I count myself among the many people more than a little irritated at the fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie was all but completely snubbed for the 2015 Academy Awards. However, just as soon as myself and those of like mind took to message boards and Facebook groups to express our distaste, an opposing faction came out to tell us in no uncertain terms how mistaken we were in enjoying it.
“I don’t get why everyone loves The Lego Movie; I fell asleep in it.”
“Why are people getting all pissed at The Lego Movie not being nominated? It’s not even that good.”
…and my personal favorite: “Lego Movie has got to be the most overrated film of 2014.”
Okay, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and put on my angry eyebrows for this post. It’s a bit of a rant, so FYI, kind readers.
You see, I believe that we can add ‘overrated’ to the list of words like ‘hipster’ and ‘pretentious’, that are convenient shorthand for describing anything that a person doesn’t like. Sure, there’s a specific meaning for each if you look them up, but more often than not they’re just used as a lazy way of discrediting the opposing viewpoint by using a spray of derogatory adjectives to make an opinion seem less legitimate than it actually is.
I don’t have a problem with other people even strongly disagreeing with my tastes. In fact, the conversations that come out of that opposition are more often than not more interesting and more enjoyable than the ones where my opinion is just parroted by those around me as we dance a jaunty jig towards homogeny. The problem I have with words like ‘overrated’ is that when people use them, they’re essentially saying, “Man, that movie SUCKED but everyone liked it!! Well, I guess everyone’s stupid except for me! *proceeds to self-fellate*”
To which I ask… really? What’s your basis in thinking that? Is there some kind of logical justification for why you think it’s plausible everyone else just HAPPENS to be artistically short-sighted, save for your Keanu Reeves-like ability to see beyond the code to the reality of artistic quality? The answer is likely no.
Dismissal =/= Argument
Now, it bears mentioning that those who have criticisms for The Lego Movie (or any piece of media for that matter) could have a valid point. For me, this is backed up by the fact that most of the time, if pressed, said critics will actually have reasons why they disliked it. The thing that pisses me off about the use of ‘overrated’ and its ilk is that it’s fucking lazy. It’s an ad hominem stealth bomber; an attempt to avoid the effort of posing a cogent argument by stating at the outset that the opposing side is stupid, blind, has poor taste, etc. It’s a bullshit smoke bomb that lets the person using it sneak out the door with their unsubstantiated opinion by saying that, since those who disagree are stupid, they’re not worth listening to regardless of the fact that they may have legitimate arguments to make. Worse, if you actually have to strap on your rhetorical armor and step into the arena of discourse, there’s always a chance you might be wrong. In addition to being the secret weapon of the apathetic, meaningless adjective flinging is also the respite of cowards, letting them refuse to engage in defending their position by saying the argumentative equivalent of, “I COULD do that, I just don’t want to.”
If you say a thing is overrated, I’ll listen. But tell me why. If you think it pretentious, I’ll be happy to let you give voice to your dissension; but prepare to tell me how so. Art critique and analysis may not be the kind of lofty conflict that Carl Sagan had when he said the now legendary “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, but it operates under the same principle. If you’re going to fly a banner, do right by yourself and prepare to fight for it. Don’t divert, don’t misdirect, don’t attempt to erect some magical force field to escape accountability. If your claim has worth, there’s a good chance it’ll stand up to opposition.
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