Love it or Hate it: What Happened to the Middle Ground?

ghostbusters gear up for the first time

Passion can be a good thing.  In fact, it can be a great thing.  Hell, being passionate is fun when it comes to pop culture.  It’s fun to get excited about the things you love.  Every week I look forward to getting to my comic book shop to get my books on my pull list and just hang out and talk with the staff.  I get stoked when the latest comic book movie or show is about to debut and I geek out reading casting news or seeing set photos from movies.  Passion can also go the opposite way, too, and people can go overboard with their hatred of things.  Just look at all the unwarranted hate over the Ghostbusters reboot.  People saying that filmmakers need to die because they’re so entitled that they don’t believe a movie that they love (and will never disappear with the creation of a reboot) is a little insane.  Over the last year or so, all this passion and rage has got me wondering:  What happened to the middle ground?

I went to college to get into radio.  I always loved sound and sound editing, sound engineering and radio production but I also have been a life-long fan of movies.  In college, I studied filmmaking (mostly from a sound editing perspective) but I also studied the rhetoric of storytelling—whether that story is told through books, comics, music or movies.  It basically instilled in me a deeper love of movies and influenced me to write about them and, years later, attempt to be a wannabe movie critic online.

Like anyone, I’ve always had strong opinions on films but my opinions have been always varied.  Some films I love, some I hated.  There were ones that I thought were okay that leaned towards the good and others that I thought were okay that leaned towards the bad.  That’s why critics like myself often utilize the 5 point system when reviewing things.  Sometimes things are great but not perfect so we go with a 4 or something is bad but still has elements that are decent about it and we give it a 2.  Sometimes things are neither excellent nor terrible and their flaws and perks equal out and that’s why there’s a 3.  However, after being a wannabe critic for some years now and having a very active presence on social media since Myspace existed, it seems like that middle ground of 3 out of 5 is going the way of the dinosaurs.

I started to notice this thanks to my blog.  I started to experience that any time I gave a film a 3 out of 5 score and basically stated that it was “eh, okay,” I would get messages, emails, and comments stating how “wrong” I was (an opinion on a film being “wrong” is another phenomenon that makes no sense to me) or how I was viewing the film “incorrectly” and had to view it another way (usually in a way that will somehow make my experience match theirs) or they’d just go for the jugular and tell me that I’m a terrible writer, I’m not funny, my tastes in films suck and I’m a complete idiot.  Sure, I’d get these reactions from films I gave great reviews to from people who hated them and would get the same thing from people who loved the films I gave bad reviews to but the strongest reactions always seem to come from the films that I found weren’t totally terrible but not completely amazing either.  Hell, even some of my friends who review things professionally have said the same thing and made off-handed gripes about how people overreact to average scores.

batman v superman

For example, one of the most highly anticipated films of 2016 was Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice.  Lord knows I was super excited for the film and the movie-going geek populace had all the reasons to be going out of their mind with excitement.  This was going to be the first time we’d see two of DC’s biggest stars and pop culture mainstays duke it out on the big screen and in a live-action format.  However, after I saw it, I was a tad disappointed with it.  I didn’t hate it, mind you, I just thought the story was trying to accomplish too much in one film and it felt bloated.  I liked it but I didn’t love it like I wanted to.  I gave it a 3 out of 5 and not long after I posted my review and shared it on Twitter and Facebook did I get messages with how I “need to watch it again” because “I missed the brilliance of it” and one extremely respectful gentleman just told me to “fuck off.”  Weeks later I saw Captain America: Civil War and gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 and I never got the same reaction.  I didn’t even get the usual, “Oh, you’re just a Marvel fanboy and Marvel and Disney paid you to give it a good review.”  No, I just got told I’m wrong because I said there were things I liked about BvS and a lot of stuff I didn’t care for.

Is this a generational thing?  Are kids today really as entitled and as disrespectful as everyone claims on every social media platforms?  I don’t know if I buy that because the guy who told me to Eff Off for not loving BvS as much as him is a few years older than me.  But surely our elders don’t think this way.  They are from the era when America was supposedly at its best—the time Trump wants to take us back to.  They would never behave like this, would they?  They would look at things and assess both the merits and flaws and could understand that you can love, hate and also feel a tad mild towards things too, right?  Mmm, weren’t some of the Baby Boomers talking about how Obama was the worst president we’ve ever had for completely unspecified reasons and even before he went into office?  You never heard about them talking about the good and the bad with Obamacare.  Instead, they talked about how he was destroying America and “death panels.”

