“Oh my God, you don’t watch __________? But why? You have to! It’s right up your alley. It’s this, it’s that. Oh my God, but it’s a So and So film! They’re the best in filmmaking! Oh, so, is this just gonna be a happy story? Pass. Boring. I just don’t watch movies unless they’re Oscar contenders.”
As an avid consumer of TV, film, literature, music, it often gets daunting living in a time where our opinions could be shared so quickly and easily. Send tweet. Done. So now I suppose in order for this all to make sense, I should take you darling readers back to a few years ago. It’s fall 2013, I’m in my first ever creative writing class, it’s discussion time. When it comes to my piece, all I hear is things like “This is too happy”, “This growth is a cliche”, “May I suggest leaving at the character drowning without the rescue? The ambiguity will speak to readers more.” The thing is, I’m not a positive person by some miraculous genetic coding. In fact, if you ask anyone who’s known me as a kid, they might tell you that I always looked sad. I looked broken. That’s because for as long as I could remember, I’d been insecure. My mind has always raced too quickly for me to catch up with it and most of the time, I just let it.
Now, let’s take it back one more time to the ripe old age of 15 when I was clinically depressed but no one knew because no one was talking about mental health then. Why would a 15-year-old, perfectly healthy kid have trouble physically getting out of bed? Depression. And during that dark time where it felt like I was consistently drowning, unsure of how to even ask for help, I lost my father to a heart attack. Now if there’s one thing you absolutely need to know about me, it’s that I came from a loving, amazing family. I have and still am very close to my immediate family. Years of bullying and a whole lot of crap, immigration crisis with my mother at the age of 11. A tremendous health scare at 24. So yeah, my life has been anything but rainbows and butterflies, but at some point, I made the choice to look at this world through different lenses. I chose to look beyond my circumstances and I chose to imagine a world better than the one I was living in. Now if you ask me whether that’s the right way, I can tell you with 100% certainty that it is for me. Because that’s all we can really vouch for — ourselves. I can’t guarantee that this might work you, but I can speak with certainty that it worked for me.
However, the road to this somewhat place of stability and peace wasn’t easy. After I graduated university and got my degree in English, I stopped writing original pieces entirely. Every time I wrote something that wasn’t a review or an article based on something else, I’d hear those very words replay in my head. “This is too happy. No one wants to see this. This won’t go far. Just stop, there’s no point. You’re not cut out for this.” Cut to three years later, after a lot of hard work on my mental health and a prodigious attempt to understand what my cup of tea actually looks like, I decided I’m going to write a novel. My father always believed I would, I never did. I’m about 97 pages into it and so far, I’m pretty proud of it. Surprise! So what the heck is the point of this article and what on earth does this have anything to do with the media we consume?
I’m still not entirely strong enough not to allow voices like renowned directors and the Academy from getting to me. At that point, I’m transported back into that desk where my work was torn to shreds for being, and I quote once again, “too happy.” But here’s the aching reality, I’m exhausted and I’m certain I’m not alone. It’s actually hard for me to sit through the same war film 20 times when I would much rather watch something that’s bringing me utmost joy. Mobsters and criminals? Not my cup of tea. My claustrophobia physically doesn’t allow me to watch films that take place in space, on a spaceship on the big screen. (I’m talking more Gravity, Intersteller, First Man, and less Star Wars.) I’m an absolute chicken and cannot watch 90% of films classified in the horror genre. I don’t stomach films with heavy drug use and violence very well, nor could I stomach medical dramas because I’m a massive hypochondriac. As it turns out, I am in fact a human being and unsurprisingly, imperfect.
The point in all this is this, we’ve become so keen on judging storytelling for what it isn’t when we should focus our attention to what it does as a whole? I don’t like dark and gritty, but today, I’ll sit through films that deal with women, people of color, and minorities because their stories are finally seeing the light. It’s important to me that I educate myself on the people who’ve watched from the sidelines for far too long. I’ll put myself through genres that may effect me because it’s important to. But I will also choose films like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society over The Godfather any day, not because one is better than the other, but because it’s personal. As mentioned above though my palette doesn’t include horror films, A Quiet Place took my heart and ran with it. I’m counting down the hours until the sequel because that’s how ardently the film touched me.
