Friday, June 13, 2008

Do you like me?

It seems the topic of likeable authors vs. authors people don't like or don't agree with or whatever is a perennial favorite in blogland, and the general feeling seems to be, it matters. It matters if a writer acts like a jerk, it matters what they say, it all matters (see this recent example is here on Karen's blog, with discussions linked at the bottom of the post.)

It's a topic I think about fairly often--certainly it's one reason why I don't blog about politics, for example, or why I keep my mouth shut on certain issues that bother or upset me.

But this morning I read this post on Chez Pazienza's blog, and it got me thinking. (Fun side trivia note: I've met Chez, although I seriously doubt he remembers me. I used to work for his Dad, back in the late 90's, and he came into the office once or twice. We all thought he was hot. Because he was. Also, judging by the pics now on his blog, he is the spitting image of his Dad, who I adored.)

The post, for those who don't feel like clicking over, is about an interview Chez produced with M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Giamatti, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and about what a jerk M. Night is. (And btw, I have to mention this because it's bugged me for years, although I want to make it clear--again, if you haven't clicked--that Chez does not actually do this: Am I the only person in the world who thinks people who call Shyamalan "Shamalamadingdong" or "Shyamawhatever" or whatever "funny" little joke they can come up with, are in fact being horribly racist and offensive? If his name was M. Night Smythe-Gordon, would you be called him "Smithawhatever" or "Gordolamadingdong"? If his name was M. Night Nobutku, and he was from Nigeria, would it be okay to call him "Nobuttiebuttbutt"? You know, we get it. You are apparently so uneducated and uninterested in the world around you that you can't take an extra ten seconds to attempt to actually pronounce or spell an adult male's name, and would in fact rather imply that he's got some crazy, ridiculous name that deserves to be belittled and made fun of because it's "ethnic" and not like yours. Ohhkaay.)

Anyway. So Chez hates Night, and the feeling was mutual. And you know, this isn't the first time I've heard that Mr. Shyamalan is in fact kind of a jerk.

But I don't actually care, because I freaking love his movies. It's a directorial voice issue; I don't care what story he tells because I adore the way he tells it. (Which, btw, is something I've come recently to believe is the most important thing of all in writing, voice. If they like your voice, they like you, and even a story that isn't your greatest will be well-received. If they don't like your voice, they're not going to like your book no matter how great the story is. Not that characters and story aren't important, of course they are incredibly important. But voice, to me, is the ultimate. JMO. Anyway.) So, hear the guy's a jerk, see evidence of him being a jerk, will still see his movies.

Now, there are some actors or film people whose movies I won't see (Tom Cruise, I'm trying not to look at you, especially given how litigious you are), but that tends to be a combination of my personal distaste for them and the fact that the movies they're making simply don't interest me. I dislike Cameron Diaz, for example, and that works well because I also think most of her movies are drivel of the worst sort. On the other hand, I don't particularly like Alec Baldwin but still tend to quite like him on screen, and I know there's a good handful of others who for one reason or another I don't like but whose films I'll still see if they interest me (speaking of which, Keira Knightley has a movie coming out that looks great, and it's killing me because my antipathy to her is well-documented here. I'll see it, though, because it really does look good).

So if that's the case (and it is)...why are we willing to forgive actors/directors/whomever but not writers? Is the difference in the type of unprofessionalism? Do we see "film people" as being somehow less professional anyway? Do we expect them to be loony or demanding or whatever?

Why? Although the medium may be different, it's still creativity. But we tend to forgive those in the visual arts more, I think, unless they're Hemingway. The old literary lions could get away with just about anything, but the actors etc. still do. We still go see their movies, despite their odd rantings or how many assistants they beat in their spare time or whatever. Whereas it seems sometimes writers have to be so careful not to say or do anything that might offend someone, somewhere.

I'm not saying that is the case, just that it sometimes feels that way. Perhaps because more people watch tv or go to movies than buy books, so we have to be more careful?

Or perhaps we connect more intimately with books and authorial voice than we tend to with actors or directors?

What do you think? What behavior turns you off in an actor or director, or in a writer? Do you care or not?

Wow, I'm deep today, huh. :-)


laughingwolf said...

i agree on most bits, dee

but i also despise a lot more 'film folk' than you do

worst 'jerks' are the 'directors' and 'studios' who denigrate screenwriters as 'the scum of the earth', or worse

without the writer, there'd be NO film tale to insinuate as 'your' creation, you phony 'auteur'!

Jackie said...

Me, I'll never watch another Mel Gibson movie again.

