Not a fan of "Not a fan"
Welcome to the second installment in Pet Peeve Kennel, the ongoing Big Whoop feature where I realize my true destiny as an unemployable blogger by complaining about the many, many things in this world, but particularly in the world of pop culture and social media, that piss me the fuck off and angry up the blood.
I am generally of the mindset that people need to be way, way less invested in their opinions. This is particularly true on the internet, in Facebook and on comment boards where people often act as if their opinions on some matter constitute the whole of their identity and not a perpetually changing and evolving facet of their personalities that ultimately isn’t particularly important to anyone other than themselves.
I should know. For the past twenty-one years I have made my living expressing my opinions on the internet and I will be the first person to tell you that my opinions are not at all important beyond their ability to help me write entertainingly and thoughtfully. For me, opinions are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
People tend to greatly overvalue their own opinions. That is particularly true when a beloved cultural figure like Anthony Bourdain or David Bowie shocks the world by dying in an unexpected fashion.
Back when I was less of a hermit, and would occasionally glance at The A.V Club message boards and Facebook posts, I was consistently irritated to the point of rage, by the sheer number of people who felt the need to enter into intense, heartbreaking and deeply emotional online conversations about the dead, and what they meant to the living by volunteering that they’re “not a fan” but, you know, it’s still sad when people die, or whatever.
Here’s the thing: in the tragic shadow of public death your personal feelings of disinterest or dissatisfaction with the dead person’s work does not matter. It does not matter at all. People grieving artists and celebrities and politicians aren’t at all interested in hearing about your non-fandom or disapproval or even disdain.
Take, for example, Nora Ephron. I really did not care for her motion pictures but when she died I could see how important and meaningful she and her life were to so many people that I admire and respect. For me to enter the fray to tell people that she just didn’t do it for me would be narcissistic and pointless and insulting to the emotions of people who genuinely are grieving.
I did not feel the need to fake affection for Ephron’s work because, despite what the toxic culture of the internet might make you think, you do not have to have an opinion about everything, let alone a strong opinion. Moreover, you don’t have to express your opinion about everything. If someone people loved dies and you felt nothing towards them, you can sit that public mourning period out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I’m similarly not enamored of the “I’ve never even heard of this beloved dead person! Isn’t that something!” school of memorial posts. Again, these posts put the non-experience of someone without any emotional connection to a beloved recently deceased icon on the same level as people mourning them deeply. The public grieving period is about the person being mourned and the grief and emotions of people mourning, not about critics and skeptics.
I did not read a lot of “Not a fan” comments about Anthony Bourdain’s death. But an awful, widely reviled freelance writer named David Leavitt proved it was possible to do much, much worse than "not a fan" and "I've never even heard of this person!" when he responded to the beloved chef, television personality and best-selling author’s suicide with tweets like, “Selfishly taking your own life and hurting your friends and family makes you the steaming, gaping asshole Anthony Bourdain”, “If you’re religious, then you believe there’s a special place in hell or purgatory for people like Anthony Bourdain who take their own lives” and “Anthony Bourdain is eating tripe and drinking beers with Robin Williams, Prince, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, and so many others who took their life before they should have.”
What could possibly have inspired this deeply punchable piece of human garbage to tweet such ugliness? Well, in the aftermath of another tragedy—the slaughter of dozens at an Ariana Grande concert—Leavitt took to Twitter to waggishly tweet, “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena. The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.” and “Honestly, for over a year I thought an Ariana Grande was something you ordered at Starbucks.”
The bodies were still warm. Emotions were red-hot and David Leavitt decided the best thing to do would be to make mean-spirited jokes about how much better his taste in music is than people who were died hours earlier.
Bourdain, like any reasonable human being was horrified, and tweeted at the bad-taste zinger flinger “You, sir, are truly a steaming, gaping asshole.”
So Leavitt, being the repellent monster he is, waited until Bourdain was dead and the world was mourning his shocking loss to spring to action to crow about how delighted he is that Bourdain, in his mind, is roasting in the flames of hell.
So, yeah, I am very much not a fan of not a fan, but it can be so much worse, and something tells me that Leavitt has not learned his lesson. There’s only one phrase for a guy like that: a steaming, gaping asshole, but those are the words of a man more eloquent and direct than myself. Anthony Bourdain RIP. I was, and remain, a fan.
Y’all know the deal: I make my living through Patreon so if you would throw me a few bones over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace at it’d be great.