Just Because I Don't Care Doesn't Mean I Don't Understand

"You just don't get it."

Are there any words more irritating on the internet than these? Well, other than meaningless l33tspeak gibberish, anyway? It has become the standard refrain of every movie's defenders.

The first time I really recall hearing this absurdity is from the defenders of The Matrix Reloaded. This was a crappy, crappy, crappy, crappy movie, in my opinion. Yet when I said so, both online and in real life, there were those who leaped to its defense - "No, actually it's a great movie. Obviously you just didn't get all the philosophical stuff in it." No, I "got" its fortune-cookie-Descartesisms just fine, thank you. And they were wrapped up in a badly-written, badly-directed, badly-edited mess of a movie.

It's popped up recently as a defense of 300 (which I liked, but can easily see how it might not be someone's cuppa) and Grindhouse (which I am only very vaguely interested in seeing, i.e. it'll probably hit the Netflix queue when the DVD is released, and I'll see it eventually). If you didn't like 300, according to a certain population of internet geniuses, it's because you didn't "get" that it's supposed to be mythology, that it's supposed to be a live-action comic book, and so on and so on. They can't conceive of the fact that maybe you don't like it because it's pretty cheesey, often poorly acted, and swimming with homoerotic subtext underneath the "This! Is! Sparta! We! Are! Manly-man! Badass! Soldiers!" text.

Similarly, if you don't like Grindhouse, it's because you're incapable of appreciating how it is not itself actually bad, but merely paying loving homage to bad movies. Here's a riddle - if you make a movie that is an imitation of bad movies from the '70s, have you made a bad movie? No, of course not! It's brilliant! It's, like, satire, or homage, or something anyway, whatever it takes to make it artistically valid instead of yet another bad movie.

Here, for example, is one brilliant comment from a nerdy message board:

I went to see "Grindhouse" in New York on Saturday, and found it to be a massive tsunami wave of awesome, blissfully drowning me in its shear joyous excess.

No small contributor to this cinematic orgasm was the crowd I got to share the experience with, a crowd so vast the management needed to form a line outside the theater an hour before screentime, hundreds long. The theater, a full modern stadium set-up, was packed and enthusuastic. The crowd laughed, hooted and yelled at all the right moments. No small portion sat through the whole credits just telling each other how awesome it was, something I don't often see. Knots of people stood in the lobby afterward, merrily restating their favorite lines.

"Boy," I thought, "this film has got to be a major hit."

I open up the paper Monday morning, and it is reported that "Grindhouse" is officially a flop. The producer is in a panic and proposing drastic reeditting of the film to salvage it. Apparently, though its doing wellin the urban East and West, middle America just doesn't 'get' what "Grindhouse" is about, and audiences in the suburban center of the country just haven't bothered to see it. According to the numbers, they'd much rather see a forgettable by-the-numbers suspense flick like "Disturbia".

Dear America: What the Hell is your Problem?!
Yes, because the rest of America doesn't share his exact tastes, they clearly have a problem. Those hicks from Flyover Country are clearly too stupid to understand great cinema. Of course, many of those idiots from Flyover Country probably know the difference between "shear" and "sheer," but I digress.

Ultimately, this is a symptom of America's ongoing "My Opinion Can't Be Wrong" problem. When it comes to taste in movies, it's true. Watching and judging the quality of a movie is an entirely subjective experience, and there are no wrong opinions. But the mistake that many people make is to apply a twisted sort of logic to that idea. "My opinion can't be wrong," they think, "and is therefore objectively right. Since my opinion is objectively right, any opinion that disagrees with mine is therefore objectively wrong."

I think a lot of people like confirmation. They want everybody to like the movies they like, and want to be seen as smarter or more insightful than the people who don't share their tastes. They can't be satisfied with their own enjoyment of the movie in question - they have to have their enjoyment validated.