Superior Spoilsports and Rotten Reviews

Straight from the horse's mouth! 

Way back in the days when newspapers had reasonable circulations, and therefore paid - albeit not much - for reviews, I used to do some professional reviewing. It was never really my thing, and I mostly did it for the money. Like all writers, we do what we can to survive. Sometimes I enjoyed it, and sometimes I didn't. I always took time and trouble with my reviews. 

Once or twice, I'm sorry to say, I indulged in what I now think were fairly   mean spirited reviews of books I hadn't liked. I cringe now, when I think   of it and I'm sorry about it. My excuse is that I was young, and hadn't had   my fair share of mean spirited reviews myself!

 I still, occasionally, review a book on Amazon, but only if I've liked it or   at the very least appreciated something about it. Then, I can   honestly say nice things about it. The better the book, the more I enjoy trying to   analyse why I've liked it so much. If I've hated it, or read 50 pages on   my Kindle and asked for my money back - as I've done a few times - I   won't review it at all, even though I will be pretty certain about   why I've   disliked it. 

We all get bad reviews from time to time. Sadly, a single bad review will stick in our minds and keep us awake being indignant for far longer than ten good ones. I don't mean mixed reviews, or thoughtful reviews that analyse a piece of work on its own terms. Those can be incredibly helpful. It means somebody is taking us seriously, debating with the piece of work, if you like. But they don't have to like everything about it. 

I mean those one star, bald and bold 'I hated this' kind of reviews that you look at and wonder if they've actually read the book, or seen the play or film. 

One of the wisest things somebody wrote about these occasional terrible reviews was to try not to take them to heart, but to simply imagine yourself saying to the reviewer, preferably with a shrug, 'then it's not for you. And that's fine.' And then mentally walk away.

You have to practise doing it, but honestly, it works.

Social media, however, seems to have encouraged the phenomenon of the superior spoilsport, especially where a popular book or film or TV show is concerned.

Here's how it goes. 

A group of people will be on, say, Facebook, happily discussing something they've enjoyed. Let's avoid getting embroiled in book critiques by using an example from the world of music. I've seen it happening twice recently, once with Abba and once with the Beatles. In both cases, people were having a good time sharing what these bands and their music meant to them, debating songs and memories, disagreeing a little, but enjoying the chat no end. 

And then along comes somebody who posts 'I hate Abba.' Or 'The Beatles were rubbish.' 

I wouldn't mind if they ever gave a valid reason why they think this. But they hardly ever do. I can give you dozens of reasons why I love the Beatles, and Abba too. Some of them are extremely personal, but some of them are to do with my appreciation of the music itself. If you try to pin them down, ask them why they think this - which they're perfectly entitled to do - they just dig their heels in. 'I hate them because they're rubbish' they say. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. 

There have been a couple of widely praised TV shows that I've disliked recently, but I know why, would be happy to say so, and equally happy to acknowledge that this may be down to me, and not necessarily a fault of the programme itself, which I know other people have enjoyed. If pushed, I could analyse this further, point out faults in the writing and direction. But in my experience, you can forgive a whole lot of faults if you find something entertaining. 

I've encountered the spoilsports so often now, that I'm forced to the conclusion that there's a kind of superiority about it. They don't ever want to be seen appreciating something that lots of other people like. So they'll pretend that they, and only they can see through it. 

They are spoilsports. What I really want to say to them is just leave us to our enjoyment. It's not for you, and that's fine. But you don't have to be here right now, telling us how much you loathe the thing we love. We don't care. It's not going to change our opinion.

So just for once, go play on your own page, write an online one star review if you like -but leave us alone to wallow in our fandom.  


Anonymous said…
This is my first time visiting your blog and I just wanted to comment that this piece made me really smile. I have a few close relatives who only like music if it's what they call "authentic" - So scratchy old recordings of blues singers from the back of the backwoods who can be barely understood or whiney, repetitive folk songs from 17th century central Transylvania are the only things they rate. My own tastes are a lot more eclectic - classical to popular, intellectual jazz to ragtime to - even occasionally - those backwoods blues singers. If I dare to mention that I like Fleetwood Mac or Abba in their company, the scornful lip curl distorts the whole conversation. So your post really struck a chord. Good for you. Don't let the music, art, literary, theatre, movie and television snobs spoil your own enjoyment and appreciation.