Hey -- did you see that Jaye thinks there are zombies outside of her house? I think Jaye needs a hug.

Amie Stuart said...

I think this is where the internet is a double-edged sword. Not that we can't witness the asshattery of actors/directors etc (mel gibson and tom cruise come to mind) but I think, in a way, we're more removed. Whereas when authors are out here on blogs interacting directly with the reading public the shenanigans are a little harder to miss/gloss over/ignore. Maybe in part because it's in real-time? Maybe because writers are more accessible than ever before. I think this kinda goes back to a blog Jordan Summers did a couple weeks back about how (I'm sorta paraphrasing here so forgive me if I put words in her mouth) romance writers couldn't blog like John Scalzi does (because we'd probably get roasted and have our heads hoisted on a pike). *shrug* S'not fair but life ain't.

BTW I can't even spell Matthew McC's name....and I LOVE Shyamalan's work (or most of it--I think Lady in the Water is brilliant!)

Jaye Wells said...



P.S. I've been known to butcher M. Night's last name in my day. I also butcher Chuck Pahaulinianak. I'll admit to being lazy, but I am most assuredly not racist. ZOMBIEs!11!!!

Bernita said...

I avoid politics and religion. Both bring out the radical in many people.

December/Stacia said...

I totally agree, Laughingwolf. I blogged about that a while back, during the WGA strike. Drives me nuts.

Uh-oh, Jackie! Ack!

That's true, Amie. There's more of a removal from the public for actors--they may be photographed everywhere but not quoted as much. I guess sometimes it just feels like celebrity bad behavior--with the exception of Britney--gets ignored or shrugged off.
And I'll have to look for that post, because I couldn't agree more.

Eeep! Jaye, are you okay?
See, I'm thinking more specifically of Amazon reviews. It's one thing to butcher a name or get it wrong when you honestly try, but it's another to make some of the comments I've seen about Shyamalan there, you know?

December/Stacia said...

Very true, Bernita. Have you seen the latest at Karen's? Example #1 of why I avoid politics.


There are 5000 or so people involved in creating a movie, as opposed to one writer's name on the cover of a book. If an author leaves a bad taste in your mouth, there aren't other writers / directors / actors / costume designers / special effects geniuses / whatever involved in the next project that might sway you to give it a try despite the offensive writer's contribution.

As for what turns me off, I make a point not to expose myself to celebrity "news," so I don't have any cinematic hangups. (Except that litigious person you mentioned, whom I disliked on sight when he was just a wee young actor. I find his ongoing voyage into the Michael Jackson realm of weirdness higly amusing.)

The only author that put me off buying a book did so by saying something so unimaginative and lacking in fancy, I couldn't see how it was possible for her to write entertaining fiction. Most of the others who've left a bad taste in my mouth (with criminal activity and so forth) don't write anything I would want to read anyway, fortunately.

BernardL said...

I find it impossible to see movies with actors or actresses who every time they open their mouths in public, nothing but anti-American poison spews out. These are the same double digit IQ dunderheads who would be begging on the streets, or carrying rocks in any other corner of the earth. :)

kirsten saell said...

I actually got turned on to an author by a horrible, online rant he posted where he just flayed this poor reader (a fan, no less) who had given him a good review, but mentioned a few things he didn't like. The contrast between that rant and the consistently good reviews his books got really piqued my interest, and I gave him a shot. Thank goodness his narrative voice is more appealing than his online one.

The only shitty behavior online that will really turn me off is when an author spews off an incoherent rant filled with atrocious typos, gammatical errors and misused words. I end up wondering just how competent a writer she can be, and I'm not willing to risk my money on her.

Robyn said...

Yep. Won't talk politics unless I have to.

For me, it's less about an author's, or director's, or actor's political views; it's how they're expressed. I can agree to disagree with just about anyone. But it is hard to forget about asshat behavior. I still love the Beatles, but when the late John Lennon sings about love and peace I think about how he treated his eldest son, and I roll my eyes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bernard and Robyn (esp w/Robyn about John Lennon-for crying out loud!!) I think that there may be more of a repurcussion against actors/hollywood than you think D. A select few movies a year end up making money-while overall earnings with H-wood may be up, viewership is down! If you're going to make an issue of your politics every time a camera is on you and insult a lot of people who simply don't agree with you, then irregardless of your politics a lot of people will make a decision not to see your films. Of course, there is that whole DVD thing helping keep people out of theatres. I'd mention the price of gas, but you "bluebloods" across the pond have been paying outrageous fuel costs for years!!


