Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Why does there have to be people like Heather in this world?"

That's a paraphrase of a line from Blue Velvet. I’ve changed it to Heather because of the movie Heathers. In case you don’t know Heathers is about the destructive power of a high school click. Three of the members are named Heather. They are cruel and manipulative and arrogant. I was thinking of this in regards to a couple of Blogs that I’ve read in the last few weeks.

Part of the reason I haven’t posted for over a month is that I was both in a play as an actress and designing sets and costumes for the same play. The play closed last night. About a week or so before we opened, a very young reviewer for a local free, “hip" rag posted the blog below on the webpage of the magazine (not a personal blog). http://www.weeklydig.com/blog/articles/dear_boston_fringe_theater_suck_less_love_jenna

Now it is in fact a criticism of a line in our promotional material, which she has used to take all of Boston Theatre to task, but of course, as the prodigious comments beneath it indicate this is not at all clear on first read, and she only mentions OUR company and production by name, and uses our press release photo making it seem that the title is a comment on our show which she had not seen as of the time of writing because it HAD not opened! She then did come and review the show at some point last week (here) but it is hardly an apology and appeared after three older and more experienced reviewers had already praised our show. Rather hoping on a bandwagon as opposed to being as fabulously clever and original as she seems to think herself. All of her reviews are equally full of trendy terms and expletives. I did not comment as I felt that most or the other comments said everything I wanted to say quite well and well, I doubt it affected our box office much either way.

What really caught my eye about this incident was the fact that her ‘voice' was so similar to that of another blog writer I’ve read. This a the blog of a woman in Washington State who writes about J-Pop on a regular basis. She annoys me quite a lot, and I always resolve to not go back to her site, but curiosity draws me back. I’ve now gone a week without looking—one day at a time as the 12 steppers say. She describes herself as enjoying ‘making people feel stupid.’ What kind of person is proud of that? She also describes herself as arrogant and she’s proud of that as well. I’ve commented a few times occasionally to agree, but most often to disagree with her conclusions regarding taste and talent. She prides herself on her knowledge of Japanese culture and slams most fans of J-Pop as having no idea about it. Now, I’m not an expert by any means, but I do have some knowledge and I felt the need to point out that an assumption she was making was not supported by actual beliefs in Japan. She closed the comments after mine. I was vaguely off topic which was ostensibly about what makes a good singer, but she had certainly opened the floor to my point. This is about the third time that she’s declared herself bored or annoyed and “over” the topic when I’ve questioned her.

I certainly don’t believe that these are the same woman, and I’m sure that there are other blog writers with similar voices—the same number in fact that write in the maudlin and self-pitying tone on ‘goth’ and other adolescent blogs. What bothers me is the need we seem to have for this kind of person. Now a critic is supposed to be harsh, and must needs be a little arrogant. Certainly some of the greatest critics/writers are quite acerbic—Dorothy Parker and Frank Rich spring to mind, but theirs is a clever voice, an unusual voice, and in the end they were very concerned, not with making others feel stupid, but with promoting better art. Supposedly our young Dig reviewer is concerned with better theatre, but she seems to be too in love with her own voice to be sincere. She is very young. Is it merely enough to forgive because of the certainty that we have when young that we are right and that we know so much? I would like to believe that I was never so arrogant; that I always knew that there was more that I had to learn, but I am not so sure. As to Miss-JPop who is in her late 20's according to her own profile, she is not paid to spout vitriol, she just does it for fun, and unfortunately or fortunately with the web she has an audience.

What bothers me too, and this is the connection with Heathers that has me worried, is the voices that seek to praise these arrogant little shits. "Oh, oh, you’re so clever. Oh, oh, you say it like it is." I am annoyed with myself for my efforts to talk to Miss J-Pop as though she had something worthwhile to say. It is only J-Pop after all. Hardly worth the time it takes to type. Note, I am not saying that entertainments are worthless, but they are a worthless thing to debate when the world is in the state that it is in. Do I need or rather think I need her validation? Am I experiencing the same hubris in trying to show off my own knowledge? Nothing I say will change her mind one whit nor impress her. Am I (and most of the others on her site) looking for a Heather? A click leader to make us feel connected? God, I find it dispicable, but powerful people often get ahead in life by making scapegoats. We are all so relieved that it is not us on the receiving end of the tirade that we suck up to prevent the evil eye swinging our way.