Friday, December 16, 2011

Cut the Nasty

I know this has nothing to do with being gay, except it resonates with me, a gay man, who also happens to be a writer and a lover of anything creative.      

Yesterday on, I read a staff blogger's review of an episode of a TV show I happen to like (I've done this numerous times before, and the result is often the same).  The review was decent and respectful, but the reader comments ranged from appreciative of what they'd watched, to scathing cut downs.  One even wrote, "Worst.  Episode.  Ever."  At that point, I was pissed off and stopped reading.  I'd allowed other people's negativity to get to me, and I didn't need it.

See, the problem with so many of these websites is there's no accountability for comments. People select aliases, write whatever nasty comments come to them in the moment, and take no ownership for their words, ideas (if you could call them that), or energy.    

So, here's the best advice I've heard, which, as far as I'm concerned, applies to bloggers and commenters who write any damn thing they want to, sending their negative venom out into the world and thinking they're somehow benefiting the planet.

Steve Jobs, the late CEO and creative genius behind Apple, said it best:

"...What have you done that's so great?  Do you create anything, or just criticize others' work...?"

Being clever, insightful, and smart is one thing.  Being bitchy, nasty, and insulting is something else altogether.  There's a fine line.  Don't go over it.  No one wants your negative energy in his space.

Practice gratitude.

Focus on doing something creative.  Learn just how tough it is.  

And in case my advice and Jobs's questions don't hit the mark, remember what I hope your parents taught you:

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I'm done.  


  1. Excellent reminder Rick. The Internet has allowed us to say things we normally would not in person, because of it's anonymity. Written words often do not convey all of the nuances of body language, so it is especially important to choose words carefully.

  2. Great points, Bill.

    But I think it's more than that. I think there's an overall prevalent negativity in the world (particularly in North America), where everything is looked at with cynicism and irony and suspicion.

    When it comes to someone else's creative endeavors, I know we need to be more aware of what it takes to make something from nothing--how much courage and vision and effort. And I believe we need to be more sensitive and respectful, as a result.

    As Jobs suggests, if the extent of your creative efforts is criticizing someone else's, then shut up. Channel your energy into something constructive, and stop putting down someone else and his work.

    Wow! Am I worked up or what?

    Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. I appreciate it.

  3. I've concluded that people live to make nasty comments on blogs, online news articles, and the like. I can only imagine what a sad life they must have, being negative all the time. These are definitely not the movers and shakers of the world - at least not in a positive, "move forward" sense.

  4. You know, Wendy, I've thought the very same thing.

    When I read some of the nasty comments people leave, I've wondered so many times what kind of miserable lives they lead, prompting them to criticize so unreservedly and disrespectfully.

    They need to stick their necks out and write a television show. Or be an actor or singer. They need to risk sharing their own creative endeavors, so people just like them can tear them apart. Chances are they'd sing a very different tune once they felt the sting of criticism.

    Oh, it felt so good writing that. I'm better now.

    Thanks for your comment, and for giving me the opportunity to get this off my chest.

    (Too many cliches in this response. Yikes!)

  5. Hi Rick,
    Okay, I may get you stirred up again. I have a mixed response to your post. I often read the articles and the comments that go with them. I used to be greatly offended by the low-blow remarks from anonymous people but perhaps I am building an immunity to all the least when it is not about my own creative endeavors. When I start to get stirred up, I stop reading the comments and move on.

    Most offensive on are the harsh, judgmental comments that come when a celebrity dies unexpectedly. It astounds me that people would crave so much negative attention when knowlingly posting vile.

    Sometimes, however, there is a kernel of truth to other comments, such as when responding to a TV recap. I can even take a guess at the article you were reading based on the comment you quoted. I would say it was the recap of the "Glee" Christmas episode. I made a point of reading the recap because I was so disappointed with the episode and I wondered if I was alone in that opinion. Turns out I wasn't. There were inappropriate comments about the Irish actor on the show, but other criticism was valid, if not well developed. I felt the show was complete filler, not written for quality television but designed to sell more copies of the "Glee" Christmas CD. It was a low point for the show and that misfire makes me less inclined to watch new episodes in the New Year.

    Creative works and the artists involved with them are always vulnerable to criticism. I marvel at how young aspirants generally stay composed when hearing negative feedback on shows like "American Idol". There is a skill to sifting the constructive criticism from that which seems mean-spirited and baseless. I cannot say I have mastered that skill regarding my own work.

