Red Riding Hood, freedom of speech, and curious interpretations thereof

I have way too much work right now for an efficient, productive person, much less the lazy, unfocused bastard I am. Given that I’m juggling three different deadlines right now — and yes, “juggling” is my term for “being two weeks behind on” — I actually was fairly proud of the three uninterrupted hours of editing work I put in tonight. On a weekend, no less. While recovering from the flu.

(Yes, I deserve the Purple Heart. Or whatever equates to the Purple Heart for someone whose closest brush with the military was an questionable fraternization matter in the back of an Old Navy.)

That all went to hell about an hour ago. I got two private messages from IMDB users, which would be the first two I’ve received since somewhere in the general vicinity of ever.

Life in Hell cartoon about film critics

I was stuck for an image, and this is cute. You can click it to make it bigger. But you knew that, right?

I kinda figured what prompted these messages even before I read them. A couple of weeks ago my film critic buddy Christian Toto invited me along to a screening of Red Riding Hood. I miss the days of free screenings and getting paid for film reviews from my days at the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, so I tag along when I can.

You can see my review of Hood in the previous post on this site (or, if you’re as lazy as I am, just click here). I also posted it under the User Reviews on IMDB. Thanks largely to Christian giving me a jump start on the other reviewers, plus a pretty good “people found [this] review useful” ratio (88 of 114 at present), my writeup is the first one you see for the film.

The first message I received was flattering. It was from the owner of a Blu-Ray review site who checked out some of my work and asked me to contribute. Sure, why not!

(If you’re thinking “Why not? Because you’re already behind on three deadlines, dumbass,” then I have one thing to say to you: Um, shut up.)

The other message was slightly less cordial. It’s probably more fun if I don’t preface it further. Just read and enjoy:

I’ve just watched Red Riding Hood, and having grown up reading Little Red Riding Hood and watching stories of it, I must say I was pretty impressed with the story. That you could call the young male love interests “dull as dishwater”, and Amanda Seyfried as boring, says a lot about you.

Are you really allowed to put your one cent in like that? That you are the first critique I have the displeasure to read annoys me, and I am so glad that I went to see the show before reading your post.

Your post and your criticism are an abomination. You know nothing about what the people want. You’re probably a disgruntled person who may be a fan of Taylor Lautner and are annoyed that he did not get the part, or you dislike Catherine Hardwicke, or some other reason. Ms Hardwicke did an awesome job, and I felt so much admiration for her, as a woman, to know that she directed this.

Get off your high horse and go and critique Sponge Bob or Clifford the Dog or some cartoon, because you are not educated enough (from what I can gather), or have the adult child in you to appreciate this show.

It’s people like you who make freedom of speech, or the freedom to blog or critique, a bad thing, but then I am in turn glad for the freedom of speech, so that I too can turn around and critique you, and let others know that what you are saying is a piece of crap.

Leave the show alone. It was wonderful. I took two people with me and they loved it, and they are very picky. I also told my adult niece who went immediately the next day, and she too is very picky, and she loved it. You were certainly off on this one.

This is my signature and I’m sticking to it. lol

Mind you, professional critics and journalists put up with stuff like this, and far worse, all the time. These days, people post anonymous comments on articles and say simply horrendous things about the authors. They come up with vicious, and often personal, attacks that they would never even consider employing if they had to face the author in person or sign their actual names to their statements.

That’s one of the most disgusting things about our current “anonymous commenter” culture, and we’ll all be better off when we realize that free speech isn’t the same as hiding behind a cloak, screaming “You’re a douchebag” at someone and running away.

Vanessa Hudgens in Sucker Punch

I needed a second image, so... here's Vanessa Hudgens in Sucker Punch. No, this image has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. (BTW, you can click her to make her bigger. But you knew that, right?)

(As an aside, a couple of weeks ago Farhad Manjoo of Slate posted a commentary on why we need to get rid of anonymous comments. It’s an interesting read, and an opinion I fully support. You might also enjoy the wide-ranging array of comments Manjoo’s piece attracted.)

In any event, what struck me about the private message I received from “ravmeltt,” who appears to spend days on end posting on IMDB message boards [proof positive here], is that she didn’t just criticize my review on the forums (though I presume I’m one target of her ire here), but that she took the time to send me a private message specifically to let me know what an awful human being I am.

Of course, with three clients (and counting) waiting on work from me, there’s no way I could waste my time responding to this anonymous hater, right?


Before I share my response, let me note a couple of things. (Yeah, Gershman, do that, because this post isn’t long enough. We have lives too, dumbass.)

First, I could have addressed many more issues, like her weird point that:

Ms Hardwicke did an awesome job, and I felt so much admiration for her, as a woman, to know that she directed this.

Um, seriously, this is how you’re going to play the gender card? I’m sure Kathryn Bigelow, the first-ever female Best Director Oscar winner for 2008’s The Hurt Locker (which incidentally also won Best Picture), really appreciates that you’re so very proud as a woman that Catherine Hardwicke can create this steaming pile of shit.

But I didn’t go there. I also didn’t make fun of the fact that she kept referring to the movie as a “show,” because that would be petty, mean, and vindictive, and I am at most only a couple of those things.

Ultimately, I just replied with this:

Hi. I’m Rick.

You mention freedom of speech in your message, yet you suggest that my opinion is not valid, and as such, I should not express it. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Neither does your decision to take the time to send me a private message personally attacking me and, specifically, my intelligence.

If you disagree with me, that’s perfectly fine. I accept and welcome an opposing viewpoint. Feel free to post your own review on the site. Feel free to post something in the forums about why you disagree with my review. Everyone has different tastes, and I realize that not everyone will agree with mine.

While you’re at it, though, you might want to try to find something to support your opinion that I “know nothing about what the people want,” considering that the film has fared extremely poorly with both critics and audiences.

You have every right to your opinion, just as I have to mine. One notable difference is that my name actually appears on my review, right out there in public, whereas you feel empowered to take shots at me, privately, from behind a pseudonym.

Think of me what you will, but I can assure you of one thing: No matter how strongly I disagreed with you on something, I would never dream of sending you a message intended purely to personally insult you just because you chose to express an opinion.

That’s not freedom of speech.

That’s just being an asshole.

Rick Gershman


5 Responses

  1. Right on!

  2. How crazy!

  3. I love that. Just being an asshole 🙂

  4. Hello Rick.
    I enjoyed your review of the movie very much. So much, that I even googled to find more about this man who made me laugh out loud and nod on every comment. I just watched it from my laptop and was so bored, that I wanted to know how many stars it had in Imdb and read user reviews. Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors and he was ofcourse brilliant. I guess this is again one of these movies, where the trailer is so much better than the actual movie. I give the movie some credit for the soundtrack though and I liked the trees with spikes:)
    So anyway – I JUST wanted to compliment on your writing and give you “thumbs up” from a total stranger from other side of the world.


    • Kati, thanks so much for the kind comment. I’ve actually been more than a little embarrassed lately that I’m so behind in updating this blog; a few other writing/editing projects have kept me very busy, but hey, everyone has an excuse, right? Anyway, I’m pleased that you enjoyed the review, and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Thanks again.


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