Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Harsh Criticism

(Note: Please excuse the following really pretentious post. Using long words in a self-important tone is a defense mechanism common to the net-dwelling fannis comicus. It serves to discourage disagreement by maximizing the risk of humiliation and minimizing the gains of friendship. And a post explaining the fannish need to nitpick and complain would not be the same without using the proper "fanboy voice" in the writing.)

It may surprise recent readers to learn this, but I have been in a beautiful, blissful mood since November 30th. I had been running ragged for several months at that point. Spreading myself a little too thin had caused me, for the most part, to burn out on blogging. I was very close to just stopping abruptly and disappearing from fandom. I've done this once or twice before, it's not hard to pick up again. Instead, I signed up to do even more writing, and immersed myself up to the bridge of my nose in the venture.

It worked beautifully! Sure, it has probably affected my writing in the most negative way possible (I'm sure in a few weeks this annoying tendency to milk my writing for the highest possible wordcount to the detriment of theme, mood, grammatical accuracy, and actual communication, will fade away) Once the month was over, I suddenly found myself well-rested and brimming with ideas. I am attempting to write fiction. I am writing more on my blog. I am completely caught up with my blog-reading. I am smiling and laughing as I walk through the hallways at work. I am accepting of myself and unashamed of my origins. My heart is filled with good will for everyone I meet. I love comics, comics fandom, the blogosphere, and the internet again. I love everything, almost.

All of this good will seems to be stopping short at the feet of the people who work and slave to deliver quality entertainment to an ungrateful fandom. It seems that my sensibilities are set to hypersensitive. While I harbor no personal resentment towards the individual creators, the very small little details that grate on my exposed nerves, the ones which, prior to NaNoWriMo, I had tried so very hard to forgive and keep reading past, are suddenly to such an extent that I can not ignore them, even for the sake of a story which is ninety-five percent pure awesome. I must complain, in detail, and in harsh language, about these little problems.

In short, ladies and gentlemen of the internet, I am in full "Fanboy" mode, and have been rampaging accordingly since the month began. I'm sure when its over I will awaken from my fannish stupor, still hugging my three-quarter drunken bottle of liquid rage, dazed, confused, and completely unaware of what happened in the preceding posts. I will then collect my things, look back on the negativity contained on this blog with great embarrassment, take a shower and attempt to return to polite society. Most of fandom should understand, we are comic book fans after all and this is normal behavior. Most of you will give me a wide berth until you're certain I won't bite anymore. Everyone will politely ignore my previous comments, and new fans will have no clue as to my prior rampages with the exception of a slight blush whenever there is cause to praise the comics work of Tamora Pierce.

I very much doubt the creators themselves will remember or even care to remember my rantings. In comics, creators are a part of fandom, they get this from every quarter, I am just another nutbag fan, and I am hardly the harshest critic on the block. There is absolutely no point in pretending to be perfectly happy when perfect happiness is hardly my natural response, especially when feigning niceness might lead to stress, exhaustion, and the need to write another thirty-day novel to relax. Besides, having plopped down my three dollars to cover their royalties I am entitled to get whatever enjoyment is possible out of the comic book and as many of you know, ranting and raving on the internet is immensely enjoyable.

Complaining about comics is a joy in itself, and a form of socialization on the internet. It is one of three possible compensations for a disappointing read, the other two being mockery and potential increase in value. It allows a fan to show off their own verbal and analytical skills to the detriment of the creator, and even display a greater imagination by offering alternative stories. Complaining in a witty and entertaining manner, commonly referred to as "“snarking", is beneficial to the health and self-esteem of your common fan, and it serves to blow off the frustration that builds from watching a character that you grew up with take a direction that is deeply distressing for personal reasons.

Now, while most of my readers are members of the superhero fandom, and are already positive acquainted with the positive benefits of griping, there are still some people reading who find quite a bit of harm in these complaints. Most notably among this minority is She For Whom the Calender Trembles, Maker of the Tuna Casserole, Roaster of the Roast Beast, Scourge of the Parent-Teacher Association, Infamous for the "My Daughter Does Not Need to be in That Program" Altercation Which Resulted in the Transformation of Three Board Members from Flesh to Stone. Her full name has been known to cause spontaneous combustion in the faint of heart, so you may refer to her as "Mama" the Foul. To avoid being turned into a lovely statuette, offerings must be made on three seperate annual occasions, a pilgrimage must be undertaken each winter, regular verbal correspondence must occur and the request that I "be nicer to the other kids" must be periodically honored.

