Permission to Print
Why are you such a pompous asshole about things like movies and books? Did you ever think that maybe some people like to veg out to mindless fun?
I spend all day at work and if I want to pay $2.99 for a crappy movie, I will. I've seen I Spit on Your Grave -- it's not art.
Why do you have a problem with people liking mindless fun? What is wrong with movies and music that aren't arty or deep? I know why you like art films. Do you know why people like entertainment?
I've written to you before about movies. I know you aren't really a jerk, but you sound like one. I don't like reading movies. I don't like black bars on my television. I do not feel dumb about it. -J.
My response will not be as angry as you probably expect. I will hit your letter point by point and explain as best I can. This will probably get me in more trouble with the angered souls out there, but, again, this is opinion. It's not sacrosanct.
I do believe some people just "veg out" to "mindless fun." Interesting choice of words, as "veg out" typically means to be brain dead, and "mindless fun" speaks for itself. Is there anything wrong with that? No. I enjoy some fairly vapid films, books, and music. I think it's bad when that's all people want to consume. I actually talked to someone at work about this today. If all I watched was violent pornography, wouldn't someone be well within the realm of justified to say that a steady diet of violent pornography may not be the best thing to take in? I think so. The same goes for "mindless" movies and the like.
You pay $2.99 for a crappy movie? Why would you pay for a crappy movie? Better yet, why would you watch one? You'll get that $2.99 back. You won't get that time back. Wouldn't you rather spend it with something enjoyable? Maybe if movie rentals were $50 a pop you'd rethink your choices. Part of the problem is that people treat what should be art (and entertainment can be art) as disposable. When movies/books/music/art work and whatnot are given the same societal value as soda, there is a problem.
I also never said I Spit on Your Grave is art. I enjoy the film, but I don't put it on the same plane as Irreversible, which I do consider to be artistic. Nor is Zarchi's movie entertaining. It does, however, make me think. Did I pay $2.99 for it? No. I bought it for probably $19. I don't mind spending money for work I support. I will not be buying, renting or watching Valentine's Day, however.
I don't have a problem with people enjoying things simply for entertainment value. I cannot stress that enough. I also know why people enjoy those things. I've thought about it a lot, actually. Have written extensively about it here, on Film Threat, and other places. I think the more important question is: What do you consider to be entertainment and why? When you wrote that if you want to pay $2.99 for a crappy movie you will, I have to wonder if you've really given thought to what motivates your choices. We have written back and forth about movies before, and I know some of what you enjoy (and I agree with you that Clerks II had more heart than the first one), but have you really thought about why you make the viewing choices you do? I'm not asking that to be a pompous asshole, but to see how much thought you've really given to it. A while ago you told me you rented the latest Die Hard movie and weren't sure why. You said you didn't even like the first one, and you regretted seeing the latest one. Why did you pick it? Because it was on the New Release rack? Because you had seen everything else? Because you like Bruce Willis or that kid who represents the Mac? Because you only will watch PG-13 movies? Because you thought it may be better than the first one? To this day I still can't figure it out, but it's not really my problem. Since you called me on the carpet, though, I'll return the favor: Why did you rent a movie you seemingly had no desire to see?
You do a good job of pointing out things you don't like (and nobody can make you feel "dumb" unless you let them), but you haven't pointed out what you like.
I think, J., a huge part of the problem is that people have lost the fine art of debate. I don't write what I write on the entertainment versus art issue to be personal attacks. I do write them as attacks on society, however. They are my opinions on what I feel is wrong with how culture treats art and entertainment. I don't think my opinion is necessarily the right one, but it is what I believe. I find it strange and somewhat sad that I can write just about anything on politics or other sociological issues and not hear much of anything from anyone, but when I write about my feelings on art versus entertainment, people really get upset and actually call me names (like you did). Why is that?
Could it be because people feel there is very little they can do about politics and corporate rule, but when it comes to what they bring into their living room to enjoy, they have control over that. That is exactly why I feel it is so important -- the fact that you can control it says to me that you should be thinking about it quite a bit. Really examining what you enjoy.
Remember, these are just my opinions. If it causes someone to examine the choices they make -- great. I don't think that is a bad thing. Why shouldn't people question these things? The fact that people get so upset over what I write says to me that they have some stake in the topic
J., I also want to thank you for letting me reprint the letter (touched up per your request). Since other people have expressed concern, I think it is good to present another side to this debate. I think you may have raised more issues than you planned on, though, and my challenge is still valid. Tell me why you rented a movie you had no real desire to see? Post your comment here (I know that's a long shot), and I know you don't like to do e-mail because that's all you do at work, but I think the answer is an important one.
And here's the deal for the future when I piss someone off and you either right or text me. I put myself out there and end up regretting it every so often, but I still do it. If you are going to criticize me (which I don't mind as it comes with the territory), I think it's only fair that you are just as open about it, too. I will use your real name (not your e-mail info, though) and print it here for others to see. I have been told by some of you that you don't openly comment because you don't want everyone to see what you think. That's fine. Make sure you say it in the text, e-mail or phone call. If you request I don't use your name, I won't, but I may still reprint your comments here. If I'm writing a public piece that you are commenting on, then your comments can be public, too.