Monday, November 26, 2007

Your favorite movie sucks

Andrew Sullivan links to this observation by British actor Stephen Fry (ellipses mine):

I was warned many, many years ago by the great Jonathan Lynn, co-creator of Yes, Minister and director of the comic masterpiece My Cousin Vinnie, that Americans are not raised in a tradition of debate and that the adversarial ferocity common around a dinner table in Britain is more or less unheard of in America. When Jonathan first went to live in LA he couldn’t understand the terrible silences that would fall when he trashed an statement he disagreed with and said something like “yes, but that’s just arrant nonsense, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. It’s self-contradictory.” To a Briton pointing out that something is nonsense, rubbish, tosh or logically impossible in its own terms is not an attack on the person saying it – it’s often no more than a salvo in what one hopes might become an enjoyable intellectual tussle. Jonathan soon found that most Americans responded with offence, hurt or anger to this order of cut and thrust. ... Disagreement and energetic debate appears to leave a loud smell in the air.

Maybe I should move to Britain if I want to find a husband. In my experience, the best way to make a bad first impression in America is to criticize anything. It's considered especially bad form to accept an invitation to a movie, play, or concert and then point out the flaws during the post-performance coffee or cocktail. This is being "negative," even though dissecting the entertainment is often the most enjoyable part of an evening out.

I'm not attacking you if I politely say what I find objectionable about your favorite movie or band. I'm just assuming that you're more than eight years old.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what is being criticized. I happened to see "No Country For Old Men" with a friend, and I loved it (if "love" is the right word for that movie) and he hated it. But since neither of us was involved in the production of the film, it was ok to disagree directly. If my friend knew the person who wrote the script, I would hope my friend would not call the person and tell him/her that the movie was terrible. That would make getting together with that person for coffee a bit awkward.

11/27/2007 01:12:00 AM  
Blogger Robert David Sullivan said...

You're right. By the same reasoning, I would never criticize a meal that a friend cooked. But it's OK to remark on a disappointing meal in a restaurant. Sadly, that's not as much fun as picking apart a bad movie.

11/27/2007 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

Can I really be as argumentative as I like in Britain?

Get me Virgin Air, stat!

12/04/2007 04:40:00 PM  

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