Fanboy Fascism, #TeamMargaret, and Herd-Think

by Sonny Bunch on July 17, 2012

So, the Internet. It’s a rough-and-tumble place, insofar as “Someone said stupidly mean things about me” is “rough-and-tumble.” Sometimes, when you write something that a large number of people are going to disagree with, they write mean things about you in comments sections. Zut alors!*

The latest target of Fanboy Fascism is Marshall Fine (and every other critic who has dared give The Dark Knight Rises a negative review, thus ruining its shot at the mythical 100% Fresh rating). Invective rained down on him, spewed by people who (most likely) haven’t seen the film yet. It’s one of the weirder aspects of fanboy culture, the idea that a critic who disagrees with you is wrong and to be destroyed.

Matt Zoller Seitz led the charge of the light brigade on Twitter, pushing back against all these subhuman meanies.

Matt wasn’t alone in his condemnation; Philip Concannon actually called for the abolition of comments at Rotten Tomatoes, writing “they should have dumped their comments function long ago. It adds nothing of value.” Silly masses! Comment is for critics.

Now, look: As I said earlier, there’s something vaguely annoying and undeniably weird about fans getting worked up defending a movie they haven’t even seen yet. And yet, and yet … I must admit to finding some (just a little!) amusement at critics getting worked up about critical herd-think. Critics have their own moments of insularity. I’m pretty sure this is how The Artist wound up on so many best-of lists and ended up winning best picture; for a movie everyone kinda liked but no one really loved, it won a lot of plaudits. It was critics, after all, who embraced #TeamMargaret—and then decided to destroy one of their own when they had the temerity to disagree with the critical consensus.

Kyle Smith, a critic for the New York Post wrote a bit at his blog about Margaret‘s sprawling nature and its various shortcomings. His brazen act of sacrilege prompted #KyleSmithThoughts, a Twitter hashtag dedicated to showing just how dumb he is. I bet that’ll show him! Don’t even get me started on Armond White’s review of the flick. I believe I saw someone describe it as “repulsive.” The review, not the film. Armond White, of course, is frequently referred to as a “troll” for, gasp, disagreeing with his peeps in the critical class.

Anyhoo. Fanboy fascism and elite groupthink are, in a way, flip sides of the same coin. Both in-groups are desperate to maintain their privilege; both looks warily at the other. A certain subset of fanboy harbors the sense that a few critics out there will never respect comic book films; a certain subset of criticism does them a solid by constantly slagging comic book films and acting as if they can never, at least, suffice as entertaining summer fare—and God help anyone who thinks they can be more than that. C’est la vie. The world turns. We will soon move on to the next Internet emergency. Did you hear that Jeffrey Well is unhappy with the Criterion Collection? I know, right??

*My favorite response to the whole thing has been Glenn Kenny‘s: “OK, I think I get it: this is the one time of the year when movie writers can believe that their job is as dangerous as a firefighter’s.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

David S July 17, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Perhaps people didn’t like Armond White’s review of Margaret because he spends most of it suggesting, repeatedly, that anyone who has championed the film must be a pretentious poseur who can’t genuinely think it a masterpiece. He is entitled to his own (incorrect) analysis of the film, but he shouldn’t accuse everyone else of being disingenuous.


Even Jeff Wells! July 18, 2012 at 2:01 am

Even Jeff Wells loves it! How dare any of these reviewers disagree?!?!

Hollywood Elsewhere ‏@wellshwood
For what it’s worth, I was riveted, knocked out and quite surprised by The Dark Knight Rises. The 160-plus minutes just flew by.

Hollywood Elsewhere ‏@wellshwood
I was expecting something overlong, ponderous, draggy. Nope — it’s one of the most crisply written, tightly woven films of this sort ever.


Sonny Bunch July 18, 2012 at 7:22 am


Let’s see if he gives it Oscar due now…


Judith July 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Amusing: The Five Stages of Coping with a Negative Dark Knight Rises Review:


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