They Hate Us for Our Big Words: Dark Knight Reviews Breed NYC Backlash

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07/22/2008 9:00 AM |

No message board or comments section complaint about “critics” (because all of us are the same person, doing the same job in the same way) has yet, in the history of the internet, revealed a respect for or even basic understanding of the role of the film critic, but the L’s Henry Stewart has notices a nefarious undercurrent to the backlash-to-the-backlash. Henry, explain.

Thanks to positive press in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Time, as well as from bloggers, The Dark Knight at one point had a flawless 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That is, until a few days before its opening, when a handful — a modest trickle, really — of negative and mixed reviews hit the web, coincidentally from publications with New York in their titles (and, oddly, critics named David): David Fear at Time Out New York, David Denby at the New Yorker and David Edelstein at New York.

Predictably, fanboys took umbrage and, in Time Out’s comments section, expressed their outrage at all three critics, though mostly Fear. In a typical response, Youareastupidcuntface told Fear to "suck a dick." (On Rotten Tomatoes, several fanboys left Denby death threats.)

But more surprising was the vitriol against New York City that the Davids inspired, especially at Time Out‘s website but also on a few blogs and message boards across the web. (Of course, ironically, the aforementioned magazines that published positive reviews are all based in New York, too.) IGN has a running thread called: "FACT: New York ******* hates The Dark Knight."

"Out of 4 rotten reviews, 3 are from NY critics," wrote AllDat, as though exposing a secret conspiracy. "So true," ZellJr cryptically responded, omitting the secret meaning of this fact that the posters seemed to tacitly understand.

The secret meaning, I suppose, is that no one expected anything else from those hoity-toity New York Critics. Invite readers to comment on negative or mixed reviews of popular movies and you inevitably get people trotting out the same old insults about critics in general. Make your own movie, then, why don’t you. Write a non-biased review, jerk. Get a girlfriend.

"MAYBE [YOU WRITE BAD REVIEWS] BECAUSE YOU CAUGHT YOUR WIFE DOING SOMEONE FROM HARLEM DIE DOUCHEBAG," posits a user named Dark Knight at Time Out. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one.) But many commentors, like that one (sort of), are shaping the backlash against the negative reviews for Dark Knight as a larger issue, not just with movie critics but with New York critics. And not just New York critics, then, but with the city itself.

"Seriously, some one needs to crack open the NEW YORK conspiracy," Adam wrote. "It can’t be hapenstance [sic], the negative reviews."

Justin asks the hard question: "Did you guys sit around at your New York Critics meeting and say you were all going to give a Dark Knight a bad review?" (Wait, they have a meeting?) Michael wrote what everyone was thinking:

"Sounds almost as if there is an unholy alliance by these critics to be the only ones stopping [Dark Knight] from being as great as it should be."

Because New York hates great movies like terrorists hate America! (And great movies are American, ergo New Yorkers are terrorists. No wonder they invited Hitlermadinejad to speak at Columbia!) But let’s turn this talk about unholy alliances around and try to crack open a different conspiracy: why do Americans hate New York?

The unconditional goodwill that the country showed New York in the weeks and months following September 11th seems to have largely evaporated. My parents visited a church last year in North Carolina and, while "sharing the peace" with a man behind them, they struck up a conversation.

"Where y’all from?"
"New York."
"No, city."
"Well, y’all can keep that."

And he un-Christianly ended the conversation. It wasn’t like that back in 2001, they said, but apparently time re-opens all wounds. It seems like New York City is once again, in the country’s imagination, the hotbed of Jewish, homosexual, communist, liberal elitism that it was before 9/11, where we light churches on fire with burning flags. (On Rotten Tomatoes, a user named Kyokushin wrote of Denby: "This guy is g-a-y." Xtrykr added: "he’s not just gay, he’s piss-filled *** bag.") So, by parsing the comments left by blog trolls, can we tease out the sources of the country’s animosity toward NY?

1) Too many hipsters, dicks and dumbshits live there.

"I’m from New York. I love New York," wrote JD. "I’m not pompous, I’m not a NYC hipster jerk. But David Fear is a damn Hipster jerk."