All that said, I’ve been quiet recently. It’s hard to write about our opinions because the backlash is so immediate, it’s almost hard to believe sometimes. And it has everything to do with language and the way people are choosing to voice their opinions. A while back, John Krasinski revealed an incredibly important lesson that Paul Thomas Anderson taught him, and I believe it’s crucial to quote it here today.
“I’ll tell you a big life lesson. Paul was over at my house, I think it was my 30th birthday party, and I had just seen a movie I didn’t love. I said to him over a drink, ‘It’s not a good movie,’ and he so sweetly took me aside and said very quietly, ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say that it’s not a good movie. If it wasn’t for you, that’s fine, but in our business, we’ve all got to support each other.’ The movie was very artsy, and he said, ‘You’ve got to support the big swing. If you put it out there that the movie’s not good, they won’t let us make more movies like that.’
Dude, Paul Thomas Anderson is out there on the wall for us! He’s defending the value of the artistic experience. He’s so good that maybe you project onto him that he’s allowed to be snarky, but he’s the exact opposite: He wants to love everything because that’s why he got into moviemaking. And ever since then, I’ve never said that I hate a movie.
So what’s considered cinema? What’s considered a good show? Why are we still asking these questions when art, at its best, is escapism. It’s an experience. It’s meant to either teach us something or help us through something. Writing is therapeutic. In light of recent events I’d rather not bring more attention to directly, it’s disheartening to think that a well known director could utter the words ‘comic book films aren’t cinema’. Respectfully disagreeing to say and hopefully for the final time, that conveying emotional and psychological experiences isn’t just something that happens in uber serious films that mirror the real world, but if a film or a story is well written, those very emotions are present in even the most unusual tales. It’s 2019 and it’s films like Black Panther that’ve beautifully conveyed the importance of sharing resources and the relationships that shape us. Trauma and progression and growth are found everywhere if we look closely, but the reality is, we can’t all look in the same direction and that’s okay. Our language needs to evolve in order to make people feel safe about wanting to tell the stories near and dear to their hearts. Because that’s what it comes down to, that lack of safety, that’s perhaps mostly an internal battle, but still. When you’re an aspiring writer who’s already criticizing herself every chance she gets, the world’s inability to grasp the concept of “It’s not my cup of tea” vs. “I don’t like it, therefore, it is not valid” is a hard pill to swallow.
Point being, in this rambling mess where I’m ultimately just trying to work through my feelings, I want to make it painfully clear to all our readers that any and all opinions we share on here are personal. You’ll be seeing a lot more comedy recaps than dramas because for the time being, they’re easier on my soul. And that’s okay. I’ve always wanted Marvelous Geeks to be a safe place where we can have discussions without ever dismissing another’s opinion as valid. I am not, nor was I ever hear to be a critic, I’m here to pick apart the things I love and scream about why they’re so great. I’m here to ship and let ship because human beings were never designed to go through life alone. I’m not here to discuss the things that aren’t my cup of tea because my time’s precious and the world’s problems are more important than the things we aren’t a fan of. Point being, I wanted to come on here and say that I’m trying to be more open to vulnerability in writing and I’m trying not to let the misguided, harsh opinions of my superiors get to me. “Being woke” hasn’t ruined storytelling, it’s strengthened it and made it that much more remarkable, raw, and profoundly captivating. Constructive criticism and dismissal aren’t mutually exclusive — art has and will always be subjective. All forms of art are valid in its respective categories no matter what. Comic book films are cinema as are horror and comedies and whatever else a plethora of hard work has been put into despite who’s watching it or not.
Discussions are open. Whatever floats your boat. This article has been sitting in my drafts for over a year now and I suppose I needed a push to finally get it out there.