There are two free-floating ideas on the film blogosphere that I would like to call out as bullshit, and my hope is that the more they are recognized as bullshit the less people will cling to them. I see them as the ‘all or nothing’ approaches. They are as follows:
1) Film taste is wholly subjective, so nothing is debatable
2) Film taste is wholly objective, so everything is debatable
Nothing kills a thread faster than someone proclaiming that all debate is futile because ‘film is subjective’. By this logic, the forum that exists is just a depository of self-contained opinions that need not even brush up against each other, lest they be challenged in any way. On the flipside, you have the predatorial approach based on the assumption that ‘everything is debatable’ including how a person must feel about the film. Sometimes this is just trolling, but more often than not it is a genuine presumption of knowing how everyone must feel. These are the extremes and unfortunately they play out on occasion on Row Three, hence my desire to put a spotlight on them.
Despite the obvious subjective quality to personal taste, opinions can co-exist, healthy debate can happen. For some, this will be glaringly obvious, but take a look at any movie forum and time and again you will see that this farce does play out. Still it takes all kinds, and there is certainly a benefit when aggressive types stick their neck out for people to get agitated enough to join in (we at Row Three have a knack for doing that, i.e. the Signs water theory, the politics of Milk), but after the ball gets rolling things tend to fall apart because somewhere, someone neglects how exactly we relate to film, and how film relates to our lives. There are useful boundaries that we can hold to, to keep the insightful threads ricocheting into the hundreds.
First, lets do away with this fallacy that film is subjective and therefore everyone is right. This is not kindergarten. At its best, a film community can be a place to confront your feelings, articulate them, come to some conclusion that you would not have independently. While there are indisputable aspects to one’s opinion (i.e. your emotional response), the causes are not so indisputable and can and should be challenged. There is a tendency for people to get upset when told that they do not feel what they feel, and it’s usually the fault of the accuser missing their mark; what is meant is not that someone does not feel the way they do, but rather the justifications for why they feel that way rings false. Would you like to know more…?