I am a writer and I one day dream of making a living as a writer. I criticize poor writing and praise good writing in whatever media it happens to be in – movie, novel, TV show, whatever. I lament the success of bad writing and I cheer on the success of good writing. But some writing I come across just hurts my writer’s soul. It makes no difference if the awful writing is from something successful or from something unsuccessful. Bad is bad all the same, although I do perhaps carry a bit more resentment for something bad and successful than something bad and unsuccessful. Important – this is not about media that is designed to provoke an emotional response. This is about something that’s supposed to be entertaining in some way, or perhaps even artistic, and ends up simply awful.
And actually, sometimes bad writing is not enough to make me weep. I’m on record as a fan of “so bad it’s good.” Sometimes the media that puts the hurt on my soul is just relentlessly mediocre, like a romantic comedy that’s so by-the-numbers you could predict the twists by looking at the running time instead of paying attention to the actual movie, or a sequel that is essentially beat for beat the same movie as the original except in a different city.
I think everyone has run across something like this, although it’s probably different for everyone. For example, one person’s hurt may come from seeing a beloved book badly adapted into a movie, but if their friend never read the original, they might quite enjoy the movie. Another person’s hurt may come from hearing the latest autotuned pop hit on every radio station while their friend really likes the bubbly beats. And yet someone else may revere “Romeo and Juliet” as the height of passionate, doomed young love while another person laughs at the so-called tragic ending. And finally, someone may be thrilled to see a childhood cartoon show finally make it to the big screen while another stares in horror at the travesty wrought upon the world under the guise of “summer blockbuster.”
The hurt in my soul can be variable. Sometimes I can just shake my head and dismiss the anger and rage as, “what did I expect from an adaptation of an ’80s cartoon” and just try to enjoy how bad it really is. Sometimes I can tell myself, “I just won’t watch any of the sequels.” Sometimes I go into media knowing that I probably won’t like it, although I seldom go in expecting soul-hurting awfulness.
But sometimes I can’t let things go. Some terrible media comes from a confluence of factors that to me renders it beyond the stage of “so bad it’s good.” Perhaps there’s an agenda, or perhaps a fundamental lack of understanding of the source material, or perhaps a complete lack of imagination, or utter incompetence in execution, or an inability to understand when enough is really enough, or maybe that the effect of the media is so prevalent as to be over-exposed. And I know that the people responsible for creating such media probably are pleased with what they’ve accomplished, if not downright proud of it. Or, at the very least, they can say, “I earned a paycheck.” As I’ve said, I don’t believe artists deliberately set out to make poor/terrible art.
My reaction can be, “Why?! Why do people like this?!” Or “Who?! Who thought this was a good idea?!” Or just, “ARGH!” Again, I also understand that other people may read/view/listen to the very same media and have completely different reactions. They may actually like this media that makes me want to forget I ever encountered this thing. This is a visceral reaction. Sometimes I can’t articulate why I hate what has been presented to me; I just do. When exposed to soul-hurting media, what I usually experience is a feeling similar to being hit in the head with a rock. I don’t exactly know what just happened; I don’t exactly know why; the only thing I’m really aware of is pain. This is the stuff that makes my mouth hang open and my eyes glaze over. This is like hearing a million artists’ voices cry out in terror and suddenly be silenced. This is the sort of thing I’d never willingly expose myself to again because there is just enough *facepalm.* There is not enough *headdesk.* There is not enough booze in the world.
I’m making light of this subject but this is the sort of thing, if enough people share the same opinion, that can break fanbases. This is the sort of thing that can cause a newcomer to swear off an artist or a genre forever. This is the stuff that can ruin careers, or at the very least put the final nail in the coffin of a career that’s already spiraling downward. This is the stuff that’s irredeemable.
So what puts the hurt in my soul? “One More Day,” obviously. I think I finally managed to explain why that mini-series/storyline is so awful for me. A lot of it is badly written, true, but there was also an agenda to accomplish something no one really wanted. “Ultimatum” was also soul-achingly painful. It was just so ugly and so pointlessly dark. “Romeo and Juliet” makes me want to bang my head against the wall not because it’s so bad in and of itself, but because of the pervasive effect this story has had on most of Western romance. I maintain true love doesn’t exist, but if it did, it wouldn’t be that stupid. Oh, and that 2011 “Wonder Woman” TV pilot. I just can’t even… I don’t even… ARGH! And the more I think about Man of Steel, the more it hurts (actually, if you want to watch a video that very much expresses a hole in the soul in reaction to media, check out this link on Man of Steel).
For contrast, while I did not like Amazing Spider-man, and while it did make me sad, I felt no soul-ache. I was disappointed, to be sure, but I understood the movie was going to take a long-establish character and make him darker and edgier. I went into the movie expecting to be disappointed. So, good job movie, you totally delivered on that. I’m waiting for the third installment of “The Hobbit” trilogy (a phrase that in and of itself gives me slight soul-pains) to find out if it will be one of those things that just makes me so sad that something I loved ended up pointlessly bloated and annoying. I’m not sure the third installment can save it, but hope springs eternal.
So there we go. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Media that puts the hurt in the soul just gets so much wrong, to me, that I will never ever ever like it no matter how many people tell me it’s good or how many times I try to re-read/re-listen/re-watch the media and find the good in it. Sometimes, there is no good in something; it’s just painful.