Pet Peeve Kennel #1: Online Aggravations & Ted Rall Thinks Citizen Kane is Boring
Welcome to the very first installment in the Pet Peeve Kennel. It’s a new feature where I write about the many, many things in this maddening, crazy-making world that piss me off.
It’s inspired by a post on a Facebook group where someone posted that they’d finally caught up with Fargo and found it to be perfectly okay/just all right and wanted to know why people thought it was great. The group member went on to specify that they didn’t want to come off as overly negative or aggressive. They weren’t saying that Fargo was bad, by any stretch of the imagination, or that people who liked it were wrong, they just were flummoxed as to how someone could watch Fargo and see anything more than an acceptable enough time waster.
The Fargo skeptic insisted they weren’t trolling or angry, just curious as to what people could see in something they found so-so. This made me irrationally angry. If this person was legitimately curious as to why people might love Fargo, why it might be special to people and a huge cultural touchstone, they could Google “Fargo” and “movie" and there are literally thirty nine and a half million entries.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that of the thirty nine and a half million articles that come up when you Google “Fargo” and “Movie” a whole lot of them are going to eloquently and convincingly argue for the film’s greatness, although at this point, that’s not exactly an argument that needs to be made for anyone other than the person who inspired this post.
Roger Ebert’s four star review is one of the things that pop up when you Google “Fargo” and “Movie.” At the risk of being a snob or elitist, or a slave to the mainstream media, I would argue that Ebert is probably going to mount a stronger argument about a classic film’s aesthetic worth than a stranger crowd-sourced on the internet among people who listen to a bad movie podcast.
This individual was not operating from a place of genuine curiosity. If they were, they could have read a few articles about Fargo and learned why people consider it a masterpiece and an important film. No, this person was really looking for strangers to validate and co-sign their wobbly, unsupported conviction that Fargo was okay or whatever, but certainly nothing special, and not worthy of its place in the cultural pantheon.
They’re looking for like-minded strangers to chime in with comments along the lines of, "I know! I expected it to be great and it was whatever.” It’s not hard to find heretics on seemingly any subject, particularly on an internet that thrives on provocation and contrariness. If you think the Beatles sucked and Elvis was an ugly loser with a shitty voice you will undoubtedly find people who not only share your (objectively wrong) opinions and who might even thank you for having the bravery to boldly state that they they’re underwhelmed by things seemingly everyone else likes for reasons they can’t be bothered to articulate, beyond vague accusation of being “boring” and “over-rated” or “dated.”
My annoyance with “Someone explain to me why (beloved artistic milestone) is any good? I genuinely want to know and have no access to search engines even though I'm posting this online” overlaps with my annoyance with people who say that they tried to like something widely if not universally beloved, but they just couldn’t.
To cite a recent example, someone might comment, “I tried, I really tried to like Fargo. I really did, but ultimately I just couldn’t get past the accents and the cynicism.”
I’m deeply irritated by discourse like that, even though I’m one hundred percent positive that I am sometimes guilty of it.
There’s nothing wrong with not liking movies you’re supposed to like. There’s nothing wrong with not loving films that are part of the pantheon of Important Movies everyone is expected to see and praise to the heavens. But for the love of God, do so from a place of honesty and humility and not from a dishonest, disingenuous place of “I was underwhelmed by (a widely beloved piece of pop culture) so someone take the time to personally convince me of its supposed greatness.”
It reminds me of a notorious comic strip Ted Rall published shortly after Roger Ebert’s death that includes a panel reading, “Ebert wasn’t that smart. I once spent hours with him discussing “Citizen Kane.” He disagreed when I said it was boring, that Kane is unwatchable now. But he couldn’t articulate why I was wrong. He kept pointing to the film’s historical importance, which I didn’t dispute.”
This is possibly the singular most repellent and transparently wrong illustration of “Convince me (beloved cultural touchstone) is the masterpiece people say it is or admit you’re wrong and a fraud” imaginable.
Rall’s case against Citizen Kane could not be weaker. Is there a vaguer, blander, more meaningless adjective to throw of art than “boring” with the possible exception of “unwatchable?” Yet Rall clings to these vague, half-formed opinions as powerful truths the most powerful film critic of all time, and one of the best, couldn’t change in the slightest with hours and hours of praise and arguments.
Rall, on the very off chance that you’re reading this, fuck you. Roger Ebert and Citizen Kane didn’t fail you by being “boring” or “unwatchable.” Your story doesn’t make them look bad, it makes you look like bad and vaguely sociopathic, like someone whose need to be right overrules basic common decency.
Also, your anecdote makes you seem not that smart, but you know, I’m going to wait until you die and your corpse is still warm to really unload on you for your shortcomings, intellectual, moral, aesthetic and otherwise.
That’d only be fair, right? And I know nothing is more important to you than being fair, except, maybe, being right.
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