede that he is worthless as a human being.

I suppose there are a few other possibilities. But needless to say, I don't like being told that I lack the credentials to voice an opinion. Perhaps you disagree with my assertions, and maybe you can even back up your rebuttal with evidence and win the argument, but you don't have a right to tell me I can't think what I want or make my voice heard.

Why anyone would even want to do such a thing is beyond me.

Furthermore, I think that you just want something or someone to hate. You probably spend so much time hating Zach Braff that you never objectively look at what he's done and what he's doing.

A lot of people make this argument in re: my opinion of Zach Braff. As if I had some sort of motive in hating him aside from...hating him. I just don't like the guy. Is it maybe a bit irrational, in that my dislike for his acting exceeds my dislike for the equally mediocre acting of his peers? Sure. I'll grant that.

But no one makes this argument. People instead come here and deny my authority to even make an argument in the first place, then they try to imply that my hatred of Braff is based on some irrational delusion. Like I just felt a desperate urge to hate someone one day, and his was the first face I saw, and now he's imprinted on my brain like a Mama Duck. No one behaves in this way. If I say I dislike someone, it's probably because I have seen what they do and am not a fan.

I, recently, harbored a blood hatred for Leonardo Di Caprio: upon watching Blood Diamond, I conceded that I may be mistaken. Back to the point: I don't idolize Zach Braff, but I do think he's talented, and I think he works harder than a lot of actor/directors.

Wow...a BLOOD hatred. I've never even gone that far.

But notice that this guy permits HIMSELF to hold these kinds of strong opinions (and unquestionably about superior actors to Zach Braff). I'm just not allowed. Because I lack credentials. Who actually thinks this way? Who could possibly be this smug? I mean, that isn't Bill Maher.

So, BEARING IN MIND, as I said, that I was a few beers deep at the time...I left this comment back for the guy:

Oh, last commenter, please elaborate. Tell me more of these CREDENTIALS you have for evaluating acting and directing. A degree in Advanced Academic Evaluationisticisms from the Sorbonne, perhaps? A G.E.D. from the Tuscaloosa, Alabama High School for the Performing Arts?

You know what, you goddamn waste of space? Your opinion has no more or less validity than anyone else's. That's a fucking FACT and you better start dealing with it. Your nonsensical parading around the Internet, ANONYMOUSLY claiming that you can lord your opinion over others like a weapon, kind of makes me want to throw up or hit you or both. (Maybe throw up on you whilst hitting you.)

Get off my blog.

And I meant it, by the way. Not that I want to shut this guy up...cause who really cares what he has to say...but because I hate this kind of energy on my blog, even on old posts that I could safely just ignore. If people are going to argue with me, I want a nice, solid, good-faith argument, not some sort of academic pissing contest. (The "waste of space" line may have been a bit far...but I've always liked that insult. It's kind of one of my go-to insults.)

Anyway, the guy came back and left a comment with his name. I won't reprint it here, but you can just go to original post and see for yourself if you're so inclined...

Ha! You call ME a waste of space?

Yeah, I guess that was a bit too far...

The irony is delicious. You are a pretentious, self-righteous ass, and I will not leave simply because you say so.

Bear in mind, this is the same guy who said I lacked the credentials to gauge Zach Braff's acting skills. He's calling me pretentious.

And, for the record, the credentials are a BFA in Acting from Southern Oregon University, an MFA in acting from Yale, and many years of acting experience. my face? I guess? I mean, SOU, you know...Fuck me...

Honestly, I just...I just don't know how to respond here. I mean, who takes degrees this seriously? I have a Master's Degree, too, and it was a massive waste of 2 years. That's not to say that everyone's grad school experience was the same. I know some people who got a tremendous amount out of their post-graduate education. But to imagine that a few extra years in some classroom grants you superior, elite wisdom, such that your opinion gains immediate and permanent supremacy over all's insane. This man actually thinks he's the Arbiter of Taste because he has some diploma up on his wall, or because he's been in some plays or "CSI" episodes or commercials for hand soap or whatever he means by "many years of acting experience."

I would also like to point out that I think it's funny that you feel you that your opinion on acting and directing, etc, is just as valid as mine, even though you have never studied it and probably don't know what 'it' is, or what makes 'it' good and bad.

