I have contemplated about whether or not I was going to write an announcement for this, or if I was just going to fade into the distance without saying anything. After a while, I figured that I owe a handful of you an explanation because many of you have been so supportive of me.
Here’s the short version: I no longer enjoy reviewing films. It’s like one day, my brain snapped. I suddenly found the idea of watching movies for critical analysis strenuous, pointless, and vain… and my brain it hasn’t snapped back since. I’m not sure it ever will.
Now, I’ve had these bouts of being downcast and depressed before, so I decided I’d just lay low for a week and see if the feeling would go away again. It didn’t. I still feel this way after over a month.
So I decided that this was just me getting overburdened by Film Twitter’s constant vitriol (the culture surrounding Film Twitter has almost exclusively been causing me to spiral into a state of depression at least one week out of every month)… so I buckled down and finally unfollowed and muted the two most toxic people I still followed. Days passed. My feelings didn’t change.
So I started unfollowing Twitter accounts I was uninterested in an effort to decrease the noise. Days Passed. My feelings didn’t change.
So I deleted Twitter from my phone. I only checked it every other day. I vented to one of my favorite people I follow on Twitter. Days passed. Still no change.
Then one day, I was looking at every single film tweet, even from people I love, enjoy, and respect, and with every tweet, all I could think was, “Why are people putting so much effort into talking about films? None of this even matters.”
Suddenly, I realized that maybe this was something more than just me getting worn out by the constant noise.
Then, I started doubting my effectiveness as a critic, and I started doubting if I was even all that insightful. Maybe to most, I too was just white noise at best and vitriolic at worst. I was having the same group of people read my stuff, but I wasn’t catching a vast new audience like I was hoping I would. I was gaining more followers than ever on Twitter, but was still getting about the same amount of views and interaction.
As for Facebook, aside from a handful of amazing people, my page is basically a dead zone.
And if my voice on film criticism isn’t resonating with people, if I’m not using my knowledge on film to better people’s understanding and knowledge, as well as being a net positive on people’s lives, then what is the point?
The idea of shouting my voice into a void, pretending my voice means something when it doesn’t, seemed like a practice in vanity and banality.
On top of this, I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with calling a lot of film criticism “objective”. And while there are undeniable, factual interpretations of SOME aspects of movies (mainly just the literal points of a film’s plot), the vast majority of content in films is something that is interpreted through the lens of the viewer and their experiences, regardless of what the script says and how the director portrays it. And while you can make the case that some people’s interpretations of films are “flimsy, nonsensical, inconsistent, or biased”, I am starting to realize that it is not a worthwhile endeavor to call someone’s interpretation “wrong”.
In fact, doing so is almost always mean spirited… as I found out when the only person on Twitter that outspokenly agreed with my idea of critical objectivity primarily used it to bully people who disagreed with him. And every time I looked at an absolutely mean spirited tweet he posted, all I could think was, “Is this the end product of pursuing objective film criticism? Is this what I’m aspiring to? Because I hate it.”
(By the way, this person’s mean spirited tweets get tons of likes now, because Film Twitter is cancer).
Something finally clicked in me: I always thought that I hated the idea of “subjective criticism”… when I was really only disliking it because of the few people who used it to scurry away from a film argument…
…What I needed to realize was that if someone doesn’t want to defend their interpretation of a film, it doesn’t mean that their opinions are invalid. It just means they want to keep enjoying/hating a movie and they don’t want you to ruin it for them.
And man, I gotta tell ya… After experiencing both extremes, I would take a person using “subjectivity” as a crutch, over a person who uses “objectivity” as a baseball bat, any day.
But this led me to a big problem: I’ve said multiple times that the day I stopped believing in objectivity in film criticism was the day I stopped reviewing movies. And that’s because I’m a guy who is hardwired to look for truth. And while looking for themes of “truth” in film can be a VERY worthwhile endeavor, film is essentially art. And as much as I hate (HATE) to admit it, there really is no “incorrect” way to view art, even if your views are outlandish and unpopular.
And if no one is viewing art “incorrectly”… why does Film Twitter spend so much time tearing people down about how they feel about a particular film? I was tired of it.
I was tired of people trashing someone because they liked a movie.
I was tired of other people berating others for NOT liking a movie… honestly, there is a big section of Film Twitter that is just a bunch of pubescent boys shunning people for being critical of movies that have mainstream popularity, especially Disney properties.
And honestly, I was tired of pretending things like The Academy Awards, TLJ, etc, were considered important to everyday people. When in reality, film and its elements are only used as conversational fodder for average people, and is only obsessed upon by a large cluster of film enthusiasts. It’s all vanity.
And the more tired I got of these things, the more I realized that I could be just as guilty of shaming people, or making big a big deal of nothing, as the people that were stressing me out… maybe I didn’t do it as often, and maybe I didn’t call people out by name, but I know that I’ve shamed people for having views that I disliked.
Anyway, I started seeing myself as just one of thousands upon thousands of voices giving their unwanted opinions on multi-million dollar art projects. Suddenly, the idea of investing so much of my own money and time into doing something that brought me a lot of stress, and was enjoyed by maybe 25-40 people, seemed like a worthless endeavor.
And I hate that. There’s so much more I’ve got going for me. There is so much I want to accomplish in life, and instead I was using so much time to throw effort into a void. I don’t want to do that anymore.
Anyway, I think that’s all I wanted to say.
I no longer enjoy going to the theater so often, I no longer enjoy reviewing movies, and I definitely no longer enjoy being a part of Film Twitter. In fact, a lot of this has been bad for my mental health.
So if you followed me on Twitter because I was a Film Twitter guy, then you’ll probably be better off unfollowing me. If you still think you’ll like me outside of talking endlessly about movies, then feel free to stay, but you probably won’t want to.
If there was ever anyone that ever felt put down by my tweets or my reviews:
I’m sorry. At their core, films are supposed to be enjoyed… and even some of the worst movies I can think of have stuff in them that other people will like. Your tastes in film are never “invalid”. There really isn’t an invalid opinion on film, and even though arguing about a film can be fun, I condemn anyone who argues to destroy someone. No one should shame you for what films you love or hate. It would be like someone shaming you for your tastes in paintings or sculptures.
To all the people who read my reviews and actually gave me feedback and responses:
I can’t thank you enough, even if you respectfully disagreed with me. I’ve been blessed to have people follow my reviews for this long. I wish I could’ve said that I could get better and would keep getting better… but obviously that isn’t the case.
–Steve J Donahue