Friday, November 23, 2012

Awful Opinions

Here's a controversial opinion for you. Despite what decades of individuating pedagogy has trained us to believe, not every single person on the planet is special, and thus, not every single opinion can be included in the debate. Going one step further, not every opinion is valid. Some are just wrong. It's a logical inevitability that not every opinion can be right, because most opinions are oppositional. In other words, there are literally billions of people with wrong opinions. And yet, our current mode of "you're special, you deserve it, buy this" operates on the assumption that everybody is comfortable knowing their opinion is a) valid and b) correct, when I'm positive that this cannot be the case.

What this means is that people tend to spout off opinions without examining them, where they cam from, and what they mean in a larger context. Opinions, like people, do not exist within a vacuum. Most opinions are shaped by cultural, social and genetic factors. It's worth examining why we tend to prefer Batman over Superman, no?

Case in point, somebody at work told me that he had finally seen the third Batman film. Well, most of it. He hadn't finished. He proceeded to tell me that it was awful, stupid and silly. I tried to get him to expand on this. All he could tell me that it was silly.

I'm sure the word he was looking for, if he had known it, was campy. The Dark Knight Rises, even with its dour and dark tone, manages a level of camp with Catwoman and Bane that the previous installment in the film hadn't. Camp, by definition, operates under the aegis of irony, and yet because of its exaggerated performance aspects, it's also a deep form of sincerity. Camp is both a loving tribute and a vicious mocking of the normative.

This ambiguity to The Dark Knight Rises has made this particular individual uncomfortable. He's not sure whether Batman is meant to be taken seriously, allegorically, or literally. Of course, I'm willing to admit that this might be due to flaws in the film rather than flaws in the viewer.

I asked him about The Avengers to further gauge his critical opinion. I want to know what he thought of something similar so that I have a better understanding of critical barometer. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember anything of the film, other than he didn't like it, which says something about both the film and him as a viewer.

He did manage to tell me that the worst comic book film he had seen was X-Men: First Class. At this point, I totally shut down and disregarded his opinions.

You might say I'm being defensive about the films I like. You might say I'm being overly sensitive about films I enjoy. Or you might say that this particular individual just doesn't like comic book movies.

But here's why I could disregard his opinion. He has chosen a contrarian position without understanding why he chosen it. He is resisting the dominant mode, which admittedly, is terribly flawed and infantilizing in its own way, but he's unable to articulate why he's doing so. He can't just simply dismiss a genre - unless he can tell me why he's dismissing a genre.

If you can't understand your own position, how are you going to defend it? If you're position is indefensible, why are you bothering to hold it?

These are awful opinions not because they don't align with mine, but because they are without thought, without articulation. While this guy and I might agree on The Avengers and disagree on The Dark Knight Rises, I can rest comfortable knowing that my opinion is more valid because I can express myself.

You can't just grunt and say, "I didn't like, but that's my opinion." You can't just say, "opinions are subjective" because if that was true, we wouldn't have experts in the field who we look to for expert and therefore more valid opinions.

This particular individual is the absolute perfect middle class consumer of culture in that he simply accumulates artifacts of culture without ever examining them and placing them into a greater socio-cultural context. He is infantilized to the point where he confuses high end shows with complexity and maturity. He conflates seriousness with quality and allows for the dominant to make his choices for him.

I'm not a better person than him; I'm just better at articulating myself.

I've written a lot about this democratization of art and I'm working on something big right now, so you can see why this is important to me. It's about the culture industry disregarding and flattening our intelligence and then we congratulate ourselves on our ability to choose "high" quality artifacts.

Good for you that you watch Mad Men, but are you thinking about it at all or are you just sitting there and "enjoying" the acting? Do you think Batman's quasi-conservative neoliberalism is surface or was it intentional? Do you think The Walking Dead's bizarre relationship with race is indicative of wider issues in the cultural depictions of race or is it some sort of ironic stance taken by the film?

If none of these things, or similar things have occurred to you, then you have a lot of work ahead of you in convincing me to take your opinion seriously.

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