Agreed. You can tell from Fear’s writing that he adores the deep v-neck tee, while the copious Arcade Fire references in his reviews are excessive. Obviously, America hates hipsters (what does that even mean anymore?), but then again so do many New Yorkers.

Later, JD tried to assuage everyone’s contempt with a comment as factually baseless as his earlier claim that The New Yorker is essentially a hipster magazine.

"Even though all the negativity is coming from New York, it’s coming from magazines no one in New York reads," he wrote. "THE NEW YORKER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, and TIME OUT NEW YORK do not, I repeat, DO NOT SPEAK for REAL NEW YORKERS." Real New Yawkers like Da Dark Nite, ok?

Other New Yorkers, like Jonathan, also turned against their fellow city dwellers.

"There’s too many people like this dumbshit [Fear] living in new york," he wrote. "I need to move."

2) Yankees fans are dicks.

"Look, you have the nation watching the All-Star game tonight," Andrew wrote at Time Out, "and we’ll get to see your derelict sorry-ass fans: you don’t need to carry the torch for NYC stuck-up priggery this week."

Andrew’s perspective clearly seems colored by anti-Yankee sentiments. Like the terrorists hate us for our freedom, could America hate New York for its championship baseball?

Nope! I’ll kill the suspense:

3) It’s because we’re literary and pretentious.

Either NY critics don’t like The Dark Knight because it’s Chicago-y and New Yorkers hate Chicago-y shit—a strange sentiment shared by many commentors across the web—or "they are just blowhards who just like to rock the boat with their literary pretentiousness," wrote our insecure Yankee hater, Andrew. Zing! "Get over your damn selves."

"Liberal New York authors have never really swayed my opinion in seeing a movie since they give good reviews to garbage movies," Jackarse added.

Anti-Chicago, anti-Yankee, anti-hipster conspiracies aside, the New York antipathy seems to spring from the dangerous anti-intellectualism that elected George W. Bush to office.

Writing about Edelstein’s review at New York‘s website, James, a.k.a. Fargusband, wrote, "only in New York is such stilted and elaborately condescending speech acceptable." ("Elaborately condescending"?)

To be clear, I’m not trying to argue that Americans outside of major urban centers are stupid. I also understand that Internet commenters are not a representative sample of the American population. (I’d also like to say that if I met a North Carolinian in a NY church, I would not discontinue our conversation based solely on his provenance.) But surely it’s fair to say that a strain of suspicion towards erudition runs through parts of the country, one that sometimes manifests itself as hostility toward New York City? (And "Hollywood liberals"?) To wit:

"These NYcretins," wrote ihatedavidsguts at Time Out, "I mean, critics are turning I LOVE NY to I f****ng LOOOOATTTHHHE f****ng new york, Land of Pompous Pretentious ASSHOLE gasbags!!!"

And why? Because Fear dared to opine that The Dark Knight‘s "pummeling action rarely informs the psychological angst"? On the Time Out board, a user named Hagiazo contributed what he called an impression of a typical NY critic:

"I felt that The Dark Knight was just a little too anti-destablishmentarianistic for it’s own good. Pro quo, the film was also too supercalifragilistic with little to no expialadosciousness. Er go the film just does not satisfy this critic’s hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliaphobia."

Neptune032701 criticized Fear less creatively:

"You sound like a complete elitist jerk…Reading your review felt like work and it was very obvious that you were desperate to impress others with your vocabulary."

With little to no expialadosciousness, I might add. Along similar lines, Larkin wrote:

"Critics from New York only using big words to sound more intelligent then they really are, and to hide the fact that they are the ones who are hacks!"

Yourmom (oh no he didn’t!) shares the sentiment:

"Maybe when I become an elitist new york film critic, I can write overly harsh and almost unreadable reviews too."

Hear that, New York? Write more easy like, because the fact that you try and write all big is one of the many reasons people don’t like you. You’re also a gay communist.

11 Comment

  • That was good reading. Thank you gay communist writer dude.

  • don’t overanalyze idiots. if the negative reviews came from the midwest, the fanboys would be making jokes about bumblefuck iowa.

