Mar 2 2016, 10:03am
I've noticed a lot of frustration and repetition in this forum lately - well, not just lately. It's been long enough that there are probably people here who don't remember it being any other way. But there's a lot of taking of "sides" and drawing up of lines, and I've noticed a lot of people making exasperated commentary on other fans, regardless of the topic. Specifically, a lot of labeling into "apologists" or "defenders" of one sort or another. It's my observation, based on nearly 16 years' membership on this forum, that nobody here is actually defending either Peter Jackson or Tolkien, though I have heard some claim that they are, and many accuse others of trying to. Neither Tolkien nor Jackson need defending (both were/are perfectly aware that their work was not going to be to everyone's taste), nor are any of us authorized or charged with their defense. They each produced a work and put it out into the world, and the work itself is not in any way altered by anyone's opinions of it. It remains there, on the bookshelf or the media shelf, exactly as it was made.
An open letter to the Hobbit forum
What people actually end up defending is themselves: their own loves, their own preferences, their own tastes, their own experience or perception or interpretation. Each person loves what they love, and hates what they hate and we all end up identifying with and investing a part of ourselves in those things. I think most people, if not all, feel happier and more secure when they find people who share the same likes and dislikes, and that is what many people come here looking for. The problem is that they arrive and find that their assumptions about how other fans will align with them are mistaken. Because we as fans personally identify with the things we love, because they have affected us deeply in some way, opposing opinions feel personal. In the case of the movies, elements of the adaptation also feel personal, whether we felt they were transcendent or terrible. This only becomes a problem when people get their reactions mixed up with the thing itself and start criticizing or blaming others for not reacting the same way. Many are surprised, shocked, or otherwise made uncomfortable by viewpoints that it never even occurred to them that anyone could seriously hold, and so they are not satisfied with an exchange of ideas, or even the expression of their own - they feel they need to somehow correct the ideas and preferences of others. And then those they "correct" feel the need to defend themselves or correct the other person in turn. There's a certain inner desperation at the thought that we (whatever opinions we hold) may find ourselves in a minority or disregarded and the thing that we love will somehow be lost or devalued or trampled along the way.
Next thing you know, everyone feels unwelcome and put upon. This is true no matter what "side" people find themselves on, and both sides in the same conversation feel exactly the same frustration at the wrongness of the other person(s) and their inability to just let them have their say. As a Moderator, I know of what I speak. I hear the same laments from both sides. Everybody feels like the "balance" is skewed in favor of the other side. Everyone. We take agreement for granted (because of course...) and disagreement hits us hard, so the disagreement seems greater, no matter what the actual numbers are. We tend to only feel secure, or that things are truly balanced, when they're skewed at least a little in our favor. And it means that an awful lot of people approach conversation as a tug-of-war, or keep score, afraid to let anyone else have the last word lest they "win".
Diversity is an idea we tend to praise right up until we realize that it means others will actually be annoyingly different and keep on being annoyingly different, never coming around to our (obviously correct or I wouldn't hold it, stands to reason) point of view. We all want others to love the things we love as much as we love them and in the same way, because then we could share it. But often that doesn't happen. If there is one thing I have learned from being part of this community, it's that many people will love the things I hate, be touched by things that leave me cold, and somehow manage to be supremely oblivious to things, both major and minor, that I love passionately. But everyone is here because they love - the books, the movies, or both.
So may I encourage everyone: While talking about what you love or don't, pay attention to whether you're falling into the habit of telling someone else what and how they should think or be. Because it's not your job to make them be like you, even if you're right, and they won't appreciate it any more than you do when it goes the other way. Nobody here represents a block of opinion, or a monolith of sentiment - we are all individuals and between us we cover pretty much the whole spectrum of opinions on any given question. That's what drives debate and discussions and keeps them interesting, but it need not make them antagonistic. Your fellow fans may have weird tastes, be incomprehensible in their reasoning, and have their priorities all out of order (compared to yours), but they're not your enemy. It's always a good idea to remind ourselves how much common ground we share when differences start to feel like they're filling up all the space.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
(This post was edited by Silverlode on Mar 20 2016, 11:24am)