Criticism and the Actor

There have been a lot of odd verbal fights between famous and semi-famous people lately. First there was Aimee Mann tweeting that she thought Ice-T was a bad actor, and he shot back, telling her to–and I quote, “eat a hot bowl of dicks.” (Whether it is the bowl itself that is hot, or the dicks that are hot, I don’t know.) She of course immediately apologized for having an opinion because she is a white woman clearly terrified of angry black men who used to sing about shooting white cops before selling out and taking lots of money from a white guy named Dick Wolf. Ice-T then said she should spend less time worrying about his acting and more time concentrating on her music, which in his opinion was lousy. Personally, I like her music, and I liked his music, and while in my subjective opinion Ice-T is not exactly a master of his craft, I do enjoy watching him in silly B-movies from time to time. (“Always check the barrel, bitch!” and “I want to shoot you so bad my dick’s hard!” are two lines from his old movies that come to mind and are currently making me smile.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, then Sir Patrick Stewart berated some British “comedian” for standing at the back of the stage with his hands in his pockets, essentially upstaging the classically trained actor while he tried to present some stupid award to some silly celebrity. While I agree with the criticism, perhaps he could have handled it without making vicious fun of the comedian’s “fat belly.” (If you can find the video of this event online, I highly recommend it. The genuine anger in the eyes of both these men over what is essentially nothing at all is absolutely hysterical.)

All this got me to thinking…while I believe in the freedom of speech, I am sad to say it doesn’t exist without repercussions. I go to movies with my friends, we call ourselves The Film Pigs, and we record ourselves talking about the movies on video, and post it on YouTube. We often say negative things, as we are grumpy old men who pay lots of hard-earned money to watch these movies. I try to keep my comments focused on the movie itself, and I mostly refrain from making sweeping generalizations about the actors, writers, directors, producers, studios, etc.. (Sometimes this is unavoidable it seems, especially in the case of Saturday Night Live movies.) Still, simply having one opinion about one piece of work could get me blackballed by filmmakers with no sense of humor and no desire for an actual back-and-forth with their audience. For example, I am very vocal about finding the movie Avatar incredibly dull. I imagine if James Cameron gave a shit about who I was and heard I felt that way, he’d never hire me to do anything with him. But what he’d be missing (outside of the pleasure of working with a great actor like me) is that I was disappointed with that movie because I have loved his movies in the past. And I’d love to work with Martin Scorsese even though I thought Shutter Island was an utter piece of junk. And I get that these guys were doing their best on these projects (I guess, I don’t really know) and I am just a guy watching these things and it’s a lot easier to sit and watch something than it is to put it together (although I would argue that what I had to go through to make the money I used to buy tickets to these things was probably a lot uglier than anything they actually went through making their movies.)

Now, I haven’t been able to sit down with these guys and actually chat about these works, so I am simply imagining potential reactions. Maybe they would be very interested in debating the merits and failures of their work, I don’t know. It seems to me they should…I mean, what’s the point of creating something if you aren’t willing to hear all visceral reactions to it, positive or negative? What’s more, if you aren’t willing to process negative reactions to your work, then what good are the positive ones? Personally, on my own small level, I relish in the negative criticism as much as the positive. Does it frustrate me sometimes when someone doesn’t get something? Of course it does. But there is often lessons to be learned, new ideas to be applied next time around, through the negative criticism as much as the positive stuff. And I don’t mean that I take to heart someone calling me a “faggot” because he doesn’t think my latest internet sketch is funny. I’m talking about the thoughtful response…when there is a “because” following the “I don’t like it.” Perhaps Ice-T would have reacted to Aimee Mann differently if she had said, “I don’t think Ice-T is a very good actor because a lot of the time I can’t really understand what he’s saying.” Or, “I don’t really like Ice-T on that cop show because he doesn’t seem like he has properly researched his role and plus he wrote all those songs about killing cops and he hasn’t recorded any songs about how ironic it is that he now plays one of television.” And maybe that big-belly comedian guy wouldn’t have been so angry if Patrick Stewart had simply said, “I’m sorry, would you mind waiting backstage while I do this presentation, I’m finding your standing back there a little distracting.”

I mean, being positive is important, but so is being negative. And if you can work it out, communicate things just right, your negativity is positive. At least, that’s the way I see it.

But what do I know? I’m just a faggot who makes unfunny internet sketches.

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