Fixing the Dark Side of Our Society

The Dark Knight was a massive success – critically, financially, and artistically.

It was a fantastic movie, though a touch long. The characters (Joker, in particular) became iconic. It took what was already an excellent film in Batman Begins, turned the sucker to 11 and broke the knob clean off.

Everyone saw it. People who weren’t even Batman fans saw it because they felt they had to. Heck, Heath Ledger won an Oscar for playing a guy in clown makeup.

And, just like fans of Arrested Development who are freaking out because there may only be one bonus season of their show whose return they begged for (causing Will Arnett, one of the stars of the show, to essentially say: “Look, you’re getting another season. How about you be happy with at least that and we’ll go from there?”), fans of The Dark Knight immediately began speculating on what the next movie would be: how would they top it? How do you replace The Joker? What could possibly be this good?

For years, those looking forward to the final piece of the Christopher Nolan trilogy speculated and came up with grand ideas. They Photoshopped, they wrote tons of useless fan fiction, and they had high expectations.

What they got in return was The Dark Knight Rises. I did not watch or read any reviews of TDKR before that weekend. I saw it twice opening weekend and concluded that it was a near-perfect movie for me. It was fun, it was full of action, it made you think, and it really wrapped up the series nicely. The pacing was great, the sets were outstanding, and the characters were top-notch.

You wouldn’t know it if you looked online.

I’m not linking to anybody here, but just Google “Dark Knight Rises review” and feast your eyes on the piles of comments:

  • “How could he fix his back?! Oh, THAT’s realistic!”
  • “I thought this was a Batman movie! There wasn’t enough Batman!”
  • “How come we don’t know Bane’s backstory?!” [Note: The Joker is considered to be the perfect Bat-villain, and there was zero backstory on him, aside from several conflicting made-up stories he told.]
  • “How can Batman’s plane fly that fast?! Even calculating that he had to go 5 miles in 3.4 seconds to avoid the blast radius, he would have had to achieve a speed of blahblahblahblahblah…”
  • “There’s no way he could get back to Gotham City so fast from that pit!”

These are all paraphrased, but they are all actual comments I saw in both reviews and the blog comments on those reviews. Yes, a Batman movie was being criticized on the basis of calculating top speeds and the feasibility of them.

Art house movies don’t get this kind of scrutiny. Best Picture winners don’t get questioned or analyzed this much. It was stunning – and supremely annoying.

Here’s what really happened: in the time between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, fans of the movie started imagining the perfect follow-up, despite not having any experience in making movies. They knew what they thought would be cool, and Christopher Nolan made something different from what they were picturing in their heads.

So, in response, they thought that the movie sucked and looked for reasons to complain about it to anyone that would listen.

I love the internet, even when sudden changes to it can make me freak. It’s a powerful tool for research, networking, and communication. I’ve built my business on it. It, uh, powers this writing.

But the flip side to this is that the internet has given us a soapbox we didn’t need to stand on. Suddenly, because we can, we are able and allowed to voice our opinions about stuff.

Never mind the fact that, should we hang out in real life, most people would shut each other up when they whine too much. Happened to me in high school all the time. That’s what friends are for.

But because we’re not facing anybody, we can spend our time wallowing in our own pool of cynicism – masking it over as intellectual discourse.

My suggestion is not that people should be banned from having opinions. Not everybody has to like The Dark Knight Rises just because I did. But we’ve transitioned from being a culture that was very tolerant of negativity and cynicism because we got used to it into a culture that is almost completely built on it.

We whine. We complain. We talk. We talk a lot.

There was a very funny web site that I used to subscribe to that covered a lot of pop culture stuff, and recently, I stopped reading it. It’s not that it isn’t funny anymore – it still is, and it covered a lot of topics that I enjoy reading about.

It’s that I realized how negative everything was. Everything that happened was an excuse to get on a high horse and write something that sounded like intelligent thought, but was really just using bigger words to whine about crap that isn’t worth paying attention to.

So here’s how I say we fix it: if you find yourself in a complaining spiral, do these things:

First, can you just, like, not watch/read/experience the thing you’re complaining about? Hey, if you don’t like the Twilight movies, I get it. Good grief, do I get it. But unless you are watching them to appease your wife who insists that you watch them with her (hi honey!), why do you keep watching them? You hated the first one, so stop there! Say you didn’t like it and move on. Don’t write thousand word reviews of stuff you don’t like and never expected to like. You think Honey Boo Boo is going to lead to the collapse of civilization? Me too. But that’s why I don’t write about it or watch it every week. Hate [insert politician here]? You know the only reason politicians are around is because people pay attention to them, right?

Like, just say your piece briefly, if at all, and move on. It gets old.

Second, go accomplish something instead. Unfortunately, the stereotype of the blogger in his parents’ basement is alive and well, and for good reason: it’s still accurate. I’ve seen pictures of bloggers who look like they haven’t showered or cleaned themselves up in months commenting on how ugly or talentless celebrities are. You know how you get the ultimate revenge? By being a productive member of society. By making a difference. By being the bigger person.

That blog I was telling you about? The author, at one point, commented on how he spent last Saturday watching House of Cards from start to finish on Netflix. This is a guy who apparently is married and has at least one kid. House of Cards is a 13-episode series at one hour apiece.

So this guy has the time to sit in front of Netflix for 13 hours on a Saturday instead of spending time with his family? Who gives a crap what your opinion is of anything at that point? Unless you’re sick on the couch, there is absolutely no reason to sit around for 13 hours straight watching TV!

Go do something. Be accomplished. Take up a hobby that doesn’t involve judging other people.

I hate Twilight. I think Honey Boo Boo is the stupidest thing in the world (as is most of TLC at this point). I think House of Cards is an excellent show.

I have opinions. I’m free to share them, as are you. But at some point, I need to stop complaining about the stuff that I can’t do anything about and move on to things that get me revved up.

Let’s create a culture that rewards accomplishment instead of giving attention to things we don’t like. Then, and only then, will they have a chance of going away.

And if they don’t, at least you’re doing something productive with your time instead of wasting your breath and depressing people around you.

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