    At any rate, I do blog about books and I only post about books I recommend. I figure there are plenty of other people who can relish in tearing apart someone's art.

  6. I have to be honest with you, RG. What you wrote does stir me up, but I'm a big boy, and I'll get over it.

    I have no disagreements with your first two paragraphs, but I sure do with the third. You are right--I was writing about the "Glee" Christmas episode. Like some of the other commenters on the EW blog, I was utterly delighted by what I saw. I had no expectations going into this episode, so I took it for what it was. As always, I found the writing crisp and clever, plot lines were advanced (in some cases) ever so slightly, and it fulfilled my wish for a light and airy hit of Christmas magic.

    Two things I especially loved: 1). The emphasis on "merry" as opposed to morose. This year's Christmas episode was the exact opposite of last years, where Sue was Sue and as nasty as could be. This year, everything was light and magical and uplifting. I LOVED that.

    And 2). The faux PBS program in black and white. Sure, it was filled with cheese, and the quips may well have been lazy and not particularly funny. But that's the nature of humor on shows back then. You look at them now, and they were pure cheese from one end to the other. But they're filled with charm, and that's all I could have asked for.

    For the record, I also loved the warmer, gentler Sue, the brief retelling of the Christmas story (Rory), and the segment in the soup kitchen at the end, where the true meaning of Christmas emerged.

    What I definitely don't agree with in what you wrote is that your future viewing of "Glee" could be affected by what you saw in the Christmas episode. Really? isn't that a bit extreme? Every series I've ever watched has made missteps from time to time. You know what? So do I. I hope that people don't judge me on the basis of my missteps alone. I think it's important we consider a body of creative work, not a single episode, or even a few episodes. Every series can be forgiven that, can't they?

    Different strokes, huh? Your misstep is my magic. I suppose it's a good thing we can't all agree. But like I commented on another blog, if we turn our backs on scripted shows like "Glee," that I believe, for the most part, really try and ultimately bring a lot of joy to people's lives, the next thing you know, they're cancelled. And they're replaced with yet another reality show, most of which I can't stomach, or another series that's a hundred times worse. I'm just saying...

    By the way, I value your opinion, and I appreciate the time you took to respond to this post. There are people on both sides of the argument. What we've expressed are our town truths as we see them, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    Thanks again.

  7. Hey Rick,
    It is telling that I knew exactly what show it was when someone said "Worst. Episode. Ever." The show is not as fresh as it once was. That's not all the fault of the writers. The never-seen-anything-like-it novelty has worn off and it feels like some of the characters are wandering aimlessly, from Tina and Mercedes to Will and Emma. I'm not losing my gleefulness solely based on one episode. What turned me so strongly against the show, however, was the feeling that this filler episode was only a vehicle to sell Christmas CDs which is still a huge market. Sue Sylvester had some great lines, but there was no story to be advanced. Sorry, Rachel's greedy wish list and convenient reformation do not cut it.

    I still want to see what happens with Santana's story and I love it when Curt's dad appears, but "Glee" is no longer a must-see event for me. That's a little sad because I got other people hooked on the show.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the show. It has a declining, yet strongly loyal following. I may just choose to read on Tuesday nights instead.

  8. RG, I can't disagree with everything you've written here.

    I think one of the problems might be that the writers have a lot of characters to juggle, and I also think there's no story arc for all of them over an entire season. So some get forgotten, or there's nothing for them to do. Perhaps they should focus on a smaller core group instead.

    I'm not as interested in the Santana character (I don't appreciate the chip on her shoulder and her nastiness) as I am in Kurt and Blaine. I'd like to see more happen with them, particularly as it relates to showing how normal they are as a couple and broadening people's minds.

    I love Burt too and would like to see him more.

    While Sue has some of the best (and most outrageous) lines in the show (the writers work overtime on her pieces), I'm tired of her over-the-top nastiness. I know she's not one-dimensional (or I'd write her off altogether), but I think the show's moved on from what she has to offer. (But I still think Jane Lynch is fantastic.)

    Believe it or not, I'd love to see a lot more of Dave Karofsky. Now, that's a complex character with a lot of potential (but he's at another school now).

    I won't encourage you to keep watching "Glee" in the new year; you sound like you've already made up your mind. But I'll be there every week (after it records on the DVR, so I don't have to watch the commercials), waiting for new developments and blasting the house with the music.

    Thanks for the follow-up comment. I appreciate it.