Let’s get something out of the way: that headline is utter nonsense. Christopher Nolan is far from being Hollywood’s weakest filmmaker. He’s one of the most interesting and innovative directors working today.
But here’s a question: Why did you decide to read this article? Were you curious to see a well-reasoned, intelligent, and provocative opinion expressed by someone who makes a living assessing movies? Were you open to hearing a different point of view regarding a prominent figure in cinema? If so, congratulations. You are a mature and thoughtful adult. Also, I’m sorry to have misled you.
How about the rest of you? Were you planning to hate-read this? In the two seconds it took to click the link and wait for the page to load, were you revving up and trying to formulate the devastating insults that would shame whatever moron wrote it? If that’s the case, stop it. You are doing it all wrong. You are killing the discussion of film online. Literally killing it.
These days, more and more people are attacking film critics and writers who have unpopular opinions, and it’s happening again with the release of Nolan’s Dunkirk. In addition to Nolan’s work, criticizing DC and Marvel movies or “breaking” a perfect score at Rotten Tomatoes are among the things that can bring on the abuse. I’ve personally been a victim of this. (See Exhibit A.) Some critics have received death threats. (Behold Exhibit B.) Female writers routinely get called vulgar names, and sometimes receive threats of rape and sexual assault, as well. I am not making that up.(Witness Exhibit C.)
Let’s make something unequivocally clear: If your first instinct is to threaten to harm someone — or to encourage them to harm themselves — simply because they have a different opinion of a movie, you are a bad person and should seek professional help immediately. I mean that. You’re sick. There is something wrong with you. What kind of person becomes so unglued over one publicly-expressed opinion of a movie that he or she feels the need to become aggressive to a stranger? That’s not normal.
If you wouldn’t go that far but would hurl insults, you may not necessarily be a bad person, but you’re definitely a bad fan. Any kind of art is meant to be discussed and debated. Dissent, disagreement, and analysis are an essential and vital ingredient. Trying to suppress those things does an immense disservice to the film you supposedly love. You are not a better fan for trying to take down someone who disagrees with you. You are a worse fan, make no mistake. If you truly loved the movie, you’d welcome honest, open exploration of its merits and flaws.
You’re also a bad fan because you offer nothing of substance. Any true fan should be able to defend their beloved movie with grace, offering up thoughtful rebuttals or worthwhile insights. Calling names and issuing threats only reveals that you don’t have the intellectual capacity to add anything of value. You’re the problem, not the writer. They’ve got something; you’ve got nothing.
Conversation about movies needs to become more civil and respectful online. It’s getting to the point where the trolls are taking over. That’s a shame. The internet is a valuable tool for connecting to people all over the world who share your interests. Insularity is not healthy, though. This idea applies to things other than film, of course, but the hostility seems to be particularly rampant on that count. It needs to stop. Your life will not be worse if a writer dislikes a comic book movie or fails to appreciate a Christopher Nolan picture in the way you think they should.
The bottom line is as simple as five words: Grow up or shut up.
Follow Mike McGranaghan on Twitter: @AisleSeat