Saturday, June 21, 2008

Insulting Your Readers

There are thousands, if not millions, of media reviews that are floating around the world in the form of paper publications, websites, and Internet blogs. Every author would be thrilled of the opportunity of gaining a new dedicated reader who would gander through the author's review before considering seeing a movie or reading a book. Roger Ebert is a fine example how one particular film reviewer could enhance or deter the box office numbers with one written review that is published in a newspaper and on the paper’s website edition. Ebert is a renowned film critic because he knows a lot about cinematic history and he has written thousands of film reviews during his career for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.

Back in the day before the existence of the Internet the only way the average movie theater patron was able to hear about a film before watching it would be through word of mouth from friends or by reading the film reviews in the newspaper. Not many people would enjoy being insulted by a friend if there is a disagreement in favorite films. If a friend of mine says I am a moron because I hated watching Die Hard (1988) and he loved it, then I wouldn’t find his insult reassuring. It is a two-way road, because he wouldn’t be too happy if I called him a retard if he didn’t think Shaun of the Dead (2004) was the most hilarious Zed comedy film he has ever seen.

Retards: We all know one.What I find insulting is the film reviews that are posted on blog sites with insulting texts that are a slap to the face for the reader. The author of the article may not even realize that he or she is insulting the reader, based upon a presumption that the majority of the readers will agree with what is written in the review. I am not immune to the plausibility of presumption, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I had already published an article or two on my blog site that has insulted a few readers out there. However, the issue was brought to my attention after I had read a review for a film that I found to be an entertaining comedy film. At one point in the review the author has stated that anyone who found the film’s dull jokes to be hilarious must be stupid or something similar. Wow, I am sure as hell hoping that I have interpreted the statement correctly.

Beyond the one sideswiping insult, regardless of its intentions, the author has made an interesting argument on why the film wasn’t very entertaining to watch. I offer my regards to anyone who makes an attempt at designing a logical argument that would explain their Anti or Pro stance on any given topic. Personally considering my own written material, I should take precaution on how I word my own articles. Taking cheap shots at the audience is not a way to win them over to the author's side. Should I continue writing my film reviews as if my reading audience will be sharing the same tastes and interests as myself? Or should I write for a very broad audience that could include some members of the theater audience who could possibly hate every single movie that I would love to watch? The newspaper reviews are written as informative articles that offer a synopsis of the film's storyline and a quick Yea or Nay approval about the worthiness of paying $12 a ticket to watch the film at the multiplex.

As a personal rule for writing I will attempt to be more aware of the wording in my reviews by avoiding terms or phrases that could possibly deter anyone from listening to my point of view. For a long time I have always thought that I would just be giving into the realm of being politically correct, which I considered to be a risk of losing my sense of individualism. However, I am considering a new perspective of speaking to a wider audience who will read the articles that I post on the Internet and I may never know they background of each individual reader. The personal prejudices that I have will still exist and I don’t know if they may ever change or disappear over time; but that does not mean I should air them as dirty laundry to the wide world of the Internet.

Public authors should speak with the words the audience can understand, and write in terms the audience could relate with. Famous news anchor and reporter Edward R. Murrow once said, “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” Well, everyone between the end of the bar and myself will be able to hear the words that I would like to say. Hopefully, I will be able to avoid a few bar fights a long the way.

ETA: There is another article that you might want to check out that talks about going against the current of popular belief. Visit the blog The Long Take to read the article.
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