Anonymous said...

And read your e-mail D, for goodness sakes! You think it's easy e-mailing from Skartaris? I have to crawl up out of the eternally lit middle of the earth, cross siberia, just to find a computer! Your gmail account, puh-lease!!!! :-)


December/Stacia said...

I've read my email, T, I just loathe MySpace with a deep and all-consuming passion, and so am trying to get up the guts to brave that online hellhole.

Michele Lee said...

Grrr, I just lost my comment. I mess up M. Night's last name, not because it's ethnic, but because I'm a verbal klutz. So I've begun abbreviating it M. Night.

As for the movies... I never thought they were ego trips, I just thought M. Night was a great at tension and a crappy plotter. Much ado about nothing sums up how I feel about his movies. They spend so much time building the interest and mystery, but the truth behind the plots and the "happenings" is not only obvious to me pretty early on, but is doesn't deserve all that glorious build up. I would really like to see him overcome this, or hook up with a cowriter who can write a killer plot.

However it's the lines like in interviews, M Night proclaiming that if you don't like it then you must not be smart enough to "get it" that makes me irritated. That's standard new writer BS to explain their own shortcomings as not their fault.

pacatrue said...

Well, I seem to mostly read people who are dead, so annoying author personalities haven't been too important yet.

As has already been said, both theater and movies are a communal art in a way that writing has never been. One can thoroughly dislike one actor, but love the script, the effects, and the supporting actor -- and all the other ways those things can combine.

But with an author, that's it. If their annoying regular voice shows up in their narrative voice, you are doomed. Of course, many people have a very different author voice than real life. At least I hope so, because, god I'm boring!

sylvia said...

I don't tend to watch films so much so I can't really compare my reactions to different media but I certainly do react to personality vs art.

If someone upsets me online and I don't know their work, I'll generally not bother to look at it unless I think it might give context. So there's a pretty strong effect when it comes to new authors.

If I know your work, I'll give a lot more leeway. There are three instancesI can think of where the posted point of view just really wound me up - all of them comic artists actually. And in every case, I made an active decision not to look at anything they've written outside of their craft. Now I enjoy their work without getting wound up even though I happen to think that they are egotistical assholes.

I'll do the same with authors - there are quite a few authors whose opinions I don't like but that doesn't stop me reading their books. However, there are also a number of authors whose opinions I don't like - and those opinions come through in the writing. There may be instances where I didn't notice that to start - but having had "raw" contact with the author, layers of the book(s) become clear to me that I hadn't spotted to start. In that case, I'd stop reading the author. I am not sure that has actually ever happened.

There is an author who was once one of my favourites. I have been less enchanted recently with the author's books, to the degree of questioning whether or not I was going to continue to buy her books. When she threw a fit online, putting down her readers and insisting her prose didn't need editting, it made my decision for me. If she was that overconfident, it was time to stop giving her chances. So in that particular case, her acting idiotically absolutely stopped me buying her books - but she was acting idiotically in a way that related to her books. Acting like a stupid cow wouldn't have had that effect if I didn't think it was part of the cause of my reduction of entertainment.

Seeley deBorn said...

When I first discovered ebooks, I loved that the authors seemed so accessible. When you see a book in the store, you don't see the person behind the book, all you get is a cover. But when you buy an ebook there is often a link to the author's site. For me, the purchase is a bit more personal. You can get an idea of who you are reading, not just what. And you know who your money is going to.

Most of my ebook purchases are made after checking out the author's blog or website. There are some writers I've bought to see if they lived up to the self-hype, and some because I liked the voice on the blog. I don't think I've come across one that stopped me from buying. Mind you, of those who participate in the wacko ranting, few are authors I was interested in in the frist place.

Movies and music, I really dont' care. Sebastian Bach is a total diva, rude, and arrogant as all get out. Absolutely not going to stop me from listening to anything the man decides to sing. I rarely watch anything with Tom Cruise but that's more because his flicks just dont' appeal to me.

I think it may be different with different media because movies and music, though they can illict an internal emotional response, are for the most part, external. Whereas books create things inside you. In addition to the emotional response, you see in your mind what the author wrote, it creates something internal. And I guess I don't want jackasses creating things in my head. There is a once jackass limit in my head, and I'm already in there.

Whirlochre said...

In the olde dayse, it was the showy buffoons, troubadours and minstrels who waved their bells and baubles about, but in our new age of celebrity, the previously 'behind-the-scenes' writer types are now expected to join in with the cameraphone footage parade of karaoke erections and hysterectomies.