  • Why do some automatically denigrate outspoken fans of Batman and other “comic-book movies”, which don’t really need to be treated differently than any other fictional movies, as “fanboys”? This is clearly derogatory especially as a reference to anyone who is an adult, as many of the fans are and of which there is a growing number. Of course many of the comments on the negative reviews were childish and crude, but many were also very intelligent and simply pointed out that the reviewers really didn’t get the point of the film and were clearly unfamiliar with the original source material, which the movie held to more faithfully than the Burton films. Isn’t it natural to expect someone to try to correct someone they feel doesn’t know about a subject as much as they do, and who appears to be exploiting a creation they are passionate about by writing a negative review just to stand out?

  • The vast majority of comments that I read across the web were childish, crude and unintelligent. Those commentors get lumped together as fanboys for the sake of concise, comic prose. I don’t think anyone here’s talking about posters trying to have a substantive discussion on the film’s merits and demerits.

    Anyway, the dictionary defines fanboy as: “an obsessive male fan (usually of movies, comic books, or science fiction).” Debating the loyalty of a film to its original “graphic novel” source material sounds mildly obsessive (i.e., fanboyish) to me, as does questioning the sincerity (“exploiting…,” “just to stand out”) of a reviewer who dislikes a movie. Denby, Edelstein et al. write for large magazines with a large readership base. They’re writing for them, not for the Rotten Tomatoes crowd and its knuckleheaded thumbs up-or-down ethos.

    Also, Fear’s point that the "pummeling action rarely informs the psychological angst," for example, has nothing to do with understanding source material, not to mention that films ought to be able to stand on their own and not depend on being a part of a synergism.

    If a film requires extensive background knowledge, then it doesn’t work for a general audience and some measure of derision from the mainstream would not be entirely undeserved. And if you have digested all that background material, that makes you a fanboy. 🙂

  • Mark’s analysis of the board-troll’s reactions is accurate and absolutely hilarious, and the board flow from “we hate your review” to “we hate critics” to “we hate NY” is pretty amazing. Henry’s comments that Mark’s post is focussed on those trolls (rather than substantive discussion) is also dead on, and the fanboy distinction is important.

    I have to ask though, you don’t find Fear’s review even a little pretentious? The “this IS Batman, not Bergman” line is what got me. I can see where he’s coming from, but I’m just not sure he needed to flex quite that much critical muscle to make a relatively simple point…the movie isn’t that deep, we get it.

    Then again, I actually AM from bumblefuck Iowa, so maybe I’m just flexing my inner yokel on this one.

  • I think those trolls could use a little self-criticism, “United Red Army” style…

  • I think that Bergman reference is understandable…at least, I understand the desire for the B___man connection in the language. (Bat Man, not Berg Man.) I probably wouldn’t have done it myself, but I sympathize.

  • I should point out that Henry is the author of the post, not myself.

    Batman/Bergman is a bit too much of a high art/low art dichotomy for my tastes, but given the amount of pressure on critics to take this movie Seriously, I think it’s probably justifiable to remind people where exactly Batman really stands on the Seriousness Continuum (for those of you who don’t have the widget).

  • I am just a simple movie-lover from India and not a movie-critic and definitely not from New York or any other US state/city and so that clears me out from your inter-city conflicts. I just happened to come across this article. I love to watch movies (a lot of them), especially if critics love one and then if I love that topic. (When a new movie has Denzel Washington as actor or Steven Spielberg as Director is when I WILL SURELY watch that movie irrespective of what the ratings are.)

    But there are some rare times in life when a simple movie-lover like me understands a lot more than the critic himself about certain movies. I am a software engineer by profession and done post-graduation in the subject of Artificial Intelligence at the academic level. Recently AFI released its list of Top-10-movies-in-Top-10-Genres. I have watched and digested a lot of sci-fi movies and have watched 8 out of the 10 movies declared by AFI as top 10 sci-fi movies of all time. And personally for we (me and software colleagues of mine), if there was any sci-fi movie ever made as realistically as possible, it was Steven Spielberg’s ‘Artificial Intelligence(2001)’. It was entertaining as well, except that it did not contain any black leather, Ray-Bans, bullets, guns, explosions, ruthless man-killing robots and other fireworks which contribute to the makings of a block-bluster sci-fi movie. But a practical Scientific near-future for an ordinary homo sapiens does not demand for so much fireworks.

    The out-of-this-world ‘Star-Wars’, any one can make – a whole series of it. Because no true reference exists for it to be compared to. But it requires gumption to create one single Masterpiece like ‘Artificial Intelligence(2001)’. Especially when you have vast study material to draw comparision levels against. And one little aspect in a movie like ‘AI’ gone wrong means the whole movie gone wrong. And yet ‘AI’ surpassed all our expections and we personally describe it in one line as: “The Most Realistic Non-Exaggerated Practical Scientific Mov

  • (cont.d)

    And yet ‘AI’ surpassed all our expections and we personally describe it in one line as: “The Most Realistic Non-Exaggerated Practical Scientific Movie ever made”. Even though based on a researched material, ‘AI’ stands on its own

    without actually needing a reference to the base-material most of the times. But ‘AI’ was not present in the AFI list at all. Whom does this incident point towards as ‘Incompetent’ : Spielberg, Kubrick, the movie ‘AI’ or the AFI critics? On deeper thinking,… may be the AFI critics did not understand the movie ‘AI’ to begin with and so did not like it and hence did not consider it for the list which is a more probable justification for their rejection of ‘AI’.But then I would not attack and spit on AI’s critics but instead simply only laugh at their ignorance and lack of knowledge (just like they did to ‘AI’) . It would be very difficult for anyone (especially for someone from a non-AI academic ground,) to prove to me that my belief that “‘Artificial Intelligence(2001)’ is the BEST Sci-fi movie ever made in the world” is misplaced.

    Now back to TDK. I have read THE genuine Batman comics which are NOT that abundant in number but only a FEW exist as contrary to what ‘Henry’ believes : – ( “digesting ALL that background material will make me a fanboy.” )-. Personally, I felt treatment given to TDK by the director was just as the original birth-givers of Batman (Bob Cane, Jeph Loeb, Bill finger,…) of Batman may have intended it to be. And so as far as Seriousness Continuum is concerned, personally for me, both Batman and Don Corleone stand at the same Seriousness level. Both are fictional and at the same time if decided, both can be implemented in real life by anyone who has the guts, will-power, physical / mental strength, intelligence and resources to play those two characters in real life. MY POINT: If a movie stands faithful to its source-material then the degree of its greatness is NOT NECESSARILY directly proportional to its degree of acceptance by the society / critics

  • (cont.d)

    It is INDEED a great movie by itself. ‘AI’ was never intended by Spielberg/Kubrick to be understood by ordinary movie goers although it WAS concerned with the day-to-day life of ordinary humans in the very-near developed future. It was far too technical for anyone to understand except those from the field of AI, Electronics and Robotics.

    But I do not swear and spit at critics who rated TDK (or ‘Artificial Intelligence’) down just because they never read the genuine material and hence did not understand treatment of the movie itself. Does that make me a fanboy? Personally, I think I am not, because I am not ‘obsessive’ for just about ANYTHING with the name ‘Batman’ attached to it except … (1) Frank Miller story-lines which are like any other good fiction-but-practical material available for converting into a rich feature film (just like Mario Puzo’s novel ‘The Godfather’ was) and (2) Nolan’s movies.

    So I support neither the fanboys whose extreme steps bring non-credibility to themselves as well as bad reputation to all Batman lovers (who may not be fanboys) nor do I support the so called movie critics who…

    1) …think themselves to be omniscient. Eg: They complain: its a problem “how the pummeling action rarely informs the psychological angst.” But they don’t know : With the anarchic Joker, it was ALWAYS THAT way. / They complain: that Batman’s

    voice is raspy But they don’t know : the reason behind it. TDK (unlike ‘AI’ which is a specialist movie) does not require EXTENSIVE (-‘QUANTITY’-) background knowledge which if becomes necessary, then is a hindrance for any movie( as Henry correctly pointed out) but it does not apply to TDK here. TDK only demands for a knowledge (a) in the CORRECT (-‘QUALITY’-) direction (b) of basic accurate essence/soul of the topic handled. 2]…find one technical fault and apply it to the essence of the whole film.3]…use words that are unhygienic, offensive (‘batshit’) and inexplicable (‘sturm’ – not found atleast in the latest Oxford dictionary.)