I hesitate to even say that this is something that’s always existed.  Growing up, I remember friends, colleagues and people I barely know acknowledging if they thought a film or property was “alright” but now those same people have seemed to have done away with the average experience and fallen into either only loving it or hating it.

JonestheCatAlien_1

Ultimately, though, should this reaction come as a surprise anymore?  Think of any clickbait article headline you’ve seen?  Every single one of them are jockeying for your attention and clicks that they make lofty promises of you seeing things that will “amazing you,” “bring you to tears” or even show you things that will “make your day/life” or be “the worst thing you’ll see all day/ever.”  You’re not going to click on an article that promises that these photos of cats doing people things are just “alright.”  So, have we just come to take that all or nothing mentality that we bring to the internet into our real-life?  Do we even have a real-life anymore because we spend so much time on social media?

I’m not saying that clickbait articles (as terrible as they can be—and yes, I admit this article is a tad clickbait-y) are fully responsible for this type of behavior.  To be honest, I don’t know what is.  I didn’t write this article to try and come up with why people seem to react harshly to people feeling just “average” about things, I’m just wondering why it is.  Has our society after decades and decades of telling people to do something or GTFO caused us to transform into an all-or-nothing mob?  If you don’t like something, you must hate it with every fiber of your being; if you don’t listen to Kanye West’s music you apparently need to hate the man and share memes about how you want him dead (a very strange reaction but I’ve seen it on Facebook).  If you love something, you must make others love it, too—especially those people who are just “okay” with it.  Like I said, passion is a good thing but has it obliterated the idea that we can just be “fine” with something?  Is it no longer possible to just find a TV show or a movie or a comic book storyline to just be “average?”  Or should I just give up and go all-in with everything?

Could this mindset be a result of bleeding over from other points in our everyday lives and how we see ourselves in the world?  Think about how we use skin color, religion, sexual orientation and political beliefs to separate us.  We refuse to compromise in everyday life and believe it’s all-or-nothing at all times.  Just looking at my Facebook newsfeed and I see guys saying if you don’t support Hillary Clinton you’re an idiot.  We argue about rights for the LGBT community and deny people the opportunity to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with.  Rather than understand and discuss, we have people claiming that it opens the doors to pedophiles and rapists but then they won’t react to actual threats of pedophilia and rapists in other facets of life.  Shootings are now a common way of life and are a daily occurrence but we refuse to talk gun control because, when you do, that means banning guns and an infringement of rights to some.  We’re literally polarized with everything in our society.  Pepsi or Coke?  Coffee or Tea?  Cake or Pie? It’s always “This or That?’ and never “Well, I like elements of both and have no preference of one over the other.”

ewan mcgregor as obi wan kenobi

We deal in absolutes all day, every day—despite the fact that Obi-Wan told us that only Sith Lords do that (sorry, Kenobi, that statement is also an absolute).  We live the life of “Us vs. Them” and we thrive on “drawing the line in the sand.”  We make statements like, “If you ain’t with us, you against us.”  There’s no middle ground in life, why should there be in our opinions of entertainment?  If we can’t even come to a middle ground when it comes to stuff that matters like our broken justice system and corrupt political climate how can we ever expect a person to not react wildly when someone states that they think a TV show is just alright enough to keep watching?

By our very nature, we seek inclusion.  We strive for definition and a group to call our own.  We label ourselves by our interests, political affiliation and even our body shapes.  However, in finding our groups, we also find our perceived enemy or what is the opposite of us.  The climate of our reality in our real lives and the fact that the internet seems to operate in black and white (or 1’s and 0’s) without a hint of grey or color to be seen it’s no surprise that we have this “Love it or Leave it” drive; that we see everything in extremes.  In our world, you’re either a Democrat or Republican, you’re either for guns or want them banned, you’re either a person who drinks Pepsi or Coke and you’re either someone who loves something entirely and think others are wrong for hating it or you hate something entirely and everyone who likes it is an idiot.  We see things entirely as “right or wrong” and we see this in instances where those words are literally meaningless.  This mentality has spilled into pop culture in a big way and it now means that you can’t enjoy something and admit it had problems or not enjoy something and discuss what was great about it.  Nope, it means if you gave Batman v Superman a 3 out of 5 then you hated the film and you’re an idiot for not loving it.