I don't know what acting is? Really? Well, I'm not positive, but isn't it a lot like pretending...only with more accuracy? (Actually, I'm sure the writer of the comment would disagree with my contention that acting is essentially artistic pretending, but that would be because he is, as I mentioned above, a titanically massive bag full of douche, and I mean that in the least misogynist way possible).

I will use the analogy of acting to fine arts such as sculpture. You would know what you like an don't like, but I would hope that you're not so rash as to walk into a fine arts museum and start calling famous sculptures "bad" because you dislike them.

Anyone else reminded of our old friend, Brian Atene?

You wouldn't, because beyond what you like or dislike, you have no credentials on which to base an objective judgment of the piece's artistic worth. Yet, in acting, you feel you do have the credentials to judge an actor's work.

Did you follow that, or was that too many words for your miniature brain?

And since you have an issue with me posting anonymously, despite the fact that I don't think my name has anything to do with this, I will include me name. You cannot bully me.

For the record, here's what I said about Zach Braff's acting:

I mean, writing/directing aside, have you see "Scrubs"? It's a half-hour mugging session. The guy does more double-takes in an episode than Wile E. Coyote. That's acting? That's a performance? Bugging out your eyes or looking winsome? I mean, I guess it's not that hard to be the best sitcom actor around. You're competing in a field where Master Craftsmen are Jim Belushi, Kevin James and Ray Romano. It's slightly more competitive than winning a footrace against 3rd graders.

Seems to me that I'm just expressing a rather straightforward opinion. I may not have an MFA, but I know what mugging looks like, and I know that Jim Belushi is considered among the top tier of sitcom actors. One more time, for the record, we're talking about sitcoms, not the Collected Works of George Bernard fucking Shaw. They let Tom Shales review TV shows every day, and I'm pretty sure that guy's not allowed to ride the bus on his own.

Anyway, I'm just really gobsmacked that anyone would feel like they have this kind of authority or expertise, that they're free to visit the blogs of strangers and INSTRUCT them about the types of posts they can make and opinions they can hold. I left him a long, harshly-phrased comment to this effect back on the original post, not so much because I care about convincing this most-likely-hopeless case, but just because I occasionally need to vent. I have hopefully now gotten it out of my system.


Gohlke said...


Inconnu said...

I've always hated that argument that "non-actors" can't tell the difference between good and bad acting. I mean, if that's the case, then what's the point of even studying the art form in order to get better? By arguing that only those who have studied acting can verify between a good and bad performance this guy is admitting to the worthlessness of his training.

Acting is a performance art created to be discerned by the audience. Actors don't perform solely for other actors... they perform for non-actors - the "audience". So if an audience of people lacking the credentials to discern quality is who actors are performing to, then why bother to even train in acting? If he truly believes his argument to be correct then his "credentials" are meaningless.

drummer510 said...

Southern Oregon University.... uh I guess he didn't lie about his credentials. I think if were him, I would at the very least get rid of the Southern part.

Part of the reason I have grown to like this blog, is the fact that you so vehemently dislike Da Braffinator. I don't have that same hate, but anybody who has such a strong opinion on an overrated actor and his overrated movies I admire. Keep up the fight.

By the way I don't know if you've done a review on In Rainbows, but I'd love to hear your opinion.

robert bell said...

Lons, it reminds me of a woman that was on Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross. I will do more research and try to find the episode. In short the woman I believe was an actor/acting coach and Terry asked her something about acting. The woman asked Terry if she was an actor, Terry said no and the woman said that it was none of her business then. She was being interviewed on the fucking show and she tells the host that these questions are none of her business. The attitude seems to be with some actors from what I can tell is that "I am so special and my work is so difficult that you wouldn't understand and you have no right to criticize me."

I see this in many of the arts where people try to make themselves seem special by being a dick to any outsider. (Whew, I just stopped myself from going on a rant there for a second. Had to delete about 5 sentences.)

Anyway, I don't feel the same way about Braff but see where you are coming from and understand that EVERYBODY is entitled to their opinion.

I suspect that you 2 knew each other back in school and he took your lunch money or something, that's why you hate him so. If that's the case then I don't blame you.