For the benefit of "Mama" the Foul, I will admit the obvious, that there is little point in throwing personal insults at a creator, criticizing the wrong creator, or criticizing a creator for the wrong things aside from venting pent-up frustrations. But, consider this -- in my normal job, I work in lower middle management. As a blogger, I can't get a writer like Geoff Johns fired (I don'’t think ANYONE could get Geoff Johns fired at this point, his name is etched in stone on the DC writing assignments list only the other titles he writes on change), but as the immediate supervisor of Poor Hapless Bystander I can certainly hurt his chances of surviving the next round of staff cuts if I'm not careful to explain precisely how he is responsible for the continuing daily sunrise in as glowing terms that equal or surpass the glowing terms his rival'’s supervisor uses when she explains how her subordinate is responsible for the continuing daily sunrise (performance reviews suck). This is hard to do when I sit down at my desk and obsess over the one fluorescent yellow thread in an otherwise perfect earth-tone tapestry.

I'’m not the only one who obsesses over the little things, thank heaven for fandom. I'm also not the only person out there in lower middle management who relaxes by obsessing over these things, and then complaining about them.

I am one of very few who gets told by her own mother she should feel guilty about it, and then writes an entire post explaining that she is not sorry, not wrong, but may have been just a tad bit oversensitive and that's okay but there's absolutely nothing personal. (Though if JSA sets me off this week, I may be moving on to personal insults -- in which case I'll need someone to distract Mama the Foul.)

Now, while complaining about everything is a guilty pleasure, it is still an enormous pleasure and a traditional comic book fan pastime. It is, in particular, a traditional superhero comics fan pastime.

So with Mama the Foul placated I was planning to, in the spirit of tradition, saturate this blog in the dubious pleasure of being completely unfair to some poor schmuck who was just trying to bring some joy into the collective heart of fandom and educate the comics blogging community about all of the numerous flaws in George Perez's Wonder Woman reboot. However, I'’ve rambled on long enough for one post, and there really isn'’t enough memory on Blogger to accommodate a detailed explanation of everything that was wrong with George Perez's reboot of Wonder Woman. Still, if tomorrow I find myself in a foul mood towards comic book creators again, this would be a safe rant to expect.

4 comments:

  1. "Complaining about comics is a joy in itself, and a form of socialization on the internet."

    Reading the complaints is also a pleasure, especially for those of us not as skilled at expressing ourselves. So back off Mama, and let Ragnell write.

    Seriously, I spend more time reading critical discussion of comics than I actually spend reading the comics themselves. I'm not sure what that says about me or comics, but it does help justify the 24 bits (as my Granddad used to say) I spend on each one.

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  2. Everyone needs at least one splendid and ridiculous obsession. Actually sometimes several. Which is why I try to avoid those kind of people bursting with mental fitness and NO obsessions.

    You happen to write very well, and I enjoy it so much. If a little snarkiness makes your day complete, then by GOD snark away. And don't even get me started on "dark Gnort". Oh dear God the horror.

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  3. Amazing things happen when you let your inner editor take a break, don't they? (It's a NaNo thing, you'd have to, you know, actually take a chance and try to write 50k in a month to understand it if you don't already...)

    Still, as someone who has no problems with a padded word count I, for one, am enjoying your little fannish rampaging. And the meandering route you're taking to get there (It just takes a little longer to read, that's all, but I don't mind taking my time when something's worthwhile. Not every gratification has to be instant, after all.). Look at it this way, people usually learn more from the failures than the successes. Creators and fans alike and sometimes that process might be a bit caustic, sure, but as long as it can be used constructively to spur some greater creativity, where's the harm? And if not constructively then at the very least it can be creative. If you ask me, I think you've got that very well covered.

    So, yes, I agree, don't cut off the snark faucet anytime soon, please.

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