Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 9:00 